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.
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.
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.
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.
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.