When someone recommends a book, I usually ask, “Does it have a good ending?” Knowing it will end well, helps me wade through the challenging parts of the story. Would it make a difference if you knew your pain had a purpose? What if you had a deep abiding assurance that you were deeply loved and being taken care of in the midst of your suffering and that your pain was actually a means to great gain? In other words, would it help if you knew your story has a good ending?
I believe that is God’s perspective on the suffering He allows to touch His children. God sees from an eternal viewpoint. This life is a splat on the highway in comparison with eternity. God is preparing us for eternity.
In the movie The Ultimate Gift, a wealthy man dies leaving a will that divides his mass estate among his spoiled family. Too late, he came to realize that all his money and the life of ease he’d provided his family had ruined them.
To his grandson he leaves a series of tests in the hope of salvaging the shred of character he thinks this young man may still have after being spoiled and indulged his whole life. If he passes the tests, he will receive the bulk of the estate as his inheritance, but even more importantly, he will receive the ultimate gift, the CAPACITY to love; to care about others and in turn to receive love.
Similarly, God uses trials in our lives to develop in us the capacity to hold His ultimate gifts. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory that far out weighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporal, but what is unseen is eternal,” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
Paul called his suffering (listed in 2 Cor. 11:23-27) light and momentary because he was focused on heaven. Next to what his suffering was producing for him in eternity, the sorrow of this life paled beyond comparison.
You see, Paul knew that God is not only preparing a place for us in heaven, He is preparing us for our place in heaven. Trials prompt us to look for the bigger picture. From an eternal perspective we understand that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us,” (Romans 8:18).
Have you ever been in a beautiful fragrant garden, but unable to enjoy it because of allergies, or had a sumptuous meal before you, but had no appetite because of an upset stomach, or been with people you love and who love you, but been too self absorbed with your own cares or fears to enjoy them? You didn’t need better friends, food or flowers, you needed to be freed from your personal limits so you could enjoy these gifts. God uses trials to free us from our limitations, to create the capacity to receive the good gifts He has for His children, both now and for eternity.
Where are you presently suffering? Is it in a relationship, in a pending or present loss, in debt or in illness? Like Paul, an eternal perspective enables us to endure suffering without losing heart. The Author of our story uses the trials of this life to create the character necessary to receive and enjoy His ultimate gifts. Be encouraged, the eternal payoff is worth the pain.
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