My Fear of Eternity

May 16th 2014 (3) comments so far  

file9861310649818 We all grow up hearing about how we get to spend eternity in Heaven with God when we become one of His children. I heard it many times coming up in Sunday school, but I never understood the implications of that concept. I was seven when I became a Christian, and pondering theological concepts wasn’t exactly on my radar. It wasn’t until five years later that I fully realized what that meant, and it terrified me.

I remember that night vividly, as 12-year old Townsend lay in a bed that took up most of my cramped bedroom in our new Frisco house, not thinking about anything in particular. I don’t remember the train of thought that brought me to this realization, but I can recall the moment the intense fear hit me. Even now, the memory evokes the dread I felt so many years ago.

I stared up at the ceiling, anxiety spreading through my chest as a conceptual wall fell somewhere in my brain: Eternity with God has no end. It will never end. We will just keep going and going, forever. I think I even had that scene from The Sandlot pop in there for a second: FOR-EV-VER.

Admittedly, those thoughts in writing don’t effectively convey my fear. But it’s an aspect of our lives we don’t really consider. Everything ends. Songs, football games, work days, movies, companies, civilizations, lives; everything will stop existing at some point, at least from our perspective. Every aspect of our lives has some sort of destination. For whatever reason, when I removed that element of reality from the equation, that terrified me.

We have a tendency to focus only on the side of God that is a loving, forgiving Father. But in that line of thinking, we fail to give due credit to the full power of God.

There’s a line from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe about Aslan, the Christ character in the Narnia series, that absolutely nails it. This line is used in every Christian blog out there, but I’m going to use it anyway, because you can’t explain it better than C.S. Lewis did:

“Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”

God isn’t a teddy bear. He created the very reality we reside in, where before there was a void. He operates on a plane of existence we can’t comprehend, where time and space is no obstacle. Flooding the earth, shattering suns, and destroying empires is no great undertaking to him. He is everywhere all the time. He dictates the path of every single speck of dust flying through space. He could easily end the very existence of the universe with a thought. There is plenty of reason to be afraid of God.

But what makes Him God is that He is also good.

We can do nothing for God; we cannot benefit Him in any way. And yet, the One who has such authority over the universe chose to love us, pursue us, and die for us. We fail the One who brought us into being constantly, and yet His love never wavers for an instant; it’s as eternal as He is.

We fear what we don’t understand, and as my 12-year-old self lay in bed that night I was terrified of the implications of a never-ending existence, a concept I couldn’t grasp. While my fear hasn’t gone away, I have come to understand it a little better.

We serve a God of unlimited strength and terrifying power. The only thing that compares is the endless depth of love He has for you.

We can’t fully comprehend what eternity looks like. It’s a part of the reality of God that happens to strike a chord with me. It’s my own personal way of trying to grasp the “big-ness” of God. The more I foray into trying to understand it, the more I realize just how powerful God really is. God is eternal, and the thought of my soul being eternal as well, for whatever reason, makes the power of God real to me.

But He, the One who has given me the greatest love I will ever know, wants me to spend eternity with Him. Knowing that, I’m afraid, and at the same time, I’m so happy.


Comments

  1.  

    Elise Miller March 13th at 3:49 pm  

    I have struggled with the fear of eternity for as long as I can remember. I recall even as a little girl being gripped with fear, so real and so present that eventually I would run to my parents room crying and my mom and dad would hold me and pray over me. I recently have been struggling with it more than ever. I’ve tried scripture on cd, falling asleep to worship music, my husband and I praying together, but it only takes it away temporarily. I just wonder if I will ever be 100% set free from this fear? I’m so glad to have stumbled upon this post and find out that I am not the only one who struggles. Do you have any advice or encouragement? Does this ever go away? Being a worship pastor I have been embarrassed to share this fear because it seems so irrational.

  2.  

    Townsend Keller - staff March 16th at 9:00 am  

    Hi Elise,

    Looking back on this post I wrote a couple of years ago, I think writing this really helped me process the fear. While it has popped up occasionally in the last couple of years, I like to think that I’ll be so occupied with Heaven’s wonders and hanging out with God asking Him if Bigfoot was ever real that eternity won’t be something to fear, it will be something to look forward to.

    In all seriousness, if I could give you one piece of advice, it would be to face this fear. Maybe do what I did and write what your feelings out, even if you don’t publish it or anything. While other people may not share this specific fear, everyone is questioning/afraid of some aspect of their faith. You don’t need to feel isolated, because everyone around you is feeling or has felt the exact same thing you have. And I have a feeling if you brought this up to another pastor you trust, they would be able to tell you multiple examples of when they have felt a similar fear. You’re not in this thing alone. Keep on chuggin!

  3.  

    Weston Votaw September 29th at 4:49 pm  

    I’m really happy I found this blog. I had this fear, Apeirophobia since I was in 7th grade. (Senior in College as of now). My fear developed into a panic disorder and was on anti anxiety medication (Ativan) for a few months for it. As far as the fear of the unknown, which you talked about, I found the book, “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn to be very helpful. He talks all about heaven and what he believes it will be like. The more I learned about heaven and where we’ll be for eternity the more the fear went away. Eventually God decided to completely take it away miraculously, but this book was my saving grace. I hope it gets better and this is an encouragement that it can go away. There’s always hope in God.

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