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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by Susan Hanson

Sunday, November 8

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
—Matthew 5:3

The closest many of us ever come to talking about heaven is when we tell a joke—usually about some clueless individual meeting St. Peter at the pearly gates. Granted, as children we may have imagined streets of gold, angels with harps, and people idly walking around wearing long white robes. 

Or we might have envisioned a bank of fluffy clouds, with God—also in a white robe and looking very much like a stern Charlton Heston—presiding over the cosmos from his throne.

Unfortunately, though, that may be as far as we got.

It’s not that most of us don’t believe in heaven. According to a 2003 Harris Poll, about 82% of Americans—95% of Christians and 44% of non-Christians—are convinced that it exists. Beyond that point, however, we’re not really sure what we think.

When I was a child, growing up in a very conservative church, I was taught that heaven—which was most certainly a place—was the reward for those who had accepted Jesus into their lives. The only point up for debate was whether babies who died before the “age of accountability” would make it in. 

Occasionally someone voiced a question about the fate of non-Christian people, but ordinarily that was dismissed with a hopeful remark about someday “winning their hearts for Christ.” In short, all I knew for sure was that I wanted to end up in heaven.

Over the years, though, I came to think of heaven in a very different way—not as a place, but as corollary of who God is. The issue ceased to be “Who’s going to heaven?” and became instead “Can I trust God with my self?” 

To believe in heaven as Jesus described it—as the dimension in which one encounters God face-to-face; as a state that is “very near,” or even “among us”; as the fruition of God’s good will for all of creation—is to abandon our concern about who will be there. It is also to realize that regardless of what heaven is like, we can be confident that in God’s hands we are safe.

O God, help us to so trust you that we can live our lives without worry and, when the times comes, we can die without fear or regret.

These Signposts were originally published on in 2005.