Homesick–Living Life in the Minor Key

Most of us in the church are familiar with Hebrews 11, the so-called “Hall of Fame of Faith.” Many of us can recite at least portions of the great events mentioned. And countless sermons and messages have been preached on faith from this passage. This post is not intended to add to that collection. Rather, we are going to look at a part of the chapter that is often missed and overlooked. In the middle of the passage, we find these words:

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city (Heb. 11:13-16).

Did you catch that first sentence? The heroes of the faith all died, NOT having received the things promised. That should cause us to stop and think for a moment. It’s easy to miss that in the midst of all the grand statements of what the heroes of faith were able to accomplish through the Lord. We often hear that great faith can accomplish great things. And that is absolutely true.

At the same time, we must say with the writers of Scripture that the ultimate longings of faith will not be realized in this life. The longing to be with the Lord, be fully transformed like Christ, and to dwell with God forever. Yet we, as they did, can “[see] them and [greet] them from afar.” This is the vision of faith. Until those things are realized, until we are truly Home, we live life in the minor key. 

If you know anything about music, you know what is meant by “the minor key.” When something is played in a minor key it often has a darker, sadder, sometimes even morose tone. As believers living in the midst of this sin-stained fallen world (and highly aware of our own sin), we live in that same minor key. The heroes of old understood this well.

Aliens and Strangers

The Old Testament faithful, we are told, “[A]cknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (v. 13). They realized that this world was not their home. They were made for a perfect world and their world was not it. Pain and suffering, war, death, and famine were all around them. And that doesn’t even mention their own personal failings and sin.

Sounds a lot like the conditions of our world, doesn’t it?

In truth, nothing has changed. It can be safely said that, had God not made a covenant with Noah to never again destroy the earth with a flood to kill all humanity, He probably would have started over again–and again, and again. While we live in this world, we find moments, and even seasons, of peace, love, joy, and even happiness. Those, however, are the mountain top experiences. If we are honest, most of our lives are spent on the plains and in the valleys of life.

Bills to pay
Work schedules to keep
Sickness and death of family members
Relationship failures
Threats of war
Global pandemics

The list could go on and on. Even when not in the dark valleys of life, we are on the plains and plateaus of life, doing our best to let life not become a drudgery. The ultimate joy we long for is far off. Because we are not home yet. This world is not our home. 

Looking Forward

As the passage tells us, “For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland” (v. 14). They were looking toward eternity, toward something better. Like them, that is the key for how we are to live life. Yes, we can and will see those times of true joy in the Lord as we walk closer and closer with Him, as our flesh is crucified and we are transformed more into His image. 

But our hope for joy must not be set on this life. We will be disappointed too many times if that is where our eyes and hearts are fixed. Instead, we must keep our eyes forward, looking toward that Day.

A City Prepared

Notice what the Lord’s reaction to this thinking is: “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God” (v. 16a). He is not ashamed to be called their God. And we can rightly read this sentence as, “Because these people were looking toward that heavenly place and the eternal joy, God is not ashamed (and is instead happy) to be called their God.” 

Why is God not ashamed? The last part of the verse tells us: “For he has prepared for them a city” (v. 16b). He has already prepared a place for them to dwell. Those words apply to us as well, not just them. Jesus echoes a similar thought:

In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also (John 14:2-3).

Just as God had prepared a place for the Old Testament faithful, Christ is preparing a place for us. He meant those words as a strong encouragement and comfort, because He said, “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1). Translation? “You don’t have to be afraid. You’re going to see what your hearts long for, that better dwelling place with Me and My Father. You can count on it.”

That Kind of Faith

To return to our passage, we will look at one more important thing. Did you notice that verses 17-38, which catalog their mighty deeds, come after that description of faith?

By faith, Abraham . . .
By faith, Isaac . . .
By faith, Jacob . . . 

By faith, Joseph . . .

This is the kind of faith that does those great things. It is not a faith that is simply pumped up. It is a faith that has absolute trust in God, having set the eyes of the heart on eternity and scorning the treasures of this world. We know that their faith produced these results because we are told “[A]ll of these [were] commended through their faith” (v. 39a). Those mighty deeds were the proof of their faith. Yet, the writer feels the need to repeat an earlier statement. These mighty people of old, though they were commended by their faith, did not receive what was promised

Why did they not receive those things in this life? Because “God had provided something better [for them and] us” (v. 40). They, and their faith, were our examples. As God has prepared a place for them, we have the same hope.

