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.

Christian hope
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.

YES!
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.

  • Stephen Talas

    I love A.A. Hodges wonderful statement:

    “Heaven, as the eternal home
    of the divine Man and of all the
    redeemed members of the
    human race, must necessarily
    be thoroughly human in its
    structure, conditions and
    activities. Its joys and activities
    must all be rational, moral,
    emotional, voluntary and active.
    There must be the exercise of
    all the faculties, the gratification
    of all tastes, the development of
    all talent capacities, the
    realization of all ideals. The
    reason, the intellectual curiosity,
    the imagination, the aesthetic
    instincts, the holy affections,
    the social affinities, the
    inexhaustible resources of
    strength and power native to
    the human soul must all find in
    heaven exercise and satisfaction.
    Then there must always be a
    goal of endeavor before us, ever
    future.” (A.A. Hodge, Evangelical
    Theology; quoted in Peter Toon,
    Heaven and Hell [Nashville:
    Thomas Nelson Publishers,
    1986], 158.)

  • Karin

    My daughter sent me this today. We loved enough to let go of my hubby, her dad, after his suffering – yet we miss him profoundly. I found it interesting that I should find your post on here today as well. After all the questions were asked I wanted the artist to sing about the glory of living in the Presence of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, Lord and Friend. Trust that the Lord will use this time of loss in her life to draw her unto Himself.