13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 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 Corinthians 4:13-18 NIV)
I needed this passage of scripture today. While there have been worse times in the history of the world, this is certainly the worst that I have experienced. I started to list my individual circumstances, but that would not be helpful. Everyone reading this has their own list and your list may be more troubling than mine. We all need to be constantly reminded that our troubles are “light and momentary.”
There is no exact match that I can find for the Old Testament quotation in verse 13. However, Psalm 116:10 reads as follows:
10 I trusted in the LORD when I said, “I am greatly afflicted”; (Psalm 116:10 NIV)
10 I believed when I said, “I am greatly afflicted.” (Psalm 116:10 NASB)
It seems likely that Paul is pointing his readers to Psalm 116. I would encourage you to take the time to read the Psalm. It is a psalm of praise and thanksgiving in the face of death.
Paul combines two things that are challenging for us. He is both realistic and hopeful. The reality is that life is painful, and he knows he is dying. I am reading a biography of St. Francis and he died at age 50 having worn out his body in his service to God. Paul’s life was cut short by execution. My father’s life has been long, and we have no idea how long he will be with us on this earth. Life is difficult now, certainly more difficult that it was for most of us just a year ago. It is very possible that this life will get worse before it gets better. This is reality.
We need the hope that comes from what Paul is convinced we should be experiencing. While our physical bodies are getting worse each day our spirits are being strengthened and renewed every day. I am reminded of the physical reality every time I pause exercising for a brief period. I recently got a tooth pulled and had to stop vigorous exercise for a week. It will probably take me a month to get my strength back to where it was when I paused. This process takes longer every time I take a break from exercise. Fortunately, nothing in my physical circumstances can interfere with the power of the Holy Spirit to renew my spirit in my inner being every day.
Hope comes from keeping our eyes on the things we cannot see. The things we can see with our eyes and read in our newspaper or on the Internet are all temporary. Our circumstances are real and difficult and often painful. It is just as true that they will not last forever. God is also real and our promised life with Him forever will make this life seem like a blink in time. I know it does not feel like that now. Turn away from the computer and pick up a Bible. Read Psalm 116 and 2 Corinthians 4 and then spend some time in prayer thanking God for His presence and the eternal reality that is also now.