Encouragement In Affliction
By Shawn Thomas
There is a lot of discouraging news around these days, and many people would say, we need some encouragement! Nowhere can we find more encouragement than in the word of God. I hope that you will take time every day to read the Bible for yourself and find these specific words of encouragement that God has for you. In my own Bible reading not long ago, I read II Corinthians 4:17, which says:
“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.”
This verse gives us at least 3 reasons we can be encouraged in our times of affliction:
FIRST, it says our afflictions here are only TEMPORARY. They are “momentary,” it says. They don’t last forever.
Think about this coronavirus crisis. It may seem like it is really taking a long time. I saw where someone posted last March that it felt like the date was March the 97th! I’m sure to a lot of people, it DID feel like March lasted that long! But in a few years, we will look back on this whole COVID-19 episode as just a very brief time in our lives.
It is the same way with all of our afflictions. They are just temporary. And sure, some particular afflictions may stick with us our whole lives — but even our life here on earth is very brief, compared to eternity. James 4 says we are merely a vapor, that appears for a while and then is gone. We will have all eternity to celebrate and enjoy what God has done for us — and we will see that what we went through on earth was so temporary.
So, God says, take heart; this will be over soon. Our afflictions, the Bible says, are only temporary.
SECONDLY, the Bible says, our afflictions here are “LIGHT.”
Now, someone may say, “Well, it doesn’t feel very ‘light’ to me! What I am going through feels pretty heavy!” And it probably does feel that way. We need to understand that Paul doesn’t discount the very real sufferings that we go through here on earth. He wasn’t speaking ignorantly, from some “ivory tower.” Paul knew very personally what it means to suffer here on earth. He shares later in II Corinthians about how he had “afflictions on every side; conflicts without; fears within;” about his “sufferings”, and “poverty,” and “beatings” and “imprisonments” and “sleeplessness” and “hunger.” Paul didn’t have his head in the sand. He experienced more real troubles and suffering in his life than most of us will ever know. He knew very well that sufferings here on earth are REAL!
But in the same way, he could say that these real sufferings are “light” — COMPARED to the glory that will be revealed to us in heaven. He says, God has a reward waiting for us there, that is WORTH all the suffering we may undergo here on earth.
It’s like Jesus said in John 16, “Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world.”
There’s probably not much pain in this world greater than that of childbirth. I am pretty grateful not to have experienced it! But every mother I know, says that pain was worth it — because of the unequaled joy of the LIFE that came through it! The pain was nothing; it was “light,” compared to the greater privilege of the life of that child.
And so, the Bible says it is with our afflictions here on earth. They seem heavy to us now. But COMPARED to what God has waiting for us, they are “light.”
John Newton, the author of “Amazing Grace,” said that when we are in heaven, we will look back on all of our trials on earth and we will say, “Is that all we had to go through, to be able to enjoy all this glory?”
That’s what Paul is saying here. When we are in heaven, experiencing the glory of God, and the eternal pleasures He has for us there, we will say, “What light things we had to go through, to be able to experience all this glory.” No matter how hard it seemed to us on earth at the time, in eternity we will agree with Paul here: our tribulations on earth were “light”!
Finally, Paul says the afflictions we experience now have a PURPOSE: they are “producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.”
Most of us are willing to work hard and endure hardship when we see that there’s a good reason for it. But there’s nothing more frustrating than doing something that doesn’t seem to have any purpose.
I recently read about how a certain man went into the military, and since they didn’t have anything for them to do at the camp, the new recruits were told to move a pile of dirt from one end of the camp to another. There wasn’t any purpose in it; it was just to kill time and keep the men busy. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you are just doing “busy work” that doesn’t have any purpose.
Now, we may sometimes feel like our afflictions are just useless “bumps in the road” that don’t have any meaning or purpose, but God says NO! Everything that happens to you DOES have a meaning; it DOES have a purpose. No life experience is wasted with God. He is using it all to bring His ultimate purposes for you to pass.
And here He tells us what that purpose is: He says our affliction is producing in us an eternal weight of glory! God is using our afflictions for His purposes: to strip us of our sins and impurities; to build our character; to make us like Christ; and to grant us a reward in heaven that is an “eternal”, “weight” of “glory”!
Our sufferings are not “wasted.” We aren’t just “moving dirt from one end of the camp to the other.” God has a purpose for everything we are going through. Our affliction has a purpose.
SO: our job in the meantime is to endure the afflictions God has allowed to come into our lives, and to believe what He says here: that our afflictions are only “momentary”; they are “light”; and they are being used by God for His purposes — and that there is an “eternal weight of glory,” far better than anything we had to go through, waiting for us on the other side!
Shawn Thomas has been a Southern Baptist pastor for almost 35 years, he currently serves as Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Angleton, Texas. You can read more from Pastor Thomas Here.