Lately, I've been reflecting on Paul's comforting words in 2 Corinthians 4. In verses 17 & 18, he gives us two more reasons to hang in there even when we feel like giving up. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
One of our boys wrestled in high school. If your kid ever did that, you can skip the next few paragraphs. Otherwise, you might experience some parental PTSD. Because when it's your little angel on the mat with a bruiser named Goliath of Gath, it's the most intense two minutes of your life. If your kid is doing well, those 120 seconds fly. If he's hanging on for dear life, they feel like 120 years.
Goliath's goal, of course, is to pin your precious to the mat. He flips your darling over on his back and begins to apply painful pressure to force his shoulders down. The home crowd is screaming, "Get up! Get up!"
He can't get up. He has an uncircumcised Philistine on top of him crushing the life from his lungs. You can't breathe either. Every parental instinct is screaming for you to bound down the bleachers and power slam Goliath before he does any more damage to the child of your loins. You quickly calculate the costs of the inevitable lawsuit against the costs of physical therapy for your little tax deduction and the marital counseling your spouse will no doubt insist upon.
But just before you launch out of the stands, you hear his teammates chanting, "Short time! Short time! Short time!" Then you see the clock. Ten seconds. Nine. Eight. Seven. And finally, the referee blows the whistle. Goliath gets up. Your child breathes again. And so do you.
Paul calls our troubles momentary and temporary. It's like he is standing in the bleachers shouting, "Short time! Short time!" This – whatever it is you are going through – won't last forever. Whether it's quarantine or cancer, a broken heart or a business failure, grief for a loved one lost or guilt for a desire indulged. The seconds on our struggle are ticking down. Soon and very soon the stress will give way to peace, the burden will be lifted, the pressure will be relieved. God has put a clock on your pain.
The Unseen Eternal
The last thing I want to do is to minimize whatever you are going through. So I'm going to let the inspired apostle do that. He says that compared to what lies ahead of us, our current struggles are feather weights. Not only are they momentary and temporary, they are light. If you're enduring another round of chemo or holding a set of divorce papers, that can sound terribly insensitive. But Paul saw things we have yet to see. "Inexpressible things," is what he called them. "Surpassingly great" things. (2 Corinthians 12:4, 7).
The reward that awaits us is enormously out of proportion to the struggles we currently experience. For one thing, it is eternal. There are no clocks in heaven. No calendars either. No one will ever shout, "Short time!" Time itself will be irrelevant.
But it's not just the duration that makes this glory so disproportionate. It's also the quality of that existence. We're going to be used to dressing in yard sale clothes. God's going to give us an unlimited Versace gift card. We'll be expecting Myrtle Beach. God's going to give us the Maldives. Instead of McDonald's Happy Meals, filet mignon is on God's menu.
We won't need daily renewal because there is nothing there to drain us. We won't need stamina because there is nothing there to endure. We won't need wheelchairs or walkers, crutches or canes. There will be no prescriptions to fill, no prosthetics to fit. We won't wear masks or blue rubber gloves and the worship won't be virtual. The quarantine, COVID 19 and social distancing will be distant memories if they are remembered at all. We will see the Father's smile. We will hear the laughter of the Son. We will experience the wind of the Spirit in a way like never before.
Hang in there. Short time.