Friday, January 20, 2012

A Moment of Affliction

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” (2 Cor. 4:17)

         I have a friend who has suffered nearly incessantly for some thirty-eight years as a result of injuries received in an automobile accident. Besides being a paraplegic, she lives with constant infections and fevers, Addison’s disease, the loss of one leg from the knee down, spinal degeneracy…and pain. And I’m sure there are other problems of which I am unaware.

         Now, what would you think if I said to her the next time we were together, “Oh, Tina, I’ve been praying for you during your moment of pain!” You would probably think I was trivializing what to her has been a life of pain. I’ve never actually said it to her, but I have no doubt that if I did, she would understand what I meant and would agree with me. She has allowed her suffering to “perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle” her (1 Pet. 5:10).

         This whole verse in Second Corinthians is a study in priority and balance. On one hand, we have light afflictions in a moment of time counter balanced by an eternal weight. A fleeting featherweight on one side of the scales and an everlasting heavyweight on the other. To recognize the contrast doesn’t trivialize the former, especially when we read that it’s actually adding to the weight of the other. The affliction makes the glory that much weightier.

         I don’t pretend to understand this, but I do know that when I say it, it doesn’t carry nearly the “weight” that it does when someone in Tina’s condition says it. The words are no truer, but the application is more visible. I also believe the verse is a glimpse into the glory awaiting the child of God. Not personal glory, for that all belongs to the King of Glory, but experiential glory. As I said, I’m out of my depth here. I don’t understand this, but I accept it by faith.

         The Bible speaks of various kinds of suffering; but to most of us, the word “affliction” speaks of physical suffering, and I see no reason to try to expand this particular verse beyond that. We all suffer physical pain throughout life, but for some of us, it has seemingly been a perpetual way of life. To these, Paul offers the promise that one day the scale will tip so heavily on the “Glory” side that the affliction will go from being “light” to weightless!   
Until that day, may those of us riding this teeter-totter of life, by faith, look beyond the moment to the eternal, and see beyond the affliction…the Glory.

From the pen of Martha Snell Nicholson (1889-1957):

“The Redeemed Shall Walk There”
Isaiah 35:9

Some glad day I shall walk again!
Sometime my eager feet,
Sensing a blessed Presence near,
Shall turn and run to meet

The One who, dying on a cross,
Redeemed my flesh and soul,
Straightened this twisted spine of mine,
And made me new and whole!

All memory of helplessness,
Of crutch, or iron brace,
Will melt like mist when I behold
The beauty of His face!

And so I wait. On swift wing comes
That blessed moment when
He’ll take my hand, and smiling, teach
Me how to walk again!

         I love you, Tina!”

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