Pain is common to all human beings. Some of us face pain every day. Some suffer from chronic illnesses or from physical challenges we’ve had since birth. All of us have bodies that will wear out. If we don’t die young, we will one day have an aged body that causes pain every day. Unless Christ returns first, all of us will die.
These are simply facts. Physical pain is universal.
The Lord urges us in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 not to lose heart during these trials, because, though we may be “wasting away,” simultaneously, we’re inwardly “being renewed” as we learn to rely on Him. In fact, these “light and momentary troubles” are producing eternal benefits that far outweigh the suffering.
The remedy is to “fix our eyes” on the eternal, putting our hope in God.
The Word of God provides so much hope. The answers aren’t easy. They’re not a bandage to be applied. They require internal growth, but they bring great joy.
For the Christian, the end of life is not to be feared, and neither is pain. The ultimate release from suffering is not to be dreaded. It is the goal line toward which we push.
Paul, the apostle, suffered greatly during his ministry. He was pummeled with stones, beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, hungry, and naked. He fought wild beasts and was roughed up during riots. These maladies caused physical and emotional suffering for the rest of his life.
From this place of suffering, he wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:1-5:
“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands,” v. 1.
- Compared to the “eternal house” of the body we will have in heaven, our current bodies are flimsy, able to blow away in the wind, “earthly tents.” They are breakable. But when our bodies are destroyed on this earth, we have new ones coming. While here, we’re “outwardly wasting away,” therefore, we should expect the suffering that is a natural part of “wasting away” (2 Corinthians 4:16).
“2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.”
- Compared to what is to come, at this point we’re essentially naked. We think our bodies are beautiful and amazing, and they are. But they’re nothing compared to our eternal bodies. We look forward to bodies that won’t break, get sick, or betray us.
“4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”
- Weary of the broken state of these bodies, we yearn for eternal life and heavenly wholeness, where pain and death exist no more. This is the natural result of the fall. The entire creation groans as it awaits Christ’s return and an end to all of this brokenness (Romans 8:18-24). Mortality will be swallowed up in life. We anticipate this with joy!
“5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”
- God created us for the purpose of dwelling with him forever and for the growth we experience in this dark place, because it brings us to know him. The Holy Spirit in us is a downpayment guaranteeing our future with God and a foretaste of much, much more to come.
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14 NIV).
During suffering, Paul fixed his eyes on heaven. Sometimes during suffering that’s the only comfort. The pain will not last forever. Suffering will be replaced with great joy when we see God face to face.
Our earthly body is temporary, a dwelling for our immortal soul that we will one day escape. Our bodies will fall apart, and at death we will leave them. We will immediately then find our true home with God, an eternal home. Meanwhile, we groan.
This mindset of fixing our eyes on heaven may seem morbid to some, but our future home with God is the reality that captures our minds and carries us through. Jesus, for the joy set before him, endured the cross. His eyes weren’t on the pain, but on gaining us for eternity. This brief time on earth is merely the springboard into our coming state of eternal bliss with our Savior.
“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:51–53).
When we see Jesus face to face, we will be clothed in immortality, our souls finally housed in a heavenly body that is its equal. We will no longer groan. We will rejoice with our King forever.
When times are hard and pain stalks your every moment, fix your eyes on Jesus and his promises. Comfort yourself with these truths.
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