Each and every day we are reminded that we live in a world filled with suffering. All it takes is a quick glance at the headlines or a few minutes listening to the news and we are hit with reality. No wonder the Bible refers to the time we are living in as "this present evil age."
This morning I was asked by a fried, "How can we move forward day by day with hope in a world filled with so much suffering?"
When the writer of the book of Hebrews spoke about the suffering of Christ Jesus, he said, "For the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross."
Christ endured the mocking, lies, false accusation, beatings, spit, and nails because there was something joyous in store for Him. He knew that His suffering would ultimately take Him to a place of joy. What about you and me? As we are confronted with suffering and pain what are we to hold on to? Do we have hope that life in these mortal bodies will ever get easier? Does our hope lie in this age at all? Or do we need to look beyond our circumstances into the future past the here and now?
What about the suffering that is simply part of being human? What about the pain and suffering that simply comes to each of us as a result of the aging process? The next time you step out of the shower, take a good long look in the mirror from every angle. Are our bodies getting better with age? Or are we going to begin to experience more aches and pains as our bodies slowly wear out, eventually break down beyond repair, and die? Is that going to change in this age or are we all going to continue to waste away physically?
As the Apostle Paul wrote about the suffering we each face in these mortal bodies, he said, "We do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. Our light affliction which is but for a moment is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
Like Christ who endured His suffering by looking forward to a time of joy, Paul seems to be saying that you and I must do the same. Each day we must remember that the suffering of this current age is not going to last. It is temporary. In light of eternity is is but for a moment and it is working something in us that will ultimately be directly connected with the glory of eternity. It seems Paul is saying that the suffering is necessary and needed in order for us to be able to fully experience and appreciate the beauty and greatness God our Father has in store for you and me. Could he also be saying that the more suffering we experience the greater our rewards will be? Did Christ teaching anything along those lines? Search it out.
The Apostle Paul experienced numurous beatings, harassment, persecution, shipwrecks, being stoned and left for dead, as well as imprisonment. Understanding this about Paul, it is surprising that he refers to suffering as "light affliction." What a perspective! I wonder how many of us would refer to the diffuculties we face in this age as "light."
It is beyond our comprehension to fully understand how our suffering "is working for us a far more exceeding weight of glory." But, we can be comforted and encouraged knowing that the difficulties and pain of this evil age is not all there is. God has great things in store for us. This age will come to an end. We can encourage one another to look ahead with hope to that day when we meet our Savior face to face. We can point one another forward to that moment in time when Chrst Jesus experience the joy of receiving all that He purchased with His blood and we have the joy of receiving new bodies described by Paul as immortal and incorruptible.
At the end of the ages you and I will be able to look back at this age with understanding that we don't have now. We will then be able to see how God truly has been working all things together for the good, including our times of suffering.
I remind myself of this every day as I see my dad's body slowly withering away. I have to remind myself of this daily as I watch him force himself to eat and as he takes his breathing treatments. His outward man is perishing. But according to the Apostle Paul the pain, suffering, and affliction he is experiencing is working a far more exceeding weight of glory. I have to believe that!
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James Flanders is a writer, musician, and student of Scripture who is also currently a co-caretaker of his aging father. You can hear many of his Bible audios on YouTube.
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