This is one amazing verse. Paul is writing to the church at Corinth and he is encouraging them to bear their suffering.
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV)
I can’t resist sharing it in this version, because I love the turn of phrase “momentary light affliction”.
For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. (2 Corinthians 4:17 HCSB)
I think we undervalue the poetry found in the Bible – but I digress.
I was inundated with illustrations and discussions of suffering this week. Pop culture (A mom on the Biggest Loser who suffered seven miscarriages, prompting her trainer to tell her “no one should have to go through that), Christian radio (Focus on the Family did a bit on suffering with Pastor Tim Keller this week), and then reading through my Bible in a year plan (first time!) I’ve recently wandered into the book of Job.
What I love about the verse from Corinthians is Paul keeping it real here. Our troubles can only be classified as momentary, because we exist but for a moment. That really puts affliction into perspective.
Pastor Keller shared insights about our inability as a culture to endure suffering- believing that the universe can always be tweaked to ensure a comfortable and fair life for all. Why would God let good people suffer, we ask? The suffering of “good” people can keep our friends and family from committing to a personal relationship with Christ. A saving relationship. A necessary, urgent relationship.
I think Paul would have a little something to say to us here too. Perhaps this, from the book of Romans:
For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. (Romans 7:18-19 HCSB)
The truth is, there are no good people. We all deserve suffering. We cannot engineer evil and sin out of our world.
“You speak as a foolish woman speaks,” he told her. “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity? ” Throughout all this Job did not sin in what he said. (Job 2:10 HCSB)
Job was a good guy (at least, through chapter two). As I was reading this verse struck me – Job clearly understood that all things work together for good (to those who love Christ). Adversity forges courage and strengthens character (as Pastor Tim Keller points out). Our light and momentary afflictions are achieving for us an eternal glory. As we endure suffering, trusting in God, we shine our light. I argue that a proper perspective on suffering can be the best witness of all.