If you belong to God, when have you most felt the pang of longing for your heavenly home? What is it that stirs up that longing within you?
I appreciate it when hymns (or other songs of worship) build to a crescendo of hope and joy in the final verse by speaking of all that is to come in eternity with God. Lately I’ve been enjoying a hymn called “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken“–the verses speak of the trouble and distress we often encounter in this life as we follow Christ, but the song does not end in despair. Rather, the final stanza turns the focus onto that which awaits us, and the haunting beauty of its hope-filled poetry sends a stab of longing into my weary soul.
The stanza begins with “Haste thee on from grace to glory | Armed by faith, and winged by prayer.” Right now we live in the grip of grace, but there is a weight of glory that awaits us, which is beyond all comparison! Right now we live by faith, not by sight–it is faith that arms us to fight for hope, and it is prayer that keeps us aloft and moving in the right direction.
“Heaven’s eternal days before thee | God’s own hand shall guide us there.” Heaven is the promised hope awaiting us, and God Himself will ensure that we arrive. We are not left to flounder on our own, but the One who has called us is faithful–He will surely bring us home.
“Soon shall close they earthly mission | Soon shall pass thy pilgrim days.” We are pilgrims far from home, on mission for the King. That mission might feel impossible and never-ending, which is why we need to be armed by faith, so that we can remind our heart that we will not always be pilgrims on mission–one day the King will bring us home and the mission will be over.
“Hope shall change to glad fruition | Faith to sight, and prayer to praise.” The symmetry in these final lines is beautiful to me. Right now we are waiting–in hope–for glory, with faith and prayer as the weapons by which we fight for that hope. But soon, when our earthly mission and pilgrim days are finished, hope will be no more because we will experience the fruition of all that we now hope for. Right now we live by faith, but soon faith also will be no longer be needed because we will see with our own eyes the One in whom we have placed our trust. Right now we pray, we lament, we plead, we cry for help, but soon prayer will be replaced by praise alone because there will be no more need to plead for help.
This song stirs up that pang of longing within me, especially the beautiful symmetry of the now and the not-yet of faith and prayer. I can understand a little better what the Apostle Paul might have been feeling when he wrote to the Philippians “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Phil. 1:23) and to the Corinthians “…we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5:8) Come quickly, Lord Jesus!