From This Life to the Next
“So, Joni, do you ever wonder what it’ll be like, crossing from this life into the next?”
I’m asked that a lot. Look, I’m a quadriplegic who’s lived in a wheelchair for more than fifty-five years. I’m straining with head back, arms wide, and pumping everything I’ve got into that photo finish at the tape. Do I wonder what that moment will be like? You bet I do.
What I am about to say is not really biblical, but here’s how I like to picture it. I see myself bursting across the finish line and—like a marathoner—collapsing on hands and knees. I sink my hands into the sands of that celestial shore, heaving, sweating, and gasping. “I made it . . . I made it . . . I can’t believe I made it!” Then I roll over on my back and lie still with eyes closed, letting the restful sound of the gentle waves and the wind wash over me.
In the quiet, I feel the presence of Someone standing above me, Someone in whose cool shadow I feel bathed and blessed. I open my eyes and see . . . Jesus. His head is eclipsing the sun. He smiles down at me and offers His hand, as would any friend. I take it happily, and in one swift motion He pulls me up.
“Welcome home, sweetheart,” He whispers as He looks admiringly at me with unimaginably kind eyes. Then He pulls me close and pat-pats my back like Daddy used to do. “It’s been hard and long, but you’re safe now,” He says, patting me some more. At this point, I am sobbing until He holds me an arm’s length away. I blink twice, for He almost looks like my Daddy, or maybe my Brother. Or Lover. Or King.
“You made me look so good back there on earth,” He says.
My immediate reaction? Drop to my knees and kiss His feet. But the dream dissipates. The reality of what will then actually happen takes over. And although the details are cloaked in mystery, the Bible describes a glorious dénouement with angels and rewards; the devil and his hordes—all of them—destroyed; death gone; Christ’s name vindicated as He is crowned the undisputed King of the universe. The Bible says we will reign alongside Him, spreading His kingdom of love, light, and beauty throughout the endless cosmos. Our song of suffering will be over, and forever we will sing of Jesus’ sufferings and how his excruciatingly tender love won for us so great a salvation.
Life in the Home Stretch
In a crude nutshell, that’s what happens on the other side of the finish line. In light of all this, I ask you, Don’t you want to make the most of life in the home stretch?
My friend Robert Wolgemuth sure does. We are close friends, and for the decades I’ve known him, I’ve never seen this man fritter away his time, treasure, or talents. He understands that life is an unspeakably precious gift, and as such, he stewards carefully the twenty-four-hour slices of time with which he has been blessed. Robert is my kind of brother in Christ—he’s feeling his stride on his last lap, drawing on his second wind, and investing heavily in what lies beyond the tape at the finish.
My friend has spent years thinking about eternal ROIs and how everything a Christian does here on earth has a direct bearing on their capacity for joy, worship, and service in Heaven. Earth is Robert’s minor league warm-up for the major leagues up there. And because he is such a great manager of life’s gifts, he’s my choice to author a book called Finish Line.
And he’s covered everything. Consider him your “close of life” coach, providing tips and tools that cover just about every question you might have about finishing the race of life well.
But Robert has also written Finish Line as a challenge. He esteems you, his reader, as a Philippians 3:12 kind of believer who genuinely wants to press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of you:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (NIV)
If you’re wondering how to flesh out these words from Philippians in a practical way—especially if you’re in the home stretch, as the apostle Paul was—Robert can show you. Find a comfortable chair and a pen and highlighter and let him cheer you on from the sidelines as you press on toward the finish line. Your finish line.
You don’t want to miss anything on the other side of that finish line tape.
This article was adapted from Joni Eareckson Tada’s foreword to Robert Wolgemuth’s newest book Finish Line: Dispelling Fear, Finding Peace, and Preparing for the End of Your Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2023. Used by Permission.