"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 would imagine that some may be just a little bit resentful of Paul's characterization of our problems as "momentary, light afflictions". While some of us seem to want to go out of our way to keep everyone from knowing that we are struggling, others seem to take special delight in sympathetic attention. Neither of those options is entirely wholesome. But if we believe Paul is saying that our troubles aren't real or they are insignificant, then I'm afraid we've missed the point. He's not comparing your troubles to mine or your aches and pains to the average person, but rather through his pen the Holy Spirit is comparing the hardships of life on earth to the glory of a heavenly existence. In fact, he says that the eternal weight of glory is beyond all comparison.
On this same point, consider what Paul said in Romans 8:18 - For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. The clear and simple truth is that however bad our sufferings are in this life, they cannot begin to compare with either the quantity nor the quality of the glory of eternal life in Heaven with the Lord. This fact should infuse us with hope and perseverance (Romans 8:25), even in the midst of hardship and difficulty.
Furthermore, do not fail to note the fact that these light afflictions serve an important role toward securing that eternal weight of glory for us. Compare this wording in a few different translations:
"...worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (KJV);
"...producing for us an eternal weight of glory" (NASB);
"...achieving for us an eternal glory" (NIV);
"...preparing for us an eternal weight of glory" (ESV).
Note that in each of these translations, this working, producing, achieving, preparing is commonly stated as being for us. Not in us, nor through us, nor even with us, but for us. This denotes something at the end that is awaiting our arrival; something that will be so grand, so rewarding as to cause us to forget all that we went through to get to it.
Scripture also assures us of the present benefit of physical trials. Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).
It is somewhat easier to see the tribulations of others as being good for them than it is to appreciate the opportunities for strengthening that our own hardships bring to us. But the fact remains, as God told the prophet, "...I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction" (Isa.48:10). Paul understood this and passed this on to the Roman Christians: "And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Romans 5:3-5). Light afflictions produce an eternal weight of glory.
Invariably, someone is going to say, "Who made you an expert on MY problems?" Oh no, not me. God's Word. Study it and grow stronger!
(more on this passage next week...)