I encourage you to read this vivid passage. It is rich with contrasts (transitory vs. permanent; temporary vs. eternal), great phrases (“...we groan under our burden...so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” ) and metaphor (our bodies as earthly tents).
Paul’s metaphor of our bodies as earthly tents reminds me of the first (and only) time I went camping. Naturally, everything went wrong. The tent was much smaller than we thought it was. We couldn’t open the container which had the fuel to cook our food. It rained all night. Our tent fell on us. It was a thoroughly cold, wet, and miserable experience. I couldn’t wait to get home.
All of us know what it’s like to want to go home. Whether it’s from a disastrous camping trip or a successful mission trip or simply the end of a long day at work, we yearn for, desire, longingly anticipate our items of comfort, familiar surroundings, our private places for solitude and renewal. We just want to go home.
Of course, the tents that Paul writes about are our bodies here on earth, which will wear out over time. Paul tells us what to expect when that happens. He says that we can be at home with the Lord when we die. “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God...eternal in the heavens.” But that is not assured, for each of us will be judged for “...what has been done in the body...”
Paul longs to be at home with the Lord. To share Paul’s confidence and enthusiasm, and to successfully face judgment, we must build up our relationship with Christ. In a strong relationship with Christ, we will find comfort and hope and a renewal of our spirit. Christ will be familiar to us. He will be our home. Perhaps then, like Paul, we will wholeheartedly long to be "...away from the body and at home with the Lord."
Dear Lord, Paul’s words fill us with hope and a joyful expectation of eternal life with You. By Your grace, may we build up our relationship with You. And may Your grace guide us daily, so that our journey on earth will lead us to our eternal home in Heaven, with You. Amen.