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You know your life has changed a bit when the majority of your social interactions are with doctors, nurses, and employees and staff at medical facilities.

That’s been my life for the last month or so.

The procedure that has required these interactions is an upcoming hip replacement surgery. These, as the reader probably knows, are quite common. So is the pain one must endure in order qualify for the procedure. However, smack dab in the middle of this process to get the okay from the dentist, the doctor, the cardiac surgeon, and, of course, the orthopedist, I woke up early one morning with the greatest pain I have experienced in my life. The pain was so great that I could not move. The EMT folks had to pick me up and lay me on the gurney. The issue? Small intestine blockage in three places.

But that’s all fixed up now, and the purpose of this article is not to over-emphasize the physical pain I have endured. Multitudes have suffered as much and more, and a great number of people have no access to the medical care that we have in this country. We are blessed in this regard.

One of the most notable Americans of which I am aware who has endured great misery is Joni Erickson Tada. After a diving accident, she became a quadriplegic. Afterwards, Joni suffered depression, anger, and suicidal thoughts. Her faith was challenged. She has remained a quadriplegic for forty-five years. She also had breast cancer and a malignant nodule on her chest. both cured with chemotherapy. In spite of these challenges, she has pressed forward and has had a meaningful ministry.

Everyone on earth suffers. It is impossible to avoid it. How does the God of Christianity view these sufferings?

Great question. My initial answer is that He loves us and is perfectly aware of our trials. However, He doesn’t often alleviate them. This is what causes Christians to doubt Him, as Joni did.

One only needs to read the Book of Job to see how He responded to Job’s tremendous loss and pain. The Lord was only concerned about Job’s belief in Him as the sovereign Lord God Almighty. The Lord did restore Job’s family and fortune, but the grief, to be sure, must have remained. I am sure that losing seven children would leave one scarred for life. The startling truth is also that He purposed these agonies for Job. For Christian believers, this reality is a bit hard to square with His love for us.

When we have read Second Corinthians, we learn that the Apostle Paul suffered, too. But through Paul’s writing, the Lord supplied this answer to our questions about our troubles.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 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 4:16–18).1

The word “momentary” there means just that. The word “light” can also mean “insignificant.”

Insignificant.

This is God’s perspective. He looks at our suffering this way because He is comparing our afflictions with what awaits us in eternity. What is there is an “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”

Our problem is that we just don’t have that eternal frame of reference, nor do we have much of a clue what that eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison actually is. To inform us how little knowledge we possess, this is the verse most often quoted to give comfort to the afflicted:

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

I liken this sparse knowledge about the heavenly Promised Land to what the Lord gave Israel about the land He had promised them. It was a land of milk and honey, of blessing. Enemies awaited, over which He would grant victory. Not much else was offered.

The Lord expects us to trust Him, limited information or not. But let’s be truthful. When we suffer, He is the only hope we have to cling to. We must believe that He is good and loves us, and that, as the old song says, “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus.”

Father, help us trust and love you as we go through the pain, sorrow, and trials of our lives.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (2016). Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy tenor.

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