“I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand” (Ps. 73:23, NKJV).
In the midst of a very painful season of my life, Holy Spirit whispered to my heart. “I didn’t want this for you,” He said with exquisite tenderness. With His next breath, He added, “What I wanted for you was Eden.”
In that one moment, a flood of revelation inundated my spirit. My heart found center. Looming, overshadowing questions relaxed into the settled place. It was like the shift Asaph describes in Psalm 73:
His ‘before’: Asaph was overwhelmed with confusion. “When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me… My heart was grieved, and I was vexed in my mind” (Ps. 73:16, 21, NKJV).
His ‘defining moment’: Asaph had an encounter with God. “I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood…” (v. 17).
His ‘after’: Asaph burst into high worship. “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (vv. 25-26).
That sums it up very nicely. This Psalm paints a picture very similar to what happened to me that day. My heart was grieved because I couldn’t comprehend why God would allow me to undergo so much suffering. My mind was vexed because trying to reconcile my circumstance with His goodness was confounding me.
Have you been there?
And then I had an encounter with Him. And then I understood. All this pain was not what He wanted for us. What He wanted for us was Paradise. Eden reveals to us everything that was in His beautiful heart for humankind. The celestial oasis we long for – with no pain, no tears, no bereavement, no heartrending goodbyes – was already here, on the earth. That’s how He set it up for us. That’s what He achingly longed… and still longs… for us to have.
But we chose sin. So death came. Hardship and suffering became part of our earthly sojourn, but they do not reflect His design for us.
Yes, He accompanies us intimately through the valley of the shadow of death. Yes, He weeps with every stabbing cry of our hearts. Yes, He took ownership of our anguish and swept it all into His being on the cross. Yes, He made it His very own in unimaginable agony. Yes, He releases to us what He purchased there, unceasingly comforting us, strengthening us, rescuing us, and healing us. Yes, He does His Romans 8:28 thing, masterfully turning everything meant to harm us into immeasurable blessing.
Yes. All of that. He made magnificent, mind-boggling provision for our pain. But He doesn’t want us to forget that He never wanted us to have it in the first place.
To really know Jesus’ heart, you have to understand this. He didn’t have affliction and grief in mind when He was dreaming of you for all of eternity past. What He really, really, really yearns to give you… is still Paradise.
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4, NKJV).
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