A biblical perspective on suffering and lousy days
There are days you’d like to forget, days you’d like to quit, go to sleep, and try again tomorrow. For me, today is one of those days.
My morning began too early, and my evening ended too late. Everything in between was mediocre at best. Most of it would be better described as depressing to varying degrees. On the lesser end, I spent a few stressful hours navigating slick roads due to unseasonable “winter” weather. On the saddest side of the spectrum, I collected the handprints of a stillborn baby for her grieving parents. Where’s the reset button when you need one?
During my long drive home from work, I tried to remind myself things could be much worse. China is persecuting Christians. African children are starving. And so on. But those thoughts didn’t serve their intended purpose. They made me sink even deeper into melancholy. How much suffering can one world take?
It wasn’t until I read the Bible just moments ago that I found reprieve in the form of a better perspective. Paul writes, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2Co 4:17). Scripture never compares our suffering with more suffering. It never attempts to diminish our anguish even if our burdens are trivial in the grand scheme of things. Great or small, our pain is real to us, and the Bible doesn’t suggest we pretend otherwise. Instead, Paul teaches us a different coping mechanism.
Rather than weigh our affliction with the afflictions of others, Paul recommends we drop our circumstances on one side of the scale and eternal glory on the other. He doesn’t encourage us to deny our problems. “Lay them right in front of you,” he says. “Take a good look at them. Now, glance to your right and see what God has prepared for those who love him. Which one weighs more?” (1Co 2:9).
Our impulse—my impulse anyhow—is to minimize our suffering while we should be maximizing the glory to come. Let’s be honest about our afflictions. Then, let’s be captivated by the eternal weight of glory (2Co 4:17). For the things that are seen are transient or temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2Co 4:18).
I suspect I’ll sleep better tonight having learned this lesson.