In a recent Christianity Today interview with Chris Davis, a pastor in Virginia, Davis told the story of a much-anticipated two-month sabbatical.
He had been a pastor for 10 years and had been going through health problems and family struggles.
“Our daily goal was simply to make it to that day when the sabbatical would set everything right,” Davis said.
However, when the sabbatical came, not everything was set right. He still had health problems and they still had family struggles.
“What happened was we took ourselves on sabbatical with us,” he said. “Which meant that very little changed over those two months.
“I wish I knew why humans expect things to get better. I’d like to think that it is an ingrained sense that God is at work to make all things new in the world,” he said.
In the final pages of the Bible, God speaks from the throne of heaven and says, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5).
It’s something the pastors at my church talk about frequently in their sermons: One day, after the end of this age, God promises a new heaven and a new earth, an eternity of harmony among his people, no more death, no more sickness, no more war and poverty, addiction or homelessness.
However, we don’t live there yet.
We live in a world where nothing ever remains the same and everything deteriorates over time.
And yet, there’s something about us humans that keeps us thinking things will get better here on earth, that we can build a utopia.
But even if we build it, we will still “take ourselves with us” only to discover our utopia isn’t utopia after all.
As humans, we want things to be better, and as Christians we know that God has promised “all things new” when Jesus returns.
But what do we do until then?
How do we live in the “not better?” What is our hope, not for the future, but for the now when things don’t work and may very well only get worse?
As I was thinking about how to answer these questions, I thought about people who work in hospice care, how their vocation and their purpose and contribution to the world is all about making people’s final days more comfortable, lifting burdens and easing the stress of the patients and their families.
But not just that.
Over the years I’ve written quite a few stories from hospice facilities, about last wishes and moments of joy.
In 2010, a man in hospice care with end-stage COPD married “the woman he let slip away” 40 years earlier, and in 2011, I wrote about another hospice wedding for a couple who had been together 34 years.
The bride, her body riddled with cancer, said it was her dream to be an “old married couple” before she died.
I think of the woman who plays her dulcimer at the bedside of sick and dying people, bringing calm and tranquility through her soothing music.
To me, those are pictures of hope in the midst of “not better,” pictures of what God’s people do in a world that’s in the process of decline.
It’s not futile to plant gardens and play music and create art.
A wedding for a woman who may die before her one-month or one-week anniversary isn’t frivolous.
When you bring grace into a situation, you receive grace. Mercy is given to the merciful.
Helping others helps you.
One day there will be no more sorrow or pain. But in the meantime, while we wait, there’s still hope for the now and the “not better” because God promises his people: “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you’” (Isaiah 41:13).
And he does.
Nancy Kennedy can be reached at 352-564-2927 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.