Suffering comes in different forms. Sometimes our suffering is physical pain and discomfort. This can be allergies that are not debilitating, but cause a lot of discomfort or it can take the form of dying of cancer in great pain. Suffering can come from the hands of people. It can be as routine as a friend disappointing you or as violent as a man walking into a public place and opening gunfire. Suffering can come from nature. It can be as mild as running over a nail and getting a flat tire or as devastating as having a tornado rip through your neighborhood and leveling your house.
All of the kinds of sufferings mentioned seem hard at the time. If you are struggling with allergies recently, the discomfort is real. It only seems to be minimized when compared to something greater (like dying of cancer). If you have had a friend hurt you recently that pain was real and it stings. It only seems small when you compare it to someone picking up a gun and killing a man for no reason. Flat tires are true frustrations. They cost money, they cost time and never happen in convenient places. Getting a flat is a real problem and it only seems small if compared against someone who just lost their home in a tornado.
When Scripture says that are pains and sorrows are “momentary” and “light” (2 Corinthians 4:17) it is not because they are not real, indeed they are very real, but it describes them with those words because it is comparing our current sufferings in view of something greater...eternal glory! You know how hard it is to grieve over losing a loved one. You know the pain of losing your job. You have experienced the sorrow of hearing bad medical news and a thousand other pains that come our way. Those pains are real. Yet, they are “momentary” and “light”. How can this be? Just think how great heaven must be if by comparison, your worst day is called “momentary” and “light”. Scripture is not making “light” of what you face, just telling you how incredible eternity will be. In other words, the darker your struggle is right now, the greater you know heaven will be. The more intense the pain today, the more joyful you know heaven is. Whatever you are facing today, however frustrating, painful and intense...by comparison against how amazing heaven is, what you are facing is “momentary” and “light”. Some of you reading this are thinking to yourself, “Then heaven is going to have to be really great because what I am facing feels long-lasting (not momentary) and like an elephant is sitting on my chest (not light)”...that is the point! Heaven is going to be that great!
I have two words of encouragement for you: 1) Heaven is going to be so real and so great that when we get there we will look back on our worst day on planet earth and by comparison of heaven’s greatness call our worst day something that was light and momentary and 2) for those going through the suffering right now, God’s grace will sustain you and you will experience His deliverance.
Here are some great words I came across this morning for those who are in the midst of the suffering:
In this age, God rescues his people from some harm. Not all harm. That’s comforting to know, because otherwise we might conclude from our harm that he has forgotten us or rejected us.
So be encouraged by the simple reminder that in Acts 16:19-24 Paul and Silas were not delivered, but in verses 25-26 they were.
First, no deliverance:
“They seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace.” (v. 19)
“The magistrates tore the garments off them.” (v. 22)
They “inflicted many blows upon them.” (v. 23)
The jailer “fastened their feet in the stocks.” (v. 24)
But then deliverance:
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God...and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. (v. 25-26)
God could have stepped in sooner. He didn’t. He has his reasons. He loves Paul and Silas.
Question for you: If you plot your life along this continuum, where are you? Are you in the stripped and beaten stage, or the unshackled, door-flung-open stage?
Both are God’s stages of care for you.
If you are in the fettered stage, don’t despair. Sing. Freedom is on the way. It is only a matter of time. Even if it comes through death.
So, God is with you and He is for you. Yes, our suffering is real, but it is momentary and heaven is forever. Yes, it may seem as though you are stuck in a jail cell, trapped, with no way out. But in a moment, under God’s providence, those prison doors can be knocked off and you can walk out a free man! Whether God gives you the grace to evade the suffering or the grace to endure the suffering, rest assured, God’s grace will be sufficient for you.