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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Perplexed, But Not Driven to Despair

Have you ever sat there in the middle of watching a movie and wondered whether it was going to end well? Are they going to escape from the bad guys? Is the guy going to get the girl? Will the team win? Is someone going to die? Sometimes I think of my life in that way. I think of the twists and turns, and in the middle of it all, I wonder, “How is this going to end?!” or “How could this be happening?!” or “It’s not supposed to be like this!”. When it comes down to it, I find myself perplexed by life, and too often it leads me to despair. Despair is not what God wants for me in my suffering.

2 Cor 4: 7-18 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, "I believed, and so I spoke," we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 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.”

Paul calls his suffering a “light momentary affliction”. That is an interesting description for what Paul went through in his life- beaten, falsely imprisoned, exiled, afflicted with health problems, falsely accused, mocked, and betrayed by friends. However, Paul compared his suffering to the “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”. Instead of keeping his eyes focused on the problems of his life, Paul looked to the “things that are unseen” recognizing that “the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal”. A friend of mine once told me that she thinks of the knot in her stomach at the onset of anxiety as being a signal pain- a reminder that she has taken her eyes off of what is unseen and has instead put her eyes on what is seen, or the problems of life. Paul did not despair because he had an eternal view of his life. He had faith. Hebrews tells us:

Hebrews 11: 1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

In what did Paul hope or have faith? What was the eternal weight of glory about which Paul spoke? Paul tells the Corinthians in verse 14 that it is “knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.” My despair is so short-sighted. I forget that I have tasted and have seen that the Lord is good. I forget that I have experienced His goodness here on earth and nothing else compares. I forget that I already know the final act in the story of my life- it will be a life in perfect communion with God Almighty- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! I pray that even right this moment as I struggle against despair in suffering that I would remember this eternal weight of glory, which is being increasingly in the presence of the Lord- the beauty of whom far overshadows…. everything.

Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.

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