Occasionally, I hear someone say a pretty flowery thing about following Jesus. They present an almost fairy tale; candy that entices, but doesn’t sustain. It’s not that they aren’t true; they just left out the meat. They presented the fairy tale ending too soon and left out the part about life today. The full redemption and transformation comes after God makes the world new. Then He wipes away all our tears; pain and suffering and death are gone forever. But here, even with the joy of being in Christ, comes persecution and suffering and loss. We are joined, not just in Jesus’ resurrection, but also in His death.
Paul never minces words about this dual reality. This both/and narrative is his story. He’s writing this book to the Philippians from prison. He’s in prison and he doesn’t know if he will live or die. He doesn’t know if he will see these believers he loves again. And even if he lives and does see them, it’s second best. He would actually rather go be with Christ.