“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”
– 2 Corinthians 4:17 –
Commentary by Enduring Word
Our light affliction: When Paul writes “our light affliction,” we might wonder if he ever knew any “real” trials. Some might think, “Well Paul, your affliction might be light, but mine isn’t. If you only knew how I am suffering! Why, it’s unbearable!”
Paul didn’t write as a kindergartner in the school of suffering – he had an advanced graduate degree. He described some of his suffering with these terms in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28:
· Perils of waters
· In perils of my own countrymen
· In perils of the Gentiles
· In perils in the city
· In perils in the wilderness
· In perils in the sea
· In perils among false brethren
· In weariness and toil
· In sleeplessness often
· In hunger and thirst
· In fastings often
· In cold and nakedness
Those were just the physical, outward sufferings – what about the spiritual burdens he bore and spiritual attacks he faced? “This rich theology of suffering was forged on the anvil of his own experiences of ‘the sufferings of Christ.’ ” (Harris)
So when Paul writes our light affliction, we can know God means our light affliction. If Paul could say his affliction was light, then what is ours?
Our light affliction: Why is our affliction light and not heavy? Because even the worst of it, by the measure of eternity, is but for a moment. This is partially true in the sense that most of our troubles come and go, and “this too shall pass.” It is also true in the sense that even a long life by this world’s standard is nothing on the scale of eternity. Even if one were to live for a hundred years and suffer every day, by the measure of eternity it is but for a moment.
Our light affliction: Why is our affliction light and not heavy? Because of what God accomplishes in us through our affliction: a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
The Scriptures are clear: if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together (Romans 8:17). Glory is tied to suffering, and God will accomplish in us a glory far heavier than any affliction we have suffered here. “Affliction is not something to be endured in order to reach glory. It is the very process which creates the glory. Through travail comes birth.” (Morgan)
It is as if Paul says, “Go ahead and get out the scale. Put all your afflictions on one side of the scale, and even put your thumb down on that side. Then let me place the weight of glory on the other side of the scale, and you will see what a light affliction you really have.”
Yes, our affliction is light!
· Our affliction is light compared to what others suffer
· Our affliction is light compared to what we deserve
· Our affliction is light compared to what Jesus suffered for us
· Our affliction is light compared to the blessings we enjoy
· Our affliction is light as we experience the sustaining power of God’s grace
· Our affliction is light when we see the glory that it leads to
Understanding this we really can say with Paul, “our light affliction.”
Weight of glory: It isn’t easy to appreciate the weight of glory because it is an eternal weight. Often, the problem isn’t so much in what we think about our light affliction but in that we think so little of our coming weight of glory.
“It is everywhere visible what influence St. Paul’s Hebrew had on his Greek: chabad, signifies to be heavy, and to be glorious; the apostle in his Greek unites these two significations, and says, weightofglory.” (Dodd, cited in Clarke)