For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. (2 Corinthians 4:17)
Jun Sato, 25, couldn’t find work in downtown Tokyo, so he created his own job. Dressed in protective padding, he let people on the street put on boxing gloves and beat him for three minutes for the equivalent of about $10. Sato said, “I enjoy being used as a punching bag, it is another way to experience life. I want to continue as long as my body holds up.”
Most people don’t feel that way. Most of us don’t knowingly seek out suffering, and when we’re in it, we want to get out of it as soon as possible. This makes the Apostle Paul’s description our afflictions as light hard to accept. If Paul wanted to think his afflictions were light, that was his business – but our afflictions usually seem heavy.
Looking at the kind of life Paul lived and the afflictions he suffered changes our perspective. 2 Corinthians 6:4-5 gives a start in understanding what Paul went through personally: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness. Paul certainly did not have an easy life, yet he could still call his afflictions light.
Your afflictions may be lighter than you first think.
Our afflictions are light compared to what others are suffering. No matter how bad we have it, there are many who are suffering worse. Are we really better people than they are?
Our afflictions are light compared to what we deserve. We often don’t like to think about it, but we sin against God again and again. If you believe God is teaching you through your affliction, don’t you have far more to learn than He could confront in you right now?
Our afflictions are light compared to what Jesus suffered for us. There is simply no comparison between what we are going through, and all Jesus suffered spiritually, emotionally, and physically – and He suffered it all for us, not for Himself.
Our afflictions are light compared to the blessings we enjoy. In a time of affliction, we may ask God, “Why do I deserve this?” Instead, we should be asking that question in our times of blessing, which are far greater than our afflictions.
Our afflictions are light compared to the sustaining power of God’s grace. He can and does strengthen us if we will only come to Him humbly – and we anticipate that His help may come through another servant of His.
Our afflictions are light compared to the glory it leads to. God has eternal glories to work in His people through their present afflictions. Olympic athletes are willing to afflict themselves, knowing the glory it can lead to.
Your affliction may seem more painful than athletic training, but the glory is infinitely more certain, and ultimately more wonderful, than any prize this world can give.