Hope Amidst Trials
Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Vic was one of our deacons at Lewis and Clark Bible Church. A big-hearted man, Vic was always cheerful and more than ready to help anyone with anything. He almost always wore a dilapidated red ball cap, imprinted with the words “Older than Dirt.” I went to visit Vic one day, and asked him where he got that ugly old hat. “It was a gift,” he explained. One day, he let his dog out to do its business and it returned to the door clutching that odd ugly hat in its teeth. He’d worn it ever since. Apparently even Vic’s dog knew he was getting old! Vic has gone home to be with Jesus, but I’ve never forgotten about him, or that ratty red hat.
We’re all getting older. Our “outer self is wasting away” (2 Corinthians 4:16). I don’t need to add up the years, or for anyone to tell me that, my body gives me daily reminders. Yet “we do not lose heart,” the passage says. Why don’t we? “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17).
Last month was the five-year anniversary of Laura’s cancer diagnosis. Not only is she dealing with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer, she’s got something called PostHerpetic Neuralgia, which causes chronic pain, kept under control only with the daily dose of three pain medications. Bi-monthly, for seven days, she takes her five chemo pills twice a day. They keep the cancer at bay, but chemo makes her nauseous and causes pain in her hands and her feet. The cancer itself has caused irreparable damage to her body. How can Paul–inspired by God as he was–call something like that “light momentary affliction?”
Paul was actually an expert on trials (2 Corinthians 11:23-29). He’d experienced more than his fair share. So what’s the deal? The afflictions can only be deemed light and momentary when weighed against something else. Imagine a balance scale in your mind’s eye. On the one side of the scale, place your afflictions, having gathered them all up, big and small. It seems like a lot, doesn’t it? In Laura’s case it seems way too much, overwhelming! Now, on the other side of the scale place the “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” The weight of what God has prepared for us makes our afflictions, though they appear huge to us now, seem smaller by way of comparison. God has prepared for us “an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison!” To be sure, there’s some mystery there. The term “glory” is itself a big word! Yet bound up in there is the redemption of our bodies, Christlikeness and our future home in heaven! There is the work Jesus will do when he will “transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21). The trials we face in the here and now, are temporary, the glory we will experience in heaven with Jesus will be forever!
The key to having a confident expectation about our unseen future blessings, is “to look to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). If you want a heart filled with hope in these uncertain days, you must make use of your eyes of faith. As you depend upon the Spirit and allow God’s Word to speak, God will strengthen and lead you “to set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). Treat the matter like making a trip to some glorious destination. There may be hardships along the way–but keeping our focus on where we are going is good food for a strong hope.
Present Troubles Weigh Less When Measured Against Future Glory
Heavenly Father. The trials and suffering sometimes work to weigh us down. And sometimes we grow weary and discouraged. Thank you for the reminder that though our troubles here might seem too much, they are not so large or so long when compared to the eternal weight of glory You’ve prepared for us. Grant us grace and mercy, we are sin-prone to search with our physical eyes for help, when instead we need to look through eyes of faith to the unseen realities bound up in You! Amidst our troubles, help us to trust in You and long for heaven all the more. Amen!