Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
2 Corinthians 4:17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…
These verse are given to comfort us. But how?
I think the comfort comes in part from seeing that our present affliction is both light and momentary.
But think about that for a second. What is the Apostle Paul trying to communicate in calling our afflictions light and momentary? Initially, it sounds like Paul is minimizing our suffering. Perhaps we are to gain comfort in our affliction by realizing that it’s not so bad. Suck it up. It’s not as heavy as we think; it’s light. It’s not as long as we think; it’s momentary. Cheer up. You’ll get over it. Perhaps, by minimizing our suffering, we’ll be comforted.
The problem is that sounds insensitive and glib. Worse, it’s untrue.
How can the Boston bombing be light? How can the death of a child be light? How can abuse be light? How can a painful divorce be light? How can a future stolen by human trafficking be light? Could we not fill tomes with a myriad of questions like these?
And how can suffering be described as momentary when the pain often lingers for a lifetime? For example, my grandmother is a godly woman in her nineties. In 1986, her youngest of six and only son, was killed. A few weeks ago, she told my sister, “My life ended when my son died. I don’t know why the Lord has kept me alive this long.” How is 27 years, about 10,000 days of unceasing sorrow, momentary?
How are we to be comforted by minimizing suffering?
But perhaps that’s not what Paul is trying to do. Perhaps Paul is not trying to minimize our suffering, but instead, to maximize our view of the coming glory. There’s a day coming where there will be no more sin, no more tears, no more pain, and no more death. Seeing Jesus face to face, we will live in ever-increasing-never-ending joy! Paul’s goal is not to make little of our present affliction, but to make much of our future glory. Think about it. How heavy would the coming glory have to be that we could describe our present afflictions as light? How long, and enduring, and permanent would the coming joy have to be that we could describe our present suffering as momentary? Rather than forcing us to minimize our sufferings or pretend life doesn’t hurt, this text gives us permission to feel the depths of our pain – knowing that the coming joy will reach deeper. Don’t lose heart. How unbelievably massive will the coming joy have to be if it’s going to one day dwarf what I feel right now? Like how big would a mountain in the next world have to be to make Everest look like a molehill? How big would a sea have to be in the next world to make the oceans look like a puddle? That kind of size, and depth, and height, are dimensions we can’t fathom. And yet so massive will be the weight of glory that our present afflictions will be seen as light. So permanent and everlasting will be the eternal glory that is to be revealed that our present suffering will be seen as momentary.
Therefore, be comforted, not by minimizing your suffering, but by maximizing your view of the coming glory.