His heart pounded, his lips quivered, decay crept into his bones, and his legs trembled (Habakkuk 3:16). He was confused, angry, terrified, and desperate for relief. He cried, “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?” (Habakkuk 1:2). Habakkuk, an Old Testament prophet, experienced a season of trials...
“This affliction is light and momentary.”
How do you say that to a young wife who just traumatically lost her husband? To a woman suffering through infertility? To the children who lost their father? Or to the man with a deadly diagnosis?
Afflictions like these don’t feel momentary. No. Instead, such trials make their mark on our lives. People are forever changed by suffering like this. While many around them will carry on, those who suffer great loss will sometimes bear questions, scars, and grief for as long as they live.
And yet, this statement must be true since it’s found in God’s Word:
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 4:17-18)
We Groan and Grieve…
We don’t feel like our affliction is momentary. And this is where we fail in our human capacity to understand just how beautiful and long-lasting eternity will be for those who have believed in Jesus Christ. Every monstrous tear will be wiped away, every pain healed, and we will be with Jesus, the Comforter of our soul, forevermore.
We cannot fathom such a relief because we are here, surrounded by heartbreak and destruction on every side. Our loved ones die, mass shootings increase, chronic illness persists, unborn babies are murdered, and cancer destroys. Even worse, the sin found within our own bones haunts us. The ghost of our past, that is, our flesh, continues to shame us for previous sins while seeking to tempt us anew.
And with the burden of this weighty pain upon our hearts, we’re groaning with all creation: “Come soon, Lord. Come soon.”
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:22-23)
1. With Hope
Yes, we groan and grieve. But we groan and grieve with hope.
For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:24-26)
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
Do you grieve as if your hope is lost? When everything crumbles around you, upon what (or who, rather) do you stand? If you see beneath your feet anything other than Jesus Christ, you will not survive the chaos of this life. Momentary afflictions will drag your soul down to the depths of despair.
2. With Joy
We must place our hope in the life, death, and resurrection of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Only then will we endure through the storms of this life.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:3-7, emphasis added)
We who have put our faith in Jesus Christ can indeed rejoice, though now for a little while we are grieved by various trials. Peter gives us permission to grieve the trials we face, but he also reminds us our time on earth is brief. Each hardship we experience is a mere blink of an eye when compared to eternity.
Can you imagine a life free from the sorrow, disease, and sin that plagues us? What about a life that continues on and on, forever, without a single trouble? Eternity feels foreign to us; it seems impossible at times, if we’re honest. But in the blink of an eye, eternal joy in the presence of God will be our reality.
Amidst the harsh valleys of this life, we have so many reasons to rejoice! Those who’ve been “born again” receive not only salvation, but also an incorruptible inheritance. This inheritance includes not just heaven, but more importantly, Jesus himself. Furthermore, we know everything we face is being used for our sanctification. None of our pain is wasted. And lastly, rejoicing is ours because we too will be raised to life.
3. With Victory
Grieving with hope is possible because Jesus has conquered sin and death. Because Jesus died the death we deserved for our sin and was raised to life by the Holy Spirit, those who put their faith in him will one day rise as well. Death no more has dominion over us!
We will shout together for all eternity, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). And death will return no answer.
Jesus crushed the serpent—he conquered the curse—by his work on the cross, just as it was prophesied of him from the beginning (Genesis 3:15). We live in the “already, not yet” of redemption history. The work of redemption is already finished, and yet, the reality is not fully realized. Though we’re forgiven and restored to right relationship with God, sin still wages war within our hearts. But the victory is sealed.
They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful. (Revelation 17:14)
We Await Glory
Many times, our afflictions don’t feel momentary, do they? And I think that’s okay. Maybe our groaning is meant to draw us near to the only One who can bring joy and peace in the midst of the storm.
Let’s cling to this truth: One day, we will be raised to life with Christ. On that day, our tears will be no more and we will see just how momentary each affliction—even the hardest to fathom—truly was.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)
Right now, this may not feel like it could possibly be true, but it is true. May God give us grace to groan and grieve with hope even when our momentary afflictions don’t feel so momentary.
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