The Perfect Well-Being of the Souls in Heaven

We may truly say that well-being is something which is loved and desired by all human beings. And concerning this condition of well-being, what may be said which is better or more true than that which the Psalmist declares that “the well-being of the just comes from the Lord”? And to those to whom the Lord gives this gift of well-being, what illness or infirmity could possibly prevail against them? Yet I do not see what I could offer as an adequate example or illustration of the well-being which we shall possess in heaven. For I perceive nothing like it in myself, nor in anybody else who dwells within this mortal flesh, which is comparable to the condition of perfect and unassailable well-being and health which we shall possess in the next world.

In this present time, we often believe that we are perfectly well when we do not consciously sense any particular pain. But we are deceiving ourselves in thinking this way. For often some part of our body may be injured or impaired, but we are not aware of this injury until something specifically aggravates or agitates it.

And for those who believe themselves to be completely well and in perfect health, how can we test whether this is really true? Take any apparently healthy and sound human body, whose possessor considers themselves to be in a condition of perfect well-being. Now, if you apply particular pressure to any part of that body or strike it with any degree of force, immediately the person will exclaim, “Stop that! You’re hurting me.” And did they not declare themselves to be in a state of perfect well-being just a moment before? But as soon as a little pressure is applied to them, they experience pain or annoyance. Do you believe that the state which they are in may be called well-being if it may so readily become suffering? I think not!

Thus, the present fragile condition which we describe as “health,” yet which is still liable to pain, cannot be compared to the state of well-being which the Lord has promised us in the future. As Scripture declares, “God shall wash away every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no mourning or weeping, nor any pain, for the previous things have passed away.” And again, “They shall not hunger nor thirst anymore, nor shall the burning sun with its scorching heat fall upon them.” And, “God shall protect them with his right hand and shall defend them with his holy arm.”

What could possibly be able to harm those whom the right hand of God thus protects? I know that neither myself nor anyone else in this mortal life has ever experienced firsthand the type of well-being which God shall give in heaven. This well-being will be completely unassailable and secure. If anyone were to ask me about a fever or any other kind of illness, I could easily offer an intelligent and informed answer, for I have either experienced such illnesses myself or have received information from other people who have experienced them. But as far as what I have never experienced myself, or never conversed with those who have experienced them—such as the perfect well-being of souls in heaven—I am unable to give an answer in the same way. Rather I find myself lacking both the knowledge and words to form any adequate description.

Nevertheless, I firmly and unhesitatingly believe that the well-being which we shall enjoy in the future world shall be, by its very nature, utterly unchangeable and inviolable. It shall surely saturate one’s whole person with an ineffable sweetness, enchanting each one of the senses with unspeakable delight.

And anything which could cause the slightest trace of harm, impairment, or alteration to this state of perfect health will be far removed from it—and, indeed, absent altogether. For any such thing would be foreign to and incompatible with the immutability and eternity of the immortal God Who graciously bestows it. Although we cannot now fully imagine this condition of celestial well-being, its reality and attributes—comprising perfection, completeness, and changelessness—may be known with full confidence, since they are demonstrable by reason itself.

This article is taken from a chapter in The Glories of Heaven by St. Anselm of Canterbury, which is available from TAN Books.



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