Honestly, do the math and it doesn’t seem to add up. Afflicted in every way + Perplexed + Persecuted + Struck down + Bodies so beat up they look more and more like Jesus’ when He died . . . add it all up and, says Paul, it equals “light momentary affliction.” No way! How’s that even possible?
I’m hovering over 2Corinthians chapter 4 this morning. Chewing again on what it means to be a “jar of clay” (4:7) carrying the treasure of “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (4:6).
And I get, by the very nature of being a jar of clay, we’re going to pick up a chip or two along the way. That, if the jar is being used for its intended purpose to any degree, that it’s likely to develop a few cracks and breaks. And I also get that, in order for the light to shine out from inside the jar, the jar needs to be broken and split open a bit, that these cracks and fissures are needful to expose what’s inside. But call them “light momentary afflictions?” Really?
And I understand how important that perspective is if you’re doing what Paul’s doing, and going through what Paul’s going through in order to do what he’s doing. Hey, I even get how important it is if you’re not Paul and just trying to deal with the things life beats you up with normally. Who doesn’t want to declare with integrity and double conviction, “So, we do not lose heart?” (4:1, 16)
But again, do the math. How does it all add up to “light momentary affliction?” Where are the deposits coming from that offset those kind of withdrawals? What’s filling the tank that’s being drained so regularly that it allows Paul to honestly assert, “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day?” (4:16).
It’s not found in doing the math. Instead, it comes from being reminded of the comparison.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 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.
(2Corinthians 4:17-18 ESV)
Eternal Redemption vs. Transient Realities? No contest.
Things That Are Unseen vs. Things Seen? Not even in the same ballpark.
Eternal Weight of Glory vs. Being Afflicted, Perplexed, Persecuted, and Struck Down? Beyond all comparison. Makes those things seem like a light momentary affliction.
Paul wasn’t fixated on doing the math, instead he was energized by considering the comparison. Rather than mull over the troubles around him, he set his gaze on what lay before him.
Whatever burden he was called to bear in the here and now, was light compared to the weight of glory that would be his to carry in the there and then. He anticipated the awe and it offset the angst. He set his mind on things above, and the promise, and the Spirit put the things below, and all the pressure, into perspective.
So, we do not lose heart. We keep on keepin’ on. And more than just keepin’ it together, our inner man is being renewed day by day.
Oh, that we would so allow the Spirit to set our hearts on things above. That we would remember we’re not home yet. That we would, even now, sense something of that eternal weight of glory, so that whatever we are dealing with today might be considered but a light momentary affliction.
An old Steven Curtis Chapman song came to mind as I was noodling on this: “No better place on earth than the road that leads to heaven, No better place to be!” Not because the road is easy, but because it leads to an eternal weight of glory.
And that, is beyond all comparison.
By His grace. For His glory.