On Monday, April 15th, 2019, flames engulfed the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris France. A team of more than 400 firefighters worked in the night to extinguish the flames, but the fire brought the cathedrals iconic spire crumbling to the ground and left the legendary 13th century masterpiece with devastating damage.
When I first saw the news on social media, I stared at my phone in disbelief. Certainly not the Notre Dame–something so majestic and so iconic–surely that is immune to destruction. surely that is invincible. I found myself grief-stricken, and my watery eyes surprised me. I mourned the reality that this world, frustrated by the curse of sin, is dying. I was humbled afresh by the transience of even the strongest and most time-tested structures that can be gone in a moment. A building that took 182 years to build and that has stood for centuries is ravaged by fire in a matter of hours.
The loss of the Notre Dame is a jarring reminder that the things of this world cannot last. The bank accounts we look to for security could be gone in an instant. The homes in which we take shelter could be consumed by flames before our eyes. The bodies we spend so much time and energy perfecting will wither away like grass. The things to which we grip so tightly are rotting in our grasp, and if we spend our lives trying to acquire and hold onto material things, we will be left with nothing.
Just as quickly as the bitterness of sin caused me to grieve, the hope of eternity welled up in my heart as I watched the live video of the Notre Dame ablaze. Though the earth is marked by the results of sin, we groan with creation as we wait eagerly for the day when Christ will return and renew that which is subjected to futility (Romans 8:18-25). Yes, we grieve–but not as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Our hope does not die with temporary things, but it lives on in the eternal. Our living hope will always be alive, and so too will we (1 Peter 1:3).
This world may be slipping away but we hope in things that are not. Though our bodies age and decay, though our homes crumble to ground, though our money be taken by thieves, three things endure forever: God, His Word, and His people.
God is eternal. He has no beginning and no end. He always was and He always will be. Because God never perishes, neither does His love that He has set on us. "His steadfast love endures forever" (Psalm 136). Instead of finding safety in a building that could crumble we can take refuge in the everlasting God, our rock and our fortress (Psalm 62:1-2). Instead of hoping in material wealth we can hope in "the immeasurable riches of His grace and kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 1:7).
The Word of the Lord will stand the test of time. "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever" (Isaiah 40:8). We may suffer the heartbreak of broken promises from people who let us down, but every promise of God will be fulfilled. Every one will find its "yes" in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). The good news never fades. His Word endures, and we stake our lives on it.
The people of God are everlasting. Because of the work of Christ, those who believe in Him are raised with Him in the promise of eternal life. Your body is subject to illness and decay, yet it will be raised anew, perfect and eternal. Flames may have consumed the Notre Dame, but they will not consume us. The fiery trials we undergo as believers serve only to refine us–to make us pure–to make us holy. Death could not hold Christ, and the grave will not hold you if you in Him.
"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." -2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Church buildings–even the Notre Dame–will not stand the test of time, but the good news is "the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands" (Acts 7:48). God has made His dwelling in a new and better with Christ as the cornerstone and upon which living stones–believer in Christ–are being built up into a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:4-6). God does not live in the Notre Dame–He lives in us, and we hope in the day when His manifest presence will come down to dwell with us in the New Heavens and New Earth. In the midst of tragedy, may be set our hearts on eternity.