“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.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
If we let them, the troubles of this world will completely overwhelm us and leave us unable to pursue the path of Jesus with anything resembling the commitment we need in order to gain the benefits from it. Problems in our marriages, problems with our kids, troubles at work, hardships at school, financial challenges, family issues, interpersonal doubts, and so on can fill our field of view until we don’t see anything else. They become the lens through which we see everything else. Depression (not clinical), discouragement, and malaise become our constant companions.
And to what kind of a life does this lead? Does this help us to overcome them? Does this bring us to a life that is truly life? If you’ve ever been here before, you already know the answer to those questions. No, no, and no!
So, what’s the alternative? Look again at what Paul says here. When our perspective is filled with the things and challenges of this world, life will never be something we have any room left to see. Instead, we need to keep our eyes fixed on the life we have ahead of us. Though the challenges we are facing now might seem entirely overwhelming; though they may feel as if they will wash us away entirely before all is said and done, in the light of eternity, they are but light, momentary afflictions.
The things of eternity, the things of the kingdom, are unseen in this world. They take eyes of faith, shaped by the Spirit in order to catch a glimpse of them. If our gaze gets fixed on only what we can see (the problems), we will always miss the eternal. It will be when we put them in their proper perspective that they cease to overwhelm us.
Well, how do we do this? Practice. Training. Repetition over time. When the troubles of this world threaten to rise up and choke out our vision of life, we remind ourselves intentionally of the eternal. We claim God’s promises of eternal life waiting for those who are willing to trust in Him. We lean into the Spirit who helps see what is real. This is a discipline to be sure, but it is one whose practice will pay off in spades over time. It will pay off in our no longer getting overwhelmed by life. There is more than your troubles waiting for you. Eternal life is available. Look past the troubles. Look for the Spirit in the midst of them. Lay hold of the life that is truly life.