“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
2 Corinthians 4 v 17
Often when reading verses like the above it is easy to imagine that it cannot apply to our own lives. Our troubles rarely seem light and momentary, usually our troubles are burdens and afflictions that weigh on our hearts and prey on our minds. We take our trouble to God but seem to find no peace, deliverance, relief or answer. God seems absent and our troubles grow heavier. In fact, we see this very feeling earlier on in the Second Letter to the Corinthians when Paul writes:
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.”
2 Corinthians 1 v 8
So we have this contrast in Paul’s letter where he talks about despairing of life itself and yet goes on to talk about our light and momentary troubles. If we’re honest we admit that far often our perception of our own afflictions stray more towards the former view than the latter. We are far more likely to approach the despairing of life stage than viewing what we’re going through as light and momentary. Yet the vitally important truth is that both views are correct. Our troubles are light and momentarily and sometimes we will despair of life itself.
The clue to how Paul can view his troubles as light and momentary comes from what he has fixed his eyes on: the eternal glory that far outweighs them all. And through this we see the truth that compared to the future eternity that awaits a child of God our troubles really are light and momentary. I can scarcely imagine the joy of heaven but one thing I can be sure of that when I’ve been there for an eternity with an eternity still to go I will look back on my life and see that even during the worst of times my troubles were light and momentary compared to the glory that outweighs them all.
And this is what we must do when all else fails, when everything is difficult and hard to bear and there is so little hope we must turn and fix our eyes on Jesus Christ and the eternity we will spend with him in heaven where there will be no more tears, no suffering, no pain and no sin. Paul goes onto say:
“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 v 18
This life is temporary, a fleeting thing, gone far quicker than we ever expect, our years are tiny, mere specks in the grand scheme of things, in the ocean of life we are mere drops that cause but a few ripples. And all that we see around us will be gone again far quicker than we would ever expect. Everything seen is temporary. However, everything unseen is eternal, it will last beyond death, it will last when this world has ended and it will go on lasting and lasting and lasting.
If we look to what is seen we look to our circumstances and those are an instable foundation prone to collapsing below us. When we are hurting like we’ve never hurt before, when we run out of tears, when pain is added to pain and all that was once so bright is now dark and the God we once seemed to trust so much is far away from us and we find nothing but despair in our souls then we don’t deny our pain. The world is a broken place and sometimes it is only fitting for us to weep at what happens in it, Jesus himself was described as a man of sorrows, afflicted by grief, he wept many times at death, suffering and the unbelief of his people.
So we do not deny pain instead we seek consolation and comfort in God, who joins us in our suffering. No, more when we are hurting he does not merely join us in our suffering he stands with us and carries us through it.
“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”
Isaiah 40 v 11
This is our God, who during times of suffering and anguish stoops and lifts us least we fall never to raise and then he carries us close to his heart in that special place reserved for those of us wounded and despairing. And of course the thing about God, who is unseen, is that he is eternal, he changes not, his love cannot forsake, it cannot spurn, it is always and constantly upon us so this is what we need to dwell on. When all fails God never, he cannot for his mercy is too great to allow his people to suffer unsupported and un-carried.
We have then our eternal and comforting God and yet if that wasn’t enough we have the future glory that awaits us in heaven. That place where there will be no more pain, no more suffering and no more sin, the place where our joy will be complete for we will see Jesus face to face and so have want of nothing. Our Saviour will welcome us in to our home that he has prepared for us and our eternity will begin, never to end. And oh how light and short our afflications will appear when we have but gazed upon our Saviour's face!
Take heart, our troubles are light and momentary things though they weigh us down and pain us greatly. The Bible never denies the reality of suffering but it points us to our suffering God who joined with us, shared our pain, shared our anguish and then died for us so that we might gain eternal glory. Take heart, for the God who seems so far away is carrying you close to his heart and no one can pluck you out from his hands, not even yourself. Take heart, though you despair of life itself God is the God who raises the dead and he loves you with a fierce and unquenchable love. Take heart, for you shall soon see Jesus face to face and all wrongs will be righted and all pain will be but a distant memory. Take heart and fix your eyes not on what you see but on the unseen and find God to be all comfort and joy. Take heart, in Christ there is mercy and tenderness and a great and abiding love, he died for you, how much more will he shepherd you now. Take heart.
“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 v 16 - 18