Light & MomentaryBe like a little child and go to your Father, and let Him embrace you with a love only He can provide.
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”2 Corinthians 4:17-18, ESV
Coping with a death is hard. Coping with a death of someone who was only twenty-six is really hard. Coping with a death of someone who was only twenty-six when the cause was suicide is almost unbearable.
My nephew killed himself on September 5th. When I got the call, my immediate reaction was, “Not again, Lord!” This nephew lost his mother (my sister) to suicide. My second reaction was anguish for my dear, sweet father. He has already lost one of his daughters, his wife, and now a grandson.
In the verse above, Paul calls life’s afflictions light and momentary. A suicide within the family doesn’t feel light. It feels like an anvil has been dropped on our heads. A suicide within the family doesn’t feel momentary. There isn’t a week that passes that I don’t think about my sister’s death over twenty years ago.
What do I do with this verse? To be honest, there’s a part of me that would like to ignore it. It feels so completely antithetical to reality. It simply does not resonate with what I’m feeling. But I can’t ignore it. I believe all Scripture is breathed out by God and designed for the blood-bought Christian’s good, even those verses, like this one, that seem so disconnected from life. Besides, there’s the inconvenient truth about the person whom God had write it: Paul was not opining on something with which he was unfamiliar. He knew life’s harshness.
“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food,] in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2nd Corinthians 11:24-28, ESV).
How could Paul say that after being beaten with a rod that his afflictions were light? How could he say the beatings were momentary given they happened multiple times and most likely left lasting physical and emotional scars?
The answer lies in the balance of the verse: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.”
Where we look for our hope, particularly in hard times, matters. Paul’s hope was not tied to the here and now. How could it have been? He was being bludgeoned left and right. His hope in the midst of pain was anchored not to what he could see, but what he couldn’t. Paul knew he would be spending eternity with Jesus, the glorious Unseen; he knew and trusted that the pain on this side of heaven was not in vain. It would produce, if surrendered to Jesus, incomparable blessing in the next life. Paul believed and felt deep in his heart that the intensity of joy in the next life would be exponentially greater than the intensity of pain in this life. As profound as Paul’s suffering was, he believed it would be inferior to the joy gained by being in the presence of Jesus forever.
So, getting back to my initial question – what do I do with this? Perhaps I was a bit premature in writing this piece now as my nephew’s death is still raw, but writing helps me think.
I would like to say that my reaction is similar to Paul’s. I’d like to count my nephew’s death as light and momentary. But, in all honesty, I can’t – at least not yet.
I know that my joy in Jesus in the next life will far outweigh the difficulties of this life. And I know that my joy will last forever, making my time on earth seem like a dot a millimeter long on a yardstick that never ends. Consequently, I know that life’s pain will be light and momentary. But here’s the problem: I don’t feel it right now. The head is there but the heart has yet to catch up.
What I do know and feel is that Jesus loves me. I know and feel that He wants me to surrender my burden to Him. I know and feel that He calls me to go to Him with my confusion as a little child does with his father. He wants to care for my wounds. The absolute worst thing I can do (I’m speaking from significant experience here) is bury my emotions. The only way for me to view life as light and momentary is by making myself vulnerable to Jesus and letting Him minister to me. If I don’t, I will be weighed down, and I will see life as a never-ending series of painful events.
Every one of you reading this article has gone through heart-wrenching pain. I don’t know your personal stories, but I don’t have to. We are a fallen people living in a fallen world; grief and pain are natural consequences. As I’m trying to preach to myself here, let me encourage you to take your wounds to Jesus. He loves you and wants you to surrender your life to Him–all of it–including the pain, brokenness, and hurt. Be like a little child and go to your Father, and let Him embrace you with a love only He can provide.
Greg Grotewold lives in Oakdale, MN with his wife and their two sons. He is the author of two books: “Lifting the Sword of the Spirit: Equipping for Battle the Body of Jesus Christ” and “Hope in Christ: Finding Joy in the Midst of Despair.”