My heart is heavy with the suffering of those around me. Today alone, I learned from a friend that a 17 year-old died in a freak accident; a 10 year-old local pastor’s daughter died in her sleep; and another pastor’s infant son is gravely sick and possibly near death. Then there’s the new friend I just met the day her son died of cancer preceded by her husband just months before; marriages breaking apart, families falling to pieces, Christians being beaten and tortured around the world, and children being sold into sexual slavery. My mom just lost her mother, a loved one has cancer, a friend was injured in a wreck, and the list could go on and on. I don’t know how to speak God’s love into such heart ache and pain and loss.
But the Apostle Paul did.
He was a man who suffered afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings (countless beatings, often near death– five times the 39 lashes, three times with rods, once stoned and left for dead), imprisonment, sleepless nights, hunger; he was mistreated, misunderstood, and shipwrecked– including a night and a day adrift at sea; in danger from rivers, robbers, his own people, the city, the wilderness, the sea, false brothers; experienced toil and hardship, sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, cold and exposure; and aside from other things, the daily pressure of his anxiety for all the churches.
But this is the man who said, “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 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV)
Our light and momentary troubles… these things that stop our worlds and cause us to feel that the earth itself is crashing against us… these things that suck the very air from our chests and leave us gasping for the next breath… these things that tear our hearts out and leave us wondering where our God is in the midst of such pain… these are light and momentary?
Paul was telling us if we could but see with the eyes of eternity, we could know that “the short-lived pains of this life are creating for us an eternal glory that does not compare to anything we know here” (VOICE). The pain that we suffer now is only for this temporary life. The ten minutes we are here on this timeline of eternity is the only time we experience this pain. I cannot answer why this is, but this I know: If we are in Christ, then once we leave this planet and our earthly bodies, we no longer have pain or crying or loss or suffering. Those broken things are no more, and we are co-heirs with Christ for all eternity where something awaits us that “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (ESV)
Though we may be hard pressed on every side, we are not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed (2Corinthians 4:7-8). Until we cross our finish line, may we prove faithful. May we entrust our souls and broken hearts to the “Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV). And may we rest knowing that “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18 NIV) and “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3 NIV).
Remember that in the midst of the storm is when Jesus calls us to walk on the water with Him. The impossible becomes the miraculous. And then not only can we say that, “I saw that, Lord,” but the world will say it with us. And lost are saved. And the wanderer comes home. And the brokenhearted are healed. And beauty comes from our ashes.