“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.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
If this world is all there is, there is no reason to endure any amount of chronic suffering, particularly if we don’t have any reasonable expectation that it will end. That’s what we established the first time we examined these words. If this world is all there is, a great deal of what we do becomes meaningless. In fact, all of it does, but the hard stuff in particular. If this world is not all there is, however, everything changes.
If we are more than just bodies with minds, then there is a part of us that while certainly affected by the things we experience, isn’t necessarily affected in the same way as our bodies are. In particular, things that affect our bodies negatively, may not affect this other part of us in the same way. As a matter of fact, if there is a part to us that we can’t see—let’s call this part our spirit—then it could be that it can be healthy and even actively encouraged and strengthened while our physical bodies are wasting away.
As it turns out, that is exactly what Paul says here. For followers of Jesus, the major orthodox belief about the nature of people is that we are composed of both body and spirit. One is not more important than the other. Both are essential to what makes us human. But, whereas our body is temporary and frail, our spirits are eternal. We were created for eternity with God. The fall may have resulted in a curse on our bodies, but that curse did not extend to our spirits. They are affected by sin to be sure, but they weren’t cursed with death like our bodies were.
The result of all of this is that we can look on the trials and tribulations of diseases of various kinds in a way totally different from those around us who do not share in this belief. You see, while our outer selves may be wasting away, our inner selves, or spirits, can be renewed in Christ each day, becoming all the more prepared for the eternal life of the kingdom we have ahead of us.
This means that we can have hope for ourselves and even for others when we face chronic illness and pain. We hope in this eternal weight of glory that God is preparing for us in Christ Jesus.
Thus, we do not look to this world or the things we experience in it to measure our joy or peace. We look higher and further and bigger. We look to the kingdom of