“Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal,” (2 Corinthians 4:16–18).
I remember, as a young man, watching TV with my grandmother. I remember a certain commercial that would upset her whenever it came on. It was advertising a particular pain medication that claimed to relieve the minor pains of arthritis. She would get so angry at the phrase “minor pains of arthritis.” I would suggest that the drug likely only affected the arthritis pains that were minor. She would say, “There’s no such thing!”.
Life’s afflictions never seem minor when we are in the midst of them. They absorb our attention, takeover our thoughts, and easily become the only things that matter. But here, Paul is suggesting that we view our various trials with an eternal perspective. He is saying that, because God’s grace abounds—what “therefore” is there for—we should not allow our trials, which are temporal, to take us captive to the pain and cause us to lose our joy over the reality of eternal glory in Christ. Paul is teaching us that the temporary pains of afflictions and trials are actually serving an eternal, divine purpose by producing in us a greater anticipation for this eternal glory. The greater the pain, the greater the anticipation.
Pain and affliction are real, but when we recognize that these various trials are temporary and we place our focus on eternity with Christ, we truly experience what it means to abide in Him and live fruitful lives in the midst of this life’s troubles, (John 15:4). By focusing on eternity we can truly know the fullness of joy in Christ (Psalm 16:11).