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? Does it feel light and momentary to you? Probably not.
As I write this, a global pandemic, social unrest, economic turmoil, natural disasters, protest, persecution, poverty are all on the news ticker every evening. And on the news 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, car problems, broken relationships. These things never feel light and momentary, 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 Paul knows from Christ’s cross is that suffering and glory are not two distinct concepts. They aren’t two different arenas we move back and forth between. We aren’t being asked by God to choose between suffering or glory. The cross of suffering IS the glory. Our suffering becomes our glory. Our suffering prepares, or is “working out” for us an eternal weight of glory.
The answer is in verse 18. Suffering allows us to look at the unseen and eternal realities around us, rather than only the seen and transient realities.
Do you believe that what exists in the present is all that exists? Or is there a reality beyond this present time and space? Simply put, 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 ever increasing 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!
In this present reality 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.
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