When you feel that tug in your heart that things just aren’t right here, when you feel life is a drudgery, when you wonder “Is this all there is?,” remember that what you are really feeling is homesickness. You were created for something better. And God is pleased to give us glimpses of that eternal joy here, to remind us of what awaits us in eternity.


A Father’s Cry

Many years ago, the Christian artist Mark Schultz came out with a song entitled “He’s My Son.” It’s a powerful song about the desperate cry of a father’s heart. Though some see it as a sad song, unworthy of a Christian listening to it, it captured my heart. Songs of honesty always have. This is the chorus of the song, and it is a good summary of the pain that people often feel.

Can You hear me?
Am I getting through tonight?
Can You see him?
Can You make him feel alright?
If You can hear me
Let me take his place somehow
You see he’s not just anyone
He’s my son.

For too long in the church, people have denied and covered up the pain they feel when desperate prayers seem to go unanswered. Endless questions flood the mind about both our own character, as well as the character and heart of the Father. I empathize with that chorus, as I’m sure most of us (if we are honest) do. Whether it’s a prayer to heal a spouse, mother, father, brother, sister, or a prayer to save a marriage, or to ease the ache of loneliness, or any number of things, the cry is often the same.

Where is God?
Does He know what’s going on?
Does He even care?

Those questions make many in the church uncomfortable. They try to direct the focus somewhere else–to cover up the pain from the same questions tearing at their own heart. There are no easy answers, and this certainly won’t try to give such pat and superficial answers (which often make things worse). We simply don’t have the capacity to fully understand God and all His ways.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa. 55:8-9)

There are, however, some things that we can know about both the Lord and the world around us. They may seem to provide little comfort at times–when we want Him to do something, not just be. But, if we take them to heart they are likely to give us a larger (and better) perspective.

#1: This fallen world is not our home.

When God created Adam and Eve, they were perfect and living in a perfect environment. Everything functioned as it should. They were in fellowship with God and in tune with the world around them. Humanity, you see was created for a perfect world. Yet, we know that we live in a world that is far from perfect. Nothing works perfectly–not us, not the environment. And that is a result of the Fall. You see, the Fall not only affected Adam and Eve, but all of creation. Paul tells us,

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:22-23).

Thus, because we were created for a perfect place, we must keep in mind that this world is not our home. We are created and called for something better. At the end of time, this world will be destroyed and a new heavens and new earth created (Rev. 21:4). Until then, we will continue to live in a world filled with death, sorrow and grief.

#2: The Lord is good.

While we do live in a fallen, sin-sick world, we also must remember that the Lord our God is good. He has good plans for us (Jer. 29:11). He describes Himself firstly as gracious and compassionate (Ex. 34:6-8). And part of those good plans is a story of redemption. Not only redeeming us from sin through the death of Christ, but redeeming all that we go through for His glory and our ultimate good.

Notice the qualifier there: our ultimate good. We may not see it here. We may not understand how good can come from it. We may not understand what the Father is doing.  Yet we have His Word, His very promise: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28, emphasis added). Some half-jokingly call this the “all things clause.” What they mean is, “You know that’s really bad what happened…but, there’s the ‘all things clause.’” Not one thing in our lives is pointless from His perspective. Not one thing is wasted.

#3: The Lord understands our pain.

Not only is the Lord good, but He understands what we go through. God is a personal being, and He feels emotional pain. He is said to feel anger, joy, and other emotions. Jesus, as the perfect representation of the Father, showed many of these emotions. He is not sitting on the throne wondering what that must be like, having no clue to how we feel.

The ultimate example of the Lord understanding our pain is in the death of His Son. Christ even pleaded with the Father: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me” (Mark 14:36, emphasis mine). Can’t you hear the pleading of Jesus? And how such pleading must have torn the Father’s heart. Max Lucado captures it well:

Oh, my Son, my Child. Look up into the heavens and see my face before I turn it. Hear my voice before I silence it. Would that I could save you and them. But they don’t see, and they don’t hear. “The living must die so that the dying can live. The time has come to kill the Lamb.

Can you hear the Father’s heart? He knows our pain because He has experienced it. Not only has Christ been tempted in all points as we have, but the Father Himself has experienced the emotional pain of seeing His Son die.

This, I think, might be close to the Lord’s answer to the father’s cry in Mark Schultz’s song:

Can You hear Me?
Am I getting through tonight?
Can You see Him?
See Him hanging on the cross for you?
If You can hear Me
Know He took your place somehow
You see He’s not just anyone
He’s My Son

The next time you are tempted to wonder if God knows what you are going through, if He cares, remember that He does understand. He knows. He weeps with you. And He is making all things right, all things new, for our perfect home.