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2 Cor 4:17
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
When it comes to suffering and the goodness of God, I really am not an expert. I have been privileged to live in a country with one of the highest standards of living, to have been fairly successful in my career, to be married to a person whom I can only describe as heaven sent, and to have four perfect children. I recognize that I am really really blessed, and have been shielded from any major trauma in my four decades on this earth. That is why Paul, not me, is the one to hear from on this issue of suffering.
Paul, having been accustomed to suffering, from the inception of his conversion, (where God declared that he had been called to suffer for the gospel) encountered many hardships, as he lists them in 2 Corinthians 11. These hardships include, multiple imprisonments, a couple hundred lashes of the whip, shipwrecks, vicious beatings, and so much more. As if these physical instances of suffering were not enough, he faced severe opposition from other itinerant minsters who tried to dislodge his teachings, and gain the hearts of the churches he had laboured to build, as cited in verse 28 of the same chapter, Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
Yet despite his intimacy with suffering, Paul is able to offer some advice as to how we can lighten our load when it comes to suffering. Surprisingly he starts off by calling his suffering light, then later momentary, and finally speaking about what awaits us in glory, when we see God face to face.
Paul’s suffering as enumerated above was nothing close to being easy. Yet he calls them light. I think the clue to understanding his view is in the same verse, 2 Cor 4:17, where he indicates that heavenly rewards are “heavier” than his “light” sufferings. I guess Paul is saying that no matter how difficult our circumstances are, they are trite, trivial, and “feather like” light, in comparison with the weighty substance of heaven, and heavenly things that God will bestow upon us.
Similar to the lightness of our suffering is the temporary nature of it.
Think about it. If you knew that your suffering was going to be over in a day versus a year, wouldn’t that make it all of a sudden more manageable? You would tell yourself “just hang in there”, another 24 hours and it will be all over. Similarly Paul was comparing the infinitude of eternity to the pithy minutia of days (or years) that his suffering encompassed. He doesn’t dismiss the pain, loss, or trauma that we may feel, but in realistic comparison to eternity, life on earth is but a moment, given eternity in years is limitless. Thus what is 70 years of suffering, in comparison with trillions and trillions of years, and even greater. Indeed if one considered their suffering in this manner you would agree with Paul that it is light.
Thus Paul in considering eternity deems his trials, and indeed your trials as light, and momentary. Can I encourage you today with this? God is good. Scripture tells me that God is not the author of evil, thus your bad situations are not a design of God. Paul leaned on God to get through his suffering, some went away and others did not, and this may so be the case for you. But regardless he had a joyful attitude for he knew that the glorious eternity of his destination would ultimately vindicate him. Thus, if you are suffering, then do it lightly. Let God really lead you through it, and be joyful. Because your sufferings are creating rewards beyond belief in the heaven to come.
– Pastor Olu Jegede