The paradox of pain ∙∙
For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! – 2 Corinthians 4:17
2 Corinthians 4:17-18
17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,
18 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.
Surgery serves multiple purposes, including exploratory diagnosis, eliminating obstructions, removing, repairing, or replacing diseased tissues or organs, broken bones, or trauma. Its primary objective is to save lives, alleviate suffering and pain, and enhance the quality of life.
Following surgery, it is typical to experience pain. Properly managing pain enables the restoration of quality of life and the resumption of essential tasks and regular activities. Effective pain management is critical for healing and recovery, and implementing a postoperative treatment strategy may help minimize the risk of complications.
God the Father is the designer and creator of humanity. He completely understands the human body, spirit, and psyche. Like a medical doctor performing surgery to enhance the well-being of a patient, the Father conducts “spiritual surgery” to improve the condition of each child of the King. Such surgery is often accompanied by pain, much like physical surgery. Indeed, painful sorrow is frequently a crucial aspect of spiritual surgery.
Gaining insight into how the Father utilizes pain for our growth can lead to a paradigm shift in our perspective. Numerous situations exist in which we choose to endure temporary pain to accomplish a desired objective. Athletes, for instance, engage in physically demanding training to prepare for competition. In farming, substantial effort and exertion are necessary up front to yield a crop. The list could go on and on. The examples are endless.
Adversity is a tool that the Father employs to achieve His desired outcomes within us and for us. His objective is not to cause us harm but to strengthen us and foster our character development. Paul, for instance, perceived his personal suffering through this lens. He acquired the skill and knowledge necessary to manage the pain accompanying spiritual surgery.
“Paul’s afflictions were of course neither slight nor momentary in themselves. They were the burdensome and virtually constant accompaniment of his ministry. Yet by comparison with the weighty and eternal character of the glory being prepared for him, he saw them as but slight and momentary” (Kruse).
REFLECT & PRAY
Seeing things from the Father’s perspective changes everything. The Father prioritizes spiritual growth over ease and comfort. Trials and tribulations cultivate endurance and a proven character.
Father, help me to learn to see things as they really are. Help me to see them as You do and be thankful.
But there is more. While Paul’s struggles are both internal and external, he is focused. However, there is a deeper dimension to Paul’s challenges, which extend beyond the external realm. He directs his attention towards an unseen, internal transformation, where his inner nature is being renewed and strengthened. He has set his heart on the things that are not seen, rather than those that are seen. Everything about a human being runs down or wears out with age, with the singular exception of the human spirit. As we grow through suffering, we become strong in our spirits.
Luke 1:80 And the child continued to grow and to become strong in spirit.
How ironic, the physical things that we see now appear permanent and tangible are transient, ephemeral, and do not last. Spiritual things, such as the human soul, endure eternally, even though we cannot perceive them. What we see now is only temporary, fleeting, and ephemeral. The present momentary visible things of life paled for the apostle as he considered the future eternal, invisible things ahead (Constable).
1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.
2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.
The visible realm frequently causes us to feel disheartened and dispirited. We are tempted to lose hope. However, if we prioritize the unseen realities, we can avoid becoming discouraged.
18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.
19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.
23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.
24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it.
25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)
26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness.
Suffering is seldom viewed as beneficial or profitable. People do not typically perceive a reason to rejoice in it. However, the Father views adversity as an opportunity for spiritual growth. During times of pain, the facade we typically exhibit is stripped away, exposing our true nature. As our sense of security and comfort are challenged, our authentic priorities, pride, and self-reliance are revealed. God may leverage this opportunity to strip away all our dependencies until nothing competes with the supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ in our lives (Stanley).
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul conveyed his intimate familiarity with various afflictions such as beatings, imprisonments, sleepless nights, and hunger (2 Corinthians 6:4-5; 11:23-28). Nevertheless, he regarded these tribulations as trivial in comparison to the imminent revelation of glory. As a citizen of heaven Philippians 3:20), he recognized that his earthly existence was fleeting compared to eternity. Moreover, the splendor of the coming age will qualitatively surpass the hardships of the present (Mounce).
If we allow the challenges of life to consume our focus, they will obstruct our vision of the glorious future that awaits us. Our attention must be directed towards the eternal and spiritual concerns that hold lasting significance (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:18) and the things above Colossians 3:2) (Mounce).
Luther expresses regret over time squandered, contemplating the present state of creation instead of its future state. He cites Seneca’s remark that “we fail to know what is necessary because we study unnecessary things.”
© Dr. H 2023