Sunday, August 4, 2013

“Do not look at what is seen,” he said, “but what is unseen.”

The seen—war threatening to break out in my household. The constant grind of the everyday. Weariness and hunger and boredom. The constant tug to stifle the demands of those things with more comfort, more entertainment.

The unseen—a battle raging above our heads, as we grapple for significance and position, or we fight to leash our tempers and lusts. The shimmer of the divine on our lives, lending glory to the ordinary. The thread of purpose God weaves through it all, tethering us from birth to eternity.

But in the middle of it, we get caught up in the swirl of life. The delights, and ... the suffering, as I pointed out last week. And the suffering is not to be avoided.

Jesus Himself chose the path of suffering, in order to buy us redemption. As His followers, we’re called to the same path—the servants are not above the master, we’re reminded. Unlike Him, who was perfect, our suffering is transformed into the very instrument for our refining. Our broken, hurting places become the sanctuary where God meets us, accepts the offering of our crushed selves, and blankets us with peace.

And it’s in our weakness—the situations we face that are beyond us—that we’re told God’s power is perfected.

We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power might be of Him, and not of us.

The words tilt my chin so that I look up, at Him. They breathe a cool wind of hope across my fevered soul.

His power, not mine. His strength.

Beyond all this, we’re reminded, is a reality so glorious, so beautiful, we’d be crushed under its weight were we not prepared for it. It’s so beyond amazing that we can’t wrap our brains around it, and nothing we could endure here on earth can compare with it.

“This light affliction,” said the man who had endured beatings, stoning, lashings, shipwreck, rejection by his family and people, continuous travel, hard manual labor, failing health, cold and heat, hunger and thirst, concern for those he was ministering to, and finally, imprisonment before a death meant for a criminal. He had a fairly pampered life until stopped one day on the road to Damascus by someone he believed was the risen Jesus. He caught just a glimpse of glory, and from that moment on, nothing else was worth expending his life for.

Suffer affliction as a good soldier. This light affliction.

Though I’ve not experienced a fraction of what Paul did, my suffering is no less real, in the moment. The question is not, is the affliction genuine suffering, but rather ... what is God doing in the unseen through this situation? And do I believe the glory to come is worth it?

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

(verses from 2 Corinthians 4, NKJV)


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