In preparation for writing his book, Heaven, Randy Alcorn came across some letters written by his wife’s grandmother in 1920. They had never been translated from their original Swedish, so when they finally got a copy of them, they were moved and included some of the text of those letters in Heaven. The letters were written by Anna Swanson to her family in Sweden. Anna suffered severe health problems. While she was in Montana, cared for by relatives, her husband, Edwin, was in Oregon, working and caring for their seven children day and night.
Anna’s letters tell how Edwin wore himself out, got sick, and died. Because Anna was too weak to care for her younger children, they, including Randy’s future mother-in-law, were given up for adoption. Anna’s letters reflect her broken heart, her nagging guilt…and her faith in God.
The letters are very emotional, to say the least. What tragic lives. What inconsolable disappointment and pain. Anna and Edwin loved Jesus. They once had great dreams for their lives and for their family. But poor health, misfortune, separation, and death forever stripped them of each other, their children, and their dreams.
Or did it?
The biblical hope of our future demonstrates that we will have opportunities ahead that we’ve never dreamed of. Don’t forget that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Perhaps in some way, God will restore on the New Earth what was lost here on this one. God doesn’t merely wipe away tears; he replaces those tears with corresponding joys. Have you read the Beatitudes lately, reflecting on what they promise for us in the Kingdom, on the New Earth?
I believe that life on the New Earth will offer us opportunities we wished for but never had. God’s original plan was that humans would live happy and fulfilling lives on Earth. If life today is our only chance at that, God’s plan has not been fulfilled. But God is not unjust, and this is not our only chance at life on Earth. Let that sink in.
One hundred years ago, on March 3, 1920, Anna Swanson wrote a letter to her family in Sweden giving them the sad news that her husband, Edwin, had died on February 25. Below is a quote from that letter that gives us a window into her life and her faith in God:
“Yes, the Lord’s ways are strange. It would almost tear the heart from my breast. If I didn’t have God to trust in I don’t know how it would go.”
Anna provided a wonderful legacy of faith. Her words and her faith have found a home in this world. And her faith is a model for us to follow.
What kind of a legacy are you leaving behind? One hundred years from now, what will your great-great grandchildren know of your trust in Christ? What are the mementos of faith you are leaving behind? What clues are we leaving behind for them to uncover?
With the threats of pandemic swirling around us, will we put our hope in God? We must.