May 15, 2020 | by Ronnie Winterton
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. - 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Starting the pastoral internship in August, I certainly imagined that my final month would be quite different. I could not have expected that we would not be meeting on Sundays, that our meetings would be socially distanced, and the 9Marks weekender I was anticipating would be canceled. Whether it is the loss of weekly regularities or major events such as weddings and graduations, I imagine many of us are facing great disappointments. How should we respond to losing so many good things we anticipated?
In Paul Tripp’s book Forever, he points out that one of the great problems of our modern life is “eternity amnesia.” Drawing from Ecclesiastes 3:11, where the preacher says “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end,” Tripp argues that we are designed to live in light of eternity with God. Yet, as we get distracted by cares of the world, we forget about eternity and fall into the “pack-it-all-in” mentality, where we have to fit as much pleasure we can into this life. This breeds disappointment as our present world cannot match the joys of eternity we long for.
Though it is okay to be disappointed losing great things, we want to be careful that the disappointment doesn’t draw us to despair. If we remember the hope of eternity in the gospel, we can see our sufferings as the “light momentary affliction” that prepares us “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). So, let’s address our eternity amnesia and remember the hope before us.
Tripp helps us in this task by giving 8 consequences or signs of eternity amnesia. As you read these, reflect on your life and ask God to show you where you’ve forgotten the hope of eternity with Christ.
1. Living with Unrealistic Expectations
If we forget about eternity, then we need our current life to match heaven’s glory. Have you found yourself seeking more from this life than it can provide? Remember that this life prepares us for a future with Christ.
2. Focusing Too Much on Self
Understanding that God controls the heavens and the earth, time and space, the present and eternity shows us that we are not the center of the world. This helps see God’s big picture over our own desires.
3. Asking Too Much of People
If we forget the hope of forever, we, as Tripp says, “consistently ask the people around us to provide the paradise for which our hearts crave” (Tripp, 25). Yet, remember the hope of salvation helps us to see that we are all sinful and hope to be sanctified and glorified in Christ one day. This allows us to live with our neighbors with understanding and compassion.
4. Be Controlling and Fearful
Trusting that God has numbered our days and cares for the path of history means that control is an illusion, and we can trust in His goodness. Yet, if we forget God, we must try to control things for ourselves. This inevitability leads to fear as we all face the reality that we can’t control much at all.
5. Questioning the Goodness of God
Forgetting that God is working all things for His glory and the good of His people can make us question His goodness. We can start to grumble and wonder what He is doing in the moment. Yet, looking to eternity, we can trust that His goodness and ways are above our ways.
6. Living More Disappointed than Thankful
The “pack-it-all-in” mentality leads to all kinds of disappointment. We can begin to grumble as we forget the gifts God has given us. Yet, remembering forever allows us to approach our longing not with disappointment but with thankfulness that one day God will meet all our longings in Jesus Christ.
7. Lacking Motivation and Hope
If this life is all there is, why labor? Why have hope? Yet, living considering eternity gives us motivation to labor for God’s purposes. We can have hope that God will use our work for His glory and the redemption of God’s people. From menial to significant works, we are motivated that God is using us for His eternal plan.
8. Living as if Life Doesn’t Have Consequences
The reality of eternity means that our lives have consequences. While some may say “If God controls all things, what’s the point?”, followers of Christ know that God holds us accountable for our actions. If we live only considering now, it’s easy to think that death is it. Yet, eternity is real, and God uses our lives to affect it.
Looking back at my life during the coronavirus pandemic, God has shown much how much I forget about eternity. Whether it is lacking hope because everything is shut down, putting unrealistic expectations on my wife, dwelling on disappointments, I forget that because Jesus rose from the dead, I will spend eternity with him. How about you? Have you found yourself living with eternity amnesia and the “pack it all in” mentality? Remember God’s eternal purposes and rejoice in the hope of the gospel. As our state begins to open, let’s seek to approach life after this pandemic with a heart that pursues God forever.