2 Corinthians 4:17-18. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 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.
What is your affliction today?
My guess is that there’s probably nothing light or momentary feeling about it. A global pandemic. Social unrest. Economic collapse. Natural disasters. Protests. Persecution. Poverty. These things are on our news ticker every night. And on the new ticker of our own hearts are all the ongoing afflictions of our daily lives. Childhood illness, elderly parents, marital conflict, cancer, workplace drama, anxiety and depression, homeschooling, car problems, broken relationships. These all feel more like heavy and never ending.
So why does Paul call all of this trouble light and momentary? Can’t he see how seriously stressful our lives are?
Of course he can. His life was pretty stressful too (just read 2 Corinthians). But what he knows from Christ’s life is that the eternal weight of glory that is being prepared for us will make today’s suffering seem small and insignificant in comparison. And until we embrace this truth, we will never be able to handle our suffering today as God intends – with faith.
You see, suffering and glory are not two distinct concepts. They aren’t two different arenas we move back and forth between. We don’t have to choose between suffering or glory. Our suffering IS our glory. Our suffering prepares, or is “working out” for us an eternal weight of glory.
The cross teaches us that there is no glory without suffering. The cross of suffering prepared Christ for his resurrection and glorification. Jesus could only be glorified because he had been crucified. The glory of his suffering on the cross prepared him for the greater glory of ruling in Heaven. No exaltation on the cross – no exaltation in Heaven.
And the same is true for us.
So how does our suffering prepare for us an eternal weight of glory?
The answer is in verse 18. Suffering causes us to look at the unseen and eternal realities around us, rather than the seen and transient realities.
Do you believe that only what exists in the present is what actually exists? Or is there is a reality beyond this present time and space? Do you believe in the unseen? The eternal?
If you do, then your present suffering can prepare for you a future weight of glory beyond all comparison.
Christian, your suffering is not a punishment from God. It’s his preparation of your heart for eternal and greater glory. Your suffering is not random or meaningless. It is teaching you to let go of the things of this world, the transient things, so that you can grab hold of the eternal things of Heaven.
When Paul says that we can either be looking at the seen or the unseen, he’s not talking about the visible and invisible. He’s talking more about the present and the future. The temporary and the eternal.
The seen parts of your life are those that are temporary – they won’t live past your death. They’re not part of the everlasting kingdom. Can you name these parts of your life? Money? Job? Car? Pool membership? Vacation? Sex? Yes, all of these. But also your suffering. Cancer. Pain. Divorce. Racism. Difficult relationships. Dying.
But these seen things, these things in the present world, including our suffering, are meant to cause us to look to the unseen things. The things that are eternal. Things that will survive beyond your death. Things that will be in the everlasting kingdom. Can you name these parts of your life? Love? Grace? Faith? Goodness? The eternal kingdom? The presence of Christ!
So let me ask again, how does our present suffering prepare us for future glory?
By faith. By trusting that our suffering is helping our hearts to let go of the seen, and exchange them for the unseen, the everlasting glories of Christ. By trusting that we can experience right now what we will experience forever – the greatest of loves and the purest of grace in knowing Jesus our Savior.
This is why we must fight with our whole hearts to look at the eternal glories of Jesus, rather than the transient glories of the self. We must fight to hope, and believe, and love, knowing that one day all will be made right. We must fight to rest in the life of Jesus, his grace and his love, for this alone makes all suffering not just bearable but glorious.
“To live is Christ” is to live simultaneously in suffering and glory. The glory of God’s grace found in the cruciform life. Knowing that living this cruciform life today prepares for us an experience of grace in the presence of Christ beyond any light or momentary affliction we are going through today.
Is it difficult for you to see your suffering as light and momentary?
You in Christ
How does union with Christ bring hope in your suffering?
Christ in you
How does the future glory that Christ promises you allow you to love, suffer, and give grace today?
Playlist: Suffering and glory.