Ok, so tell me, how much do you weigh? That’s not a very polite question is it?
Growing up I was a very thin child. Anyone listening to this and knew me growing up would actually say really, really thin. I couldn’t find a lot of pants that would fit me, so my mom made a lot of them when I was in elementary school. Yep, I was that kid. You have no idea how excited I was to finally find a store called 3-5-9 that actually carried double zero jeans that my mom only had to take in a ‘little bit’ at the waist. When I was in drill team in high school, my arms were so thin that our drill team director called my mom worried that I might be anorexic. What she didn’t know was that every day after school I would go home and eat an entire avocado (I still love that) and a whole No-bake cheesecake all by myself. Seriously. I was also drinking a supplemental calorie drink every day just to try to put on weight. Y’all, that is for real. And I would say it was just as emotionally impacting on me as someone who was overweight, trying to lose it. Luckily for me, hormones kicked in and things changed. But now, NOW oh so many years later, I try to eat right and exercise regularly to keep my weight in a healthy range. ‘Cause I still love cheesecake. And I don’t know if you’ve heard, but doctors say after you hit a certain age (thank you again, hormones), you’ll likely gain 10 pounds each year. What??? That’s not good. So, it’s important to eat healthy and keep moving!
But here’s something I found myself thinking recently: when I get to heaven, I want God to put a lot of weight on me. And let me explain why.
In a previous episode, “Shaped For The Journey Forward”, I mentioned that trials qualify us for “lacking nothing”; for being “perfectly whole.” This is based on James 1: 2-4. When we face affliction of all kinds, we find that these trials shape us for moving forward in life. Affliction rubs off the rough edges, makes us more refined and defined. Walking through really tough stuff in life makes us look more like Jesus with every tumble and every turn. I want to offer, also, that sometimes we don’t even realize it’s the hardships, the trials we go through, that forges a life that produces something absolutely unique and extraordinary. Let me tell you a story of two very talented men.
George Frederic Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach were musicians and German contemporaries. Handel received fame & wealth from his music. Bach did not. Bach wrote for the church each week & struggled financially. Yet, Bach’s music was considered much richer than Handel’s. Probably because his struggle & hardships produced something rich & marvelous, deep & meaningful.
I’d love to go with this theme and ask, friend, how does the music of your life sound? The things you are struggling with and are pressing in on you are creating a rich harmony to God’s beautiful melody. There is tension, then resolution as it joins a dance of the chords so complex it’s confusing, yet so simple it’s completely compelling. The result wraps you up in something other-worldly and pulls you along one measure at a time. It is more meaningful and marvelous than you could ever imagine, hope, or dream, and God is the Great Maestro. So, let His melody pulse through your soul and let your life experiences join in on the song He’s orchestrating. It’s deep, rich and completely an original! Yes, the things you go through make you uniquely and individually you. Complete, perfectly whole, lacking nothing…here. Now.
But there’s something else trials and afflictions in life does, if we choose to suffer well - It’s something that is a beautiful, eternal by-product of enduring affliction.
2 Corinthians 4: 16-18 tells us what that is. It says, “So we do not lose heart. For this light and 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 temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Did you see it? Affliction we face here on earth is preparing FOR US (that’s future tense) an eternal heavy weight of glory. Every time we endure hardships, or sufferings, the weight of glory that’s set up for us in heaven gets heavier and heavier. What could that glory be? I talked about what just might be an excellent description of heaven in episode #25, but it’s an eternity of glory that is indescribable. We will experience an eternity that so far exceeds anything that we could ever think or dream in glory, in beauty, in awe and wonder, in blessing, in joy, in love. This is God's eternal plan for you and for me. And the more affliction we experience here on earth, the weightier the glory in heaven. Yes, Lord, put that weight on me! That’s the weight I’ll gladly and eagerly take.
So, what is the Apostle Paul telling us in this passage in 2 Corinthians? Prior to this, he was telling the believers in Corinth that he and the other disciples would suffer persecution. He begins by telling them that we, as humans, live in jars of clay. He’s referring to our bodies that break down easily. And don’t we know it? But because of our fragile state, we are able to prove the surpassing power that belongs to God and not to us. Because we are weak - physically, emotionally, mentally - we stand in sharp contrast to the strengthening power of the Spirit.
The Apostle also tells them that when they are afflicted, they are able to show others that they too can learn to trust God in the midst of adversity. They become a witness to God’s presence and power in their lives. And finally, he tells them that the affliction is preparing them to receive a great eternal reward. Affliction, by itself, doesn’t bring about this reward. The heavy, weighty reward of glory is prepared for us when we suffer the affliction well by bringing God glory in it. This is done by looking at our circumstances of affliction through the lens of God’s eternal perspective. Or, as Paul says in verse 19, looking not at the things that are seen, but to the unseen - that heavenly glory.
So, friend, what is making you “lose heart”? What is your “affliction”? We all have something, big or small. What is it that’s making you focus on the things of this world - worrying, fretting, wringing your hands - instead of having confidence in the unseen, the eternal, the true hope?
Maybe you’ve just been given a negative doctor’s report, or you have a child in crisis. Maybe the bills just keep piling up and you don’t have the money to cover it all, or you’ve just been let down by a girlfriend or boyfriend, or your spouse, or your job is in jeopardy. Our natural instinct is to ask, “How did I get into this mess? And how quickly can I solve this problem and get out?”
These are natural questions, for sure. No one likes to suffer affliction of any degree. But according to the Apostle Paul, they may be the wrong questions to ask. Instead of asking ourselves, “How can I get out of this mess?” Ask, “How can I glorify God in this situation? How can I suffer affliction well so that I can show others who are watching how they too can learn to trust God in the midst of adversity?” And, “How can I allow this weakness in my body or situation in my life be an opportunity for someone to understand that God is powerful and able to sustain and strengthen my heart through it all?” This is what it means to glorify God in our suffering, in our affliction, that prepares for us a heavy weight of glory in heaven. As Paul said, that we would look not to the things that are seen but to the unseen - the eternal. In other words, don’t look at your impossible situation or what you may consider even your worst nightmare as the end-all focus of your life. No, look at it with a heavenly perspective in mind, knowing what awaits you when you get there.
Friend, we all suffer to one degree or another. It’s how we suffer the affliction that matters here and in heaven. And if you remember from last week’s episode, “I Still Have Questions”, leaning on the full character of God, and allowing the afflictions we face to mature and grow our faith is the way to glorify God and see a weighty reward of glory in the end.
Personally, I want to be so attached to the eternal that I’m able to flow with whatever comes without it affecting me. I want to be so entuned with the Holy Spirit that I “see” rightly the things of God. How about you, friend? How will you suffer the afflictions, big or small, that come into your life? And, how much weight of glory do you think will be laid up for you in heaven when you get there? I want it to be heavy! How about you?