Monday, April 19, 2010

Surviving Nairobi

I had never been so miserable in my entire life. My family and two others from my congregation had been traveling on a mission trip to Tanzania for nearly two days, and we'd finally landed in the airport in Nairobi, Kenya. I don't think there's a single chair in the entire Nairobi airport, and I know there's not a single restaurant. My brother and I were both dehydrated and throwing up. The theme songs from "The Brady Bunch" and other old TV shows were playing over the loudspeakers. It was without a doubt the weirdest, most excruciatingly agonizing twelve hours (that's right, TWELVE HOURS) of my life.

After a short plane flight, however, we finally reached the Kilimanjaro airport. Within the hour, we were on our way to a restaurant, a hotel (a bed! a shower!), and, though I didn't know it yet, the most incredible two weeks of my life. We were still in the van on the way there when my little brother looked out the window in amazement. "Sissy, sissy, look!!" So I did. Words can't even begin to describe what I saw. With the Milky Way as a backdrop, a million pinpricked stars stretched out across the sky. It's cliche, but I've truly never seen anything so beautiful. My brother then said, and I quote, "This is the best trip ever! I love Africa!" And he was right. All the "blood, sweat, and tears" we endured to get to Tanzania were eclipsed by all the amazing things we experienced once we got there.

Life is like the Nairobi airport. Granted, unlike the Nairobi airport, it can be wonderful at times, but most of us would agree that life is no picnic. It can be really hard. However, we can get through the Nairobi experience through the knowledge that someday we'll finally get to Tanzania; we can make it through life by the knowledge that someday we'll finally get to heaven. Let's take a look at the words of Peter:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed at the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold, which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 1:3-7)

As Christians, even at the deepest, darkest part of our lives, we have hope. And it's not just a passive "Oh, I sure hope this happens" hope-- it's a LIVING hope. It's active. We get our hope through Christ's resurrection, through our Christianity and faithful walk with God. What is our hope? To obtain an eternal inheritance: heaven. Read Revelation 21. (No, seriously. Go read it and then come back.) As wonderfully beautiful as these descriptions are, they are just the earthly manifestations of what heaven will actually be like. We just can't even comprehend with our temporary minds how wonderful heaven will be. Note Peter's word choice in the passage above, too: "FOR A LITTLE WHILE... you have been distressed." Two days of agonizing traveling was just a fraction of the two weeks I would spend enjoying my trip. In the same way, our earthly life is only an infinitesimal speck in comparison with eternity (James 4:14).

Too often we feel like it's too hard. Like we can't go on. We feel like giving up on heaven. Does it make sense to give up on getting to Tanzania just because the Nairobi airport is awful? Of course not! Even though trials can bog us down, we can never, NEVER give up. Instead of discouraging us, trials should make us want heaven all the more-- they should be another spur toward our eternal goal.

You might have heard the old song, "Heaven Will Surely Be Worth It All":
Often I'm hindered on my way,
Burdened so heavy I almost fall.
Then I hear Jesus sweetly say,
"Heaven will surely be worth it all."

Heaven will surely be worth it all,
Worth all the sorrows that here be-fall.
After this life with all its strife,
Heaven will surely be worth it all.

Many the trials, toils, and tears,
Many a heartache may here appall,
But the dear Lord so truly says,
Heaven will surely be worth it all.

Toiling and pain I will endure
Till I shall hear the death angel call.
Jesus has promised and I'm sure,
Heaven will surely be worth it all.

"We also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:3-5)

~green eyes :)

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