Another Look by David Faust
Homesickness is a strange malady. Usually when you’re sick of something, you want less of it. But homesickness means you want more of it—more familiar surroundings, more time with people you love.
It afflicts all ages. Children at summer camp feel homesick, but so do 90 year olds in nursing facilities.
It pops up in different circumstances. The helmeted soldier with a rifle by his side is the picture of toughness, but he feels homesick when he lies down for another long night in Afghanistan. The college student who looks so capable in class and so affable with her friends cries quiet tears in the seclusion of her dorm room. Weary sales executives feel homesick while they unpack their suitcases in yet another hotel room. Missionaries accept it as an occupational hazard of going where the Lord leads them.
Biblical characters experienced it. Homesickness rasped from the parched lips of David when he said, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem,” the town where he had grown up (2 Samuel 23:15). It echoed from the sad melodies of Jewish exiles who sang, “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137:1). Homesickness may explain, at least in part, why John Mark deserted the apostle Paul during their missionary trip (Acts 15:36-41).
Of course, some individuals truly are sick of home. Their homes have been sick, dysfunctional places filled with hurt. Like Forrest Gump’s friend Jenny who was abused by her father, when they think about their childhood home a lifetime of pain makes them want to throw rocks at the windows or bulldoze it to the ground. Strangely, one can even feel something akin to homesickness while living at home, especially if it’s a home where love is lacking. Fortunate are those with fond memories of a loving family gathered around the dinner table, sharing meals and sharing life. But even these blessed memories fade with time when the children grow up and move away, the house is sold, and parents grow old and die.
Is homesickness the inner ache described in Ecclesiastes where Solomon complained about life’s emptiness even though he lived in a palace surrounded by every comfort money could buy? Is it what Paul was feeling when he said he was torn between two options, whether to stay alive and serve the Lord or simply to “depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:21-23)? Did Jesus ever feel homesick for Heaven? Do we catch a glimpse of it when he prayed, “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (John 17:5)?
One thing’s for sure. Jesus promised to “go and prepare a place” for us in his Father’s house (John 14:1-4). It’s a place where the table is always spread and the family always gets along. A place where no one gets abused, rejected, or ignored. A safe place. A holy place. A place where no one ever says “goodbye.”
The Bible’s portrayals of Heaven fascinate me with golden streets, crystal clear water, and brilliant light. But the older I get, the more I appreciate another biblical description of what it means to die as a Christian. It’s the one that simply says, “At home with the Lord.”