Sometimes hardship levels us. Leaves us broken and struggling to find the strength to face each new day.
My family has recently come through a season of trial. Just typing that made me smile. I’d be more honest to say the past few months have been such an uncertain time regarding our youngest son’s health, I’ve spent many a night battling fear and anguish, watching him struggle with pain and a tangible fear of imminent death.
Much of this hardship left me wrestling with the purpose of pain in our lives. But when I opened my Bible for comfort, I was smacked in the face with scriptures like Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4:17. The NIV says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
Light and momentary? Surely, he wasn’t referring to a situation such as ours. Paul would never dismiss the severity of a child’s illness as the family endures hospitalizations and sleepless nights, grappling with issues of life and death.
If you know anything about the Apostle Paul, you know he meant every word he wrote. He was a man who faced floggings, imprisonment, shipwrecks, persecution, rejection, and ultimately death, for his calling. And he was writing to an audience whose reality included the possibility they and their families might be mistreated, imprisoned, or even murdered for their faith in Jesus. When Paul wrote the Greek equivalent of “light and momentary troubles,” he knew exactly who he was talking to and what he was saying.
And yes, he was talking to me, too.
The truth that enabled Paul to overcome all obstacles, that empowered him to sing after being beaten and thrown in prison, and to rejoice while in chains, was the knowledge that no pain he endured could compare to the glory waiting for him in heaven. For Paul, every suffering brought him not closer to death, but closer to God.
All suffering for the Christian in this present age is meant to thrust us toward our heavenly Father.
All suffering for the Christian in this present age is meant to thrust us toward our heavenly Father. No other purpose is big enough to touch the wound when a parent loses a child, or when one receives a cancer diagnosis, or when one spouse leaves another.
In the middle of our hardship, there was little solace to be found in the fact others saw our family as strong, or learned a lesson from our pain, or got the chance to serve us. Such a poignant level of loss needs the supernatural relief of knowing there’s something greater on the other side of hardship. It feels almost disrespectful to think a God of love would allow our family to suffer for anything less than our greatest good—to bring us closer to Him.
Pain still wounds. Loss must still be mourned. And God promises to walk with us through our trial. The truth doesn’t remove the need to process, but it can fill us with hope for the future promised to those who believe in Jesus Christ for salvation.
Our exquisite pain, when weighed on the scale of eternity, can help put our troubles into proper perspective. Light and momentary. The sting of suffering on this earth will be forgotten when we’re basking in the coming glory with our Lord.
This truth helps our family face an uncertain future with hope. This understanding helped Paul look beyond his trials to the eternity God had planned for him. He encourages us to “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV).
God provides comfort during trials. And, through Paul, He offers the best perspective of our most difficult circumstances. Every pain reminds us life here is a temporary condition, and the “light and momentary troubles” we’re asked to endure will be nothing in comparison with all God plans to lavish on us.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV).
Let’s talk about this. How does Paul description of troubles as “light and momentary” make you feel? For the Christian, all hardship is meant to lead us closer to God, what ways have trials helped you in your relationship with Him? How can changing our focus from the trials in front of us to the unseen, the eternal strengthen us?