This video went viral in the last few weeks and really took off on the anniversary of 9/11. I’m not much of a music guy, but this song and especially this singer, Lizzy Nelson, really grabbed my heartstrings. It was written when Lizzy lost a friend and the terrible pain of this bereavement is palpably tangible in her song. Anyone who has ever lost a loved one can sense a strangely comforting resonance in her voice.
But it’s the words that struck me even deeper. There’s a hopefulness in them, and yet there’s an even greater hopelessness.
What does it look like in heaven?
Is it peaceful, is it free like they say?
Does the sun shine bright forever?
Have your fears and your pain gone away?
Here on earth it feels like everything good is missing since you left,
And here on earth everything’s different, there’s an emptiness.
Oh oh I, I hope your dancing in the sky,
And I hope your singing in the angels choir,
And I hope the angels know what they have,
I’ll bet it’s so nice up in heaven since you arrived.
So tell me what do you do up in heaven?
Are your days filled with love and light?
Is there music, is there art and invention?
Tell me are you happy? Are you more alive?
Hopefulness and Hopelessness
The hopefulness is there, isn’t it? The hope that there’s something more, something better after this world. Three times in the chorus, Lizzy exclaims “I hope.” And her eight questions are all enquiring as to her hope that it’s much better up there than down here.
But the hopelessness is in the fact that these are simply questions. There’s no certainty that heaven exists. If it does exist, there’s no confidence about what it is like. And there’s no comforting assurance that her friend is there. There’s just “I hope” and lots and lots of questions.
Contrast that with the Bible-based hope of the Christian who can not only have certain confidence in the existence of heaven, and the nature of heaven, but also be certain about how to get there through Christ, and have assurance that they are going there.
Our “hope” is more than a “hope so.” It’s a know-so. It’s a biblically grounded certainty, and it’s based upon the person and work of Christ alone rather than who we are and what we’ve done.
We can therefore answer a resounding “YES” to Lizzy’s questions when they are asked of a Christian believer who has died. Yes, it’s peaceful. Yes, it’s free. Yes, it’s inexpressibly bright forever. Yes, all fear and pain have gone away. Dancing, hmm, okay not so sure about that one, but celebrating definitely. Yes, singing in angels’ choirs. Yes, heaven is beautified with each new arrival. Yes, the days are filled with love and light. Yes, there is music, art, and invention. Yes, inexpressibly happy. And yes, more alive than ever before.
That doesn’t mean that the bereaved family and friends of Christians do not mourn over the deep pain of their loss. At times for us too it feels like everything good is missing, that everything on earth is different, and that there’s an aching emptiness. However, when we have Christian hope, the pain is lessened and balanced by our confidence in all that God’s Word says about heaven, those who go there, and what it’s like there.
I sincerely hope and pray that Lizzy will come to know this hope for herself. And may each one of us so live that when we come to die, our loved ones can sing Psalm 23 instead of Dancing in the Sky.
Further reading: Psalm 16, 23; John 3:16; 2 Timothy 1:12; Hebrews 6:11, 17; Ephesians 1:13-14; 1 John 2:3; 5:13. Revelation 21-22.