Debates about the beginning of the world have always bored me, maybe because I'm not that scientifically minded. What I really want to know is—how (and when!) is it going to end?
When I think about the world's end, I end up with scenarios spawned from the imaginations of script writers and movie directors. Will we all go down in a fiery inferno with solar flares wiping us out, as per Nicolas Cage's Knowing? Will it be a catastrophic shift in climate, as per The Day After Tomorrow? Will we be consumed by one natural disaster after another, as per 2012? Or worse, will sharks in tornados take us to meet our Maker, as per Sharknado?
It's funny that I'm so fascinated by these disaster movies. Twister, Into the Storm, Volcano, Giant Shark vs Mega Octopus (OK, some are a little sillier than others!).Yet, these days, I find it difficult to watch the news or movies based on real life natural disasters, like The Impossible, based on the 2004 tsunami which took countless lives.
Is there hope in hardship?
The world around us is filled with real life disasters and doomsday scenarios: refugees left to float in the ocean, barely clinging to life; earthquakes taking thousands and thousands of lives in Nepal; millions of people fleeing persecution and death; the advance of ISIS, and reports about their inhumane treatment of women and children; the appalling working conditions of those in Qatar; the poverty of millions that seems to never end; the exploitation and trafficking of women and children.
These are the big things, never mind the 'small' everyday heartbreaks; death in many forms; humans mistreating each other, animals and the environment around them. How much heartbreak can we take? Is there a light, something good, something to cling to that keeps us going, despite hardship?
If I weren't a Christian, I believe I would sink into a deep pit of despair as I see the growing depravity of humankind. While there are glimmers of hope here and there, there doesn't seem to be enough to outweigh the cries of many around the world.
So instead of looking around me, I look ahead to the end of the world—because in the end, there is hope.
A hope for the ages
This hope is offered by God: he has not left us alone in our suffering, nor will he allow it to continue without end.
While I struggle to cope with the sadness around me, I cling to the good news that it wasn't meant to be this way. Someday, God has promised, there will be no more tears and heartache and, in his good timing, all will be put right again.
Right now creation groans, awaiting the time when the children of God will be revealed. Each earthquake—groan. Each cry of an orphaned child—groan. Each instance of oppression and poverty—groan. And I groan with it.
God has given us a day to long for. This is the day when Jesus will return. It will be both terrible and wonderful at the same time.
Justice will be fully and finally handed down for every wrongdoing. Therefore the day will be terrible, for those who are under God's condemnation, and who haven't been united with Christ in this age (John chapter 5, verse 24). Yet, wonderful for those who have repented of their sin and believed in Jesus now and who, with creation, groan and long for the redemption of their bodies (Romans chapter 8, verse 23). Wonderful for those who know that their true home is where God reigns (2 Corinthians 5) and he is rightly worshipped and praised all the time.
Like the old, but better
I think C.S. Lewis captures this longing, and eventual joy brilliantly in the final book of the Narnia series, The Last Battle. The characters go through a stable door and end up in a new Narnia—one that looks like the old one but is better.
'But that was not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia which has always been here and always will be here...'
In the new Narnia the characters run and run without growing weary. The old Narnia has passed away, and they have arrived to where their hearts have always longed to be: a Narnia without fear, pain, death or any endings. They get to be with Aslan, the great Lion, knowing he won't leave them. There is a deep sense of being home at last.
That deep sense, that longing for home, is the same feeling I have for the new heavens and new earth as described in the book of Revelation. It's like what I've known, but better. The way that, deep in my soul, I've always felt it should be: a world without fear, pain, tears, or any ending.
Again, C.S. Lewis writes, 'If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world'.
This world cannot satisfy my desire for perfect peace and safety. But God's new world can. And so I continue to pray: come, Lord Jesus, come.
Sarah Urmston lives in Melbourne with her husband, Stephen. Having worked in public relations and communications as well as university student ministry, she's now getting used to the title of 'stay at home mum'.
Sarah Urmston's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/sarah-urmston.html