Glory the work of suffering. How evil’s wounds become victory’s scars.

I work at being a writer. I practice each day and read the works of others and study the craft and have a curious mind when it comes to words and the working out of language. But within my old school pen or modern age laptop there is not any magical power or tendency within the equipment to ‘write’. They are only tools and cannot labor by themselves without the writer taking them up to work. The tools do not create or produce even a letter without being taken in hand.

So if glory is the work of suffering, is there any merit in affliction, sufferings and troubles?

Does God barter eternal glory for a toothache, family troubles, poverty, lack, widowhood, old age? We dismiss that immediately if we know even the beginning truths of God’s plan of redemption that Jesus is the only way to eternal life. God does not invest affliction with any degree of merit and certainly no ‘magic’ power to earn glory. Affliction works for us like my laptop and my pen. There is no merit in the keys that type the letter. The merit is in the hand of him that strikes the keys into an order. The efficacy lies in the strength and skill of the writer.

Have you recently had a severe family trouble? There is a saying, “A mother is only as happy as their saddest child.” We suffer with our children maybe more than they suffer. But have you been able to weigh the Lord’s dealings with you? Have you seen the effect of those trials upon your soul and what spiritual profit have you reaped? Can you find in these troubles any fruits of the spirit?

No. Huh? There’s not a greater love when you are in lack? A kinder heart when you’re being slandered? A greater patience in that third round of chemo? A stellar self-control that pushes aside even a snarl as you deal with back pain?

Then you are more like me and ‘woe, is me’ when suffering starts. We can find ourselves blowing up balloons of self-pity and having a woe-is-me party before we even see how we’re responding. If you’re critical of that then beware the seat of scoffers.

Trials test us.

They prove out what is real in us and sometimes the first fruits are spoiled, rotten. In the prequel to The Glory series, you’ll see this illustrated—Honey Cooper, a faithful cowboy, acts more like a rank bull when his world gets rocked. Believers don’t allows act out what we believe.

Often our flesh rises up and acts out first when we encounter suffering.

Afflictions can bring out rebellion, peevishness, fretfulness, self-pity, unbelief and even despair. Troubles can cause a tantrum that would put a two year old to shame. Most of us are not sanctified enough to say at the start of suffering, “This is my comfort in my affliction, for your word has quickened me;” or, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn your statutes?”

Our initial response can often be immature, but God. But. God. Works in us. His hand is upon the spade turning over the dirt and the typewriter keys guiding our story. Spirit fills us when we are upon the floor in an exhausted heap from our tantrum and words become prayer, supplication, confession, desires. Our first whispered, “Help me, God,” begins our cooperation for this sanctifying suffering working to make us more like Christ.

Our heart, too often, is so full of the world that there is in it little room for Christ until He himself drives out the intruders and prunes away the rabbit trail branches that lead to comfortable fruitless lives.

Affliction in his hands, and especially spiritual affliction, convinces us of the sin and emptiness of loving the world. It embitters us to its temptations and loosens our heartstrings to its pleasures.

We don’t understand the power sin exercises in our carnal mind. What strongholds it builds. We are blind to its destructive fruit. What a need there is for a fierce, furious love of God to go to war in our behalf against an enemy we often ignore and disregard or even flirt with. Christ is a jealous dominate lover of our souls. He will tolerate no rivals.  We are fools to think Him mean. Harsh. Uncaring. Strict. Or worse, far away. He is with us. Here. In this suffering, trouble, affliction, mess. And he is working. Working. That’s the key action.

I AM is working.

He is God and He is a hater of sin and a lover of His own. And He, is working in us. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10)

We need His discipline to teach us the folly of our ways and assure us that nothing, nothing, nothing save Christ is eternal. We need his corrections to convince us that abiding and thriving is the holy way to glory not sufficiency and striving. We need Him. This Jesus. With his scarred hands, evil’s wounds now victories scars. What love is this? That God would show us how to suffer well.  What hope is this? That the cross, a torturous death device, worked out our salvation. What faith is this? That we are promised a result from affliction; Glory.

And as God is the saints’ glory so they are His. Glory. It is all His.

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 Cor 4:17-18

Want to learn more, read The Glory Series, parables about God’s glory expressed in contemporary fiction.

Glory is the extraordinary, mind-blowing weightiness of God’s presence as He brings to light & manifests all the goodness that He has & is.

 

Affliction. This is light? a study of Glory in 2 cor 4:17-18

Affliction. Troubles. Times, when as the Message says, ‘things are falling apart on us.’ And God’s true Word says these moments are light.
As in light in weight, a burden easy to bear. Cancer, light? Wayward children, light? This back pain, light? I’m in debt, light? Without a job, light? Divorced, light? None of this feels, light. Suffering presses body and soul down into the dust with its weight and it is hardly ever ‘momentary’. This trouble started months or years ago and its peculiar nature could continue to remain for the rest of life. I don’t call that momentary.

