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, ESV)
Anyone who thinks that following Christ means that they will never suffer will be sadly disappointed. We follow Jesus Christ, who suffered and died to pay the penalty of our sin (Romans 5:6-10). Indeed, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:9 that our Christian strategy of postponing pleasure until eternity in the next life means that “we are of all men most miserable” in earthly, temporal terms.
Whatever pain we experience here in the service of God is building for us an eternal home far beyond what we can imagine. This provided Paul comfort as he looked around at his circumstances with an eternal perspective. Where others saw physical suffering, he saw spiritual growth. Where others saw affliction, he saw a temporary setback that was building for him “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17, ESV).
This perspective on suffering came about because Paul refused to judge reality by what he saw around him. Instead, he looked with eyes of faith at what “the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12, ESV). We can understand this because “We walk by faith and not by sight” (1 Corinthians 5:7, ESV). When we do not rely on our natural eyes and instead fix our eyes of faith on what God has promised, we can put circumstances in their place: under the authority and control of the Lord Jesus Christ (See Matthew 28:18).
If the circumstances of our lives include suffering here for a short time, God can give us the grace to bear it. In fact, the apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death” (NLT). Suffering is not easy, and suffering with a joyful attitude is even harder. Yet, “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26, ESV).