I am tempted to become bitter with God over the ongoing trials that he has not removed.
There are certain forms of chronic suffering and weakness that I have brought before his throne for years. And still, no deliverance. Sometimes, the suffering and weakness seems to be getting worse. I have been able to freely give big tragedy to God, accepting his good sovereignty through suffering. But it’s the mid-grade stuff that’s gets me, the embarrassing, annoying, hindering kind of suffering and shame that hovers like a cloud of mosquitoes on a tropical night – especially when that suffering seems to make me unable to do the work that God has called me to do.
If God has called me to a certain kind of life and ministry, then why won’t he remove these weaknesses that keep me from the kind of Spirit-empowered freedom that I know is possible? I’ve learned this question is dangerous enough that it needs an answer. If left unanswered, the belief slowly starts to grow that God is holding out on me. If that belief grows, I begin to try holding out on him, not slackening in my obedience necessarily, but at least holding my heart back from intimacy with him. I feel as if he is hurting me and I don’t understand how that fits with his professed love for me. So I keep myself at a safe distance. That, over time, is deadly.
I’m sure that others are familiar with this dynamic.
The phrase that I have been turning to recently in this struggle is that Eternal Glory is Better. It comes from 2nd Corinthians 4, where Paul is describing the suffering encountered in his ministry. He is honest about the real toll it is taking. Our outer self is wasting away (4:16). Yet Paul doesn’t stop there.
 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, (2 Corinthians 4:16–17 ESV)
Paul acknowledges that an inner renewal is taking place simultaneous to the external wasting away. God is working this for good in Paul’s character in the here and now. But then he pivots to focus on the eternal. He claims that the suffering we experience as believers is actually for an additional purpose: to prepare for us an eternal weight of glory.
Why does our eternal weight of glory matter? Well, deep down we are all made for it. We are made to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Yes, but as we do that we will actually be entering into his glory, taking on his glory, ourselves becoming glorified. We ache for this.
The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God. To please God…to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness…to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is... We should hardly dare to ask that any notice be taken of ourselves. But we pine. The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret. And surely, from this point of view, the promise of glory, in the sense described, becomes highly relevant to our deep desire. For glory meant good report with God, acceptance by God, response, acknowledgment, and welcome into the heart of things. The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.
This is C.S. Lewis, exploring this longing for glory in his sermon, The Weight of Glory. If you’ve managed to never read this piece by Lewis, please take the time to think over this short sermon. Key to our understanding the coming resurrection is that we understand how we are to hope in the revelation of God’s glory – yes, and also hope in the revelation of our own glory (Rom 8:23). When we are resurrected, we will be honored by God and we will ourselves somehow shine with the glory of God, like stars in the heavens (Dan 12:3).
But what about pride and our human desire to steal glory from God? Well, on the day that our glory is revealed we will also have been set finally free from the presence of sin. We will be free then to delight in our own glory and in God’s without any sin whatsoever. It will all be in line with love.
So then, according to 2nd Corinthians 4, my suffering is producing eternal glory for me, more eternal glory than would have been mine otherwise. That is its outcome, its purpose. I desperately want God to remove the trial, but if he doesn’t, then I don’t have to give in to bitterness or shame. Instead, I can rest, knowing that its purpose for me is good. Its purpose is to give me more eternal glory – in all its tantalizing mystery – and that means its purpose is clearly in line with love and a kind father who doesn’t deny the best gifts to his children. Though he does at times deny the lesser in order to give the greater.
Eternal glory is better. Better than the freedom that would come from having my trial taken away now. Better than the absence of suffering. Better than my own visions of free and powerful ministry done for Christ.
Eternal glory is better. It’s a simple line, but I am finding it helpful as I fight for faith in God’s goodness when that weakness emerges again. God is not holding out on me. He is for me, just as he always has been.
Photo by Denis Degioanni on Unsplash
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