But neither our foreboding nor our feelings on suffering can be taken as proofs of how a matter really stands. We must receive the Spirit of Truth’s testimony not our fallible feelings or false fears. If you answered the call of grace and know Christ as your savior then you, child of God, are called to carry on these light and momentary afflictions so that these troubles can do their work.

Neither our foreboding or feelings can be taken as proofs of reality- We must receive & believe the Spirit of Truth’s testimony in the Word. Tweet: Neither our foreboding or feelings can be taken as proofs of reality- We must receive & believe the Spirit of Truth’s testimony in the Word.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 2 Cor 4:17(KJV) Link to this another working verse, the ever faithful promise found in Romans 8:28 in all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good.

These light in weight and easy to bear troubles come in two varieties: temporal and spiritual.

Temporal afflictions that people are subject to by reason of the fall are universal and come as bodily afflictions, family sorrows, and providential trials.  Summing it up so we don’t rabbit trail, here are some principles:

  • Health troubles prove out a sanctified illness is far better than an unsanctified health.
  • Earthly happiness is much derived from family but too often we set up these ‘family idols’ as our household gods and they usurp the place of God and chain us down too closely to earth.
  • There is a poverty found in riches and a richness found in poverty.

Spiritual afflictions are unique to the children of God. What is loss of health, family, friends, job, property … to the hidings of God’s face, to guilt of conscience, to the smell of death on an unbeliever, to the anticipation of the coming day of wrath? What are the temporary afflictions you suffer compared to the frown of your Beloved savior, the pruning of his sheers, the touch of His weighty hand?

How can these be light when we feel them so heavy?

Holy Spirit makes no mistakes. He describes things as they really are in God’s sight so they must be lined up in our sight. Let us confess we are wrong. Again. In how we feel about things. Now let us return to God and see if Spirit can come along side to help us see truth and believe it.

Compare and contrast is a good place to start to understand something. And we are in the process of changing how we think about Affliction so let’s go deeper.

If Glory is heavy, affliction is called light. 2 cor 4:17-18  Tweet: If Glory is heavy, affliction is called light. 2cor4:17 http://4jlkelly.org

Weigh your blessings against your afflictions. First look at your stewardship compared to your blessings. Your ROI (return on investment) to Christ’s sacrificial love and abundant blessings. You’ve been given every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Eph 1) Every. Spiritual. Blessing. And if you can’t fill a book with your gratitude for these then you need to stop now and take up Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are and be given sight. You’re blind my friend to the work of God.

Put blessings into one scale and all your afflictions, both temporal and spiritual, into the other. Are your afflictions heavy now? Compare your light and temporary troubles to the eternal torments of those damned in hell. Compare your sufferings with the Lord Jesus Christ’s passion week. Have you drank the dregs of the cup of God’s wrath? Do we really suffer with a little body pain, a child afflicted, not quite so much money, a marriage more a trial than a comfort and think to compare our afflictions with the Man of Sorrow?

And if the light of these is ever so heavy, Spirit still says it is ‘but for a moment’.

There is an expiration date on our suffering marked momentary.

What is time compared to eternity? A grain of sand to the beach, one star to the galaxy, a drop compared to the ocean. They are insufficient to even compare. Time and eternity can never be compared together. Today cannot stand against all the past and every tomorrow.

Think about this. What if all of Job’s suffering were yours. If all of Paul’s, Jonah’s, David’s, Leah & Rachel’s, the ancient martyrs, all of these put upon your head to live out. When death came and your soul was transformed to eternity, what would they be? Only a moment.

If we let undisciplined minds run amuck and imagine the absolute worst, we forebode joy. Only one Man ever took on all the suffering upon His head. This Jesus will never lay upon His own more than they can bear. “He knows are frame, He remembers that we are dust.” Go to an Ash Wednesday service this lent and experience the reminder of who we are in His sight.

Dust.

But we are also bruised reeds He will never break and smoking flax He will never quench. And chosen people He calls his friends that He knows so personally the intensity and duration of every suffering is shifted through his scarred hands. Under the heaviest afflictions, the Lord grants the greatest support and in the deepest sorrows He sings the most precious songs. There is always a promise given, a word of comfort and a peace provided in Him that lights up every darkness with Shekinah glory.

Why does God allow these light and momentary sufferings? For the sanctifying of the soul, His own glory, and the anticipation of heaven.

Seen this way and now considered, can we call our own affections ‘light?’ Fixing our eyes on eternity, can we endure in this present state ‘but for the moment?’ Spirit of Truth has enlightened the enigma. Now can we leave rebellious opinions, self-pity and unbelief behind.

2-corinthians-4-17-18

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.  2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (MSG)

Want to learn more, read The Glory Series, parables about God’s glory expressed by J.L. Kelly.