I remember standing in my kitchen a month or two after my daughter passed away, weeping as I asked if she ever thought of me anymore, or if she had forgotten all about me. Could she look down from heaven and see me? Did she hear me when I talked to her? I believed in heaven, and I believed that’s where she was, but, in those early days of deep grief, I couldn’t sense anything but my grief. I felt cut off and separated from her, and that was a terrible feeling when we had been so close.
Without question, I had always accepted belief in heaven as a basic tenet of Christian faith. When various loved ones had passed away—typically long-lived, elderly people—it was easy to imagine them rejoicing in heaven, young and ageless, healthy and whole. Sad as I might be to part with them, I could be happy for them and their release from sickness and pain.
When my daughter passed away, however, it was different. Suddenly simple faith in the existence of heaven wasn’t enough. I needed reassurance! I needed to know heaven is real. Suddenly it was vital to know much more about heaven than just belief in its mere existence. What is heaven like? I needed to be able to picture my daughter in heaven and know what life is like for her now.
If she had simply moved away to some remote place here on earth, I could understand and know about her life by seeing pictures of the place, even if I’d never been there myself. I could talk to or read about other people who have been there, and I could get a good idea of her life in that remote place, even if we were cut off from modern communication. But, heaven? How could I know what life is like there? How could I imagine or picture her in a place that is so mysterious and unknown?
I had so many questions. Can she see me and hear me? Does she know what’s happening here? Does she know how deeply we grieve for her? These questions and more caused me to search for deeper answers about heaven than ever before. My quest has not been in vain.
Heaven indeed exists as a real place. I no longer think of it as something wispy, cloud-like, or ethereal, but a real place of substance. People in heaven are not ghost-like and ethereal, but also have substance, just different from our physical bodies here.
The Bible contains many types and shadows, and representations of spiritual things, and Earth is also a shadow, copied after heavenly things. C. S. Lewis called this life the Shadowlands, and I’ve come to a deeper understanding of what he meant by that. For example, just as trees, flowers, animals, etc. exist on earth, they are also in heaven, only far more varieties, more beautiful, more colorful, more alive, and of course, perfect. In heaven, there are more colors and hues than we can imagine, and music with richer tones and more notes on the scale than we’ve ever seen or heard on earth.
Heaven is a place of laughter and fun, and life is anything but boring. People continue to use, develop, and discover their gifts and talents in heaven. Artists paint, singers sing, inventors invent, teachers teach, and so on, filling heaven with amazing things not even imaginable on earth, even as it says in 1 Corinthians 2:9 that “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
Heaven is a place of absolute love and continuous joy and peace, because God’s light and love is in everything and everywhere. Most of all, heaven is the dwelling place of God. That’s why people who go to heaven must believe on Him and receive Him here on earth. It’s a joy to know Him, love Him, and worship Him heaven, and a joy of all joys to meet and talk with Jesus face to face.
How can I know or be sure of any of this? Admittedly, a measure of faith is required. But, for those who know God through belief in Jesus, and learn to know and recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit in their heart, we can ask and receive wisdom and knowledge into questions we ask or things we seek to know more about.
The release of the movie Heaven is for Real last year was particularly timely for me. After seeing the movie and reading the book, I was also privileged to hear Todd Burpo speak in person last fall. In my quest, I relied on recommendations from friends of books to read or websites to investigate, always keeping God front and center in my quest. Cautiously, I explored the subject of heaven and life after death, well aware that not all accounts or experiences are credible or Biblical. I accept many things easily on faith, but I tend to be highly skeptical about other things, particularly near death experiences and related visions. In my quest, I believe God has been faithful in responding to my desire to know more and has led me to reliable resources.
I’m sharing my quest for reassurance, because, as a grieving mother, I needed answers to my questions about heaven. I have been greatly comforted by learning more about heaven. Even now, as much as I miss her and always will miss her, my grief has been considerably lessened by knowing more about where she is. I am assured that she can and does see and hear me. That assurance alone helps me feel less cut off from her and more connected. I know she is cheering for us as part of the “great cloud of witnesses” mentioned in Hebrews 12:1. I’m sure she also intercedes for us with the greatest perspective anyone can have, sharing in praying God’s will for us “on earth as it is in heaven.” I share this so others can be comforted as well.
Here is a list of some of my resources. Other references come from a chapter here and there in a variety of books, so I haven’t listed every single one. I started to list Scripture references, but there were just too many.
Heaven, by Randy Alcorn
Heaven is For Real, by Todd Burpo
Heaven Changes Everything, by Todd Burpo
Waking Up In Heaven, by Crystal McVea
Sara Faith Nelson
Sharing the journey, because, I find there are so many others making the trek through life without a loved one