The Bible is very blunt about the fact that life in this world is quite difficult. Genesis explains that Adam and Eve, by their rebellion against God brought death into the world and the necessity of hardship (Genesis 3:8–24). The book of Job illustrates that life is harsh through the story of a man, who lost everything. The reality that life is short and full of frustration is the background for everything Ecclesiastes says. And in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul takes the hardships of life for granted when he says, "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Paul is not minimizing the suffering experienced in this world when he says that. In the context of that verse, he had spoken about suffering with great feeling. He described being hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted, being delivered to death and experiencing the perishing of the outward man (2 Corinthians 4:7–16). He had vivid first-hand experience of how challenging things could be. This was a man who suffered multiple imprisonments, was beaten several times and underwent shipwreck (2 Corinthians 11:23–25).
From that source, "light affliction" sounds very odd indeed! But "light" and "heavy" are relative terms. The heaviest feather you've ever held probably weighs less than the lightest brick. And Paul's point is that all the suffering in this present life can't balance the massive weight of the glory he is anticipating.
One big reason for that is the suffering is temporary, whereas the glory is eternal. It's common sense that eternity - which by definition doesn't end - counts for more than time, which is always slipping by. Yet it is hard for us to share that perspective. It's always challenging to prioritize the future over the present. After all, we're here right now. Whether we're having fun or undergoing hardships, that is real in the moment. eternity seems so distant and unimaginable.
However, there is a real benefit to looking at things from this point of view. Paul experienced a lot of hardship. But because he was able to put it in the context of eternity, it did not overwhelm him. Although he was hard-pressed, he was not crushed. What helpful context and perspective could an awareness of eternity bring to your life?
[BEGIN ITAL]Rev. Ruben Zartman has been the pastor at Ebenezer Reformed Church in Shafter since 2017.