John Lennon once famously asked his listeners to “imagine there’s no heaven.” The song, “Imagine” has been played millions of times and sung at every “peace” rally since its inception.
Imagine there’s no heaven.
For years, I sang along blissfully unaware of the lyrics, or I would just skip over the “religion” part. After all, imagining all the people living life in peace is a wonderful notion. Then again, from my reading of the Bible, that is Heaven—a place where there is no more war, where the lion lies down with the lamb, where every tear is wiped away, where the Prince of Peace sits on His throne, and all God’s people live in harmony with one another. No more doctrinal wars, denominational divisions, and congregates complaining about the worship music. Heaven is truly a life lived in the peace God intended us to have with Him before the Fall.
Some who don’t believe in God have used this song as sort of an anthem. See all the wars that religions has caused, they scream. See what you Christians have done in history, they yell. Religion has caused great upheaval in history and sadly, many wars have been fought in God’s name. I don’t deny that the Church has a bloody history, which is both sorrowful and shameful. I wish that the history of the Church was defined by kindness, by being that lighted city on a hill, and that the beauty of the Gospel was the central message we preached (and to many, this is exactly how it is characterized by the lives and works of many amazing men and women). Sometimes the loudest, brashest, most idiotic “Christians” make headlines while the Mother Theresa’s of the church are often ignored.
Despite the Church’s past failings, over which I have no control, I can’t imagine why I would want to imagine there’s no Heaven, or even worse, that there’s no God. The thought of it makes me sick, as if someone ripped out my beating heart and screamed in my face, “You have no hope!” Truly without God, there is no purpose for my life, no redemption for my failures, and no hope that there’s anything beyond this existence. The aloneness I feel—that separation from that God Elisabeth Elliot so eloquently describes in The Path of Loneliness—would never be filled if God does not exist (though I imagine I’d feel nothing if the world was truly devoid of God, something I imagine only Jesus felt when He was forsaken by God at the cross). Not only would I be hopeless, I would be truly and awfully alone, despite having a life surrounded by loved ones. My umbilical cord to God would be severed and I would die from lack of nutrition. Oh. My. God. To truly imagine it is horror indeed.
There are times where I’ve been just about hopeless. During one of these episodes, I considered strangling myself with a belt, but I just didn’t have the heart to do it. Another time, I wanted to slash my wrists so I would bleed to death, but I just could not do it. I used to suffer from suicidal ideation, where I would think of creative ways to die and fixate on them, yet I would only act these out through self-injury.
A counselor once told me that I made it out alive because I never lost my hope, though at times it was waning, maybe even eclipsing. Even when I could not see God, He was there co-mingling my hope with my faith…and I knew He was there. A little voice (the Holy Spirit’s voice) screamed to me that I still had a purpose, that God would still use my life for His glory.
I know what it is to imagine there’s no God. I tried to do it for exactly 12 hours one day, and I was so tormented, I had to admit I believed in God. I was just so angry at Him that I wanted to Him to stay far away from me, and for years, that was the weird ebb and flow to our relationship. He never left me and I knew that. That’s how I know He will never leave me, that His promise to be with me always is true. And I believe that there’s a Heaven where I will dance forever in His warmth, our relationship fully restored because of the blood of Jesus.
Imagine there is a Heaven. Imagine there is a God who created you, who loves you, who wants to have a relationship with you…now that’s something to sing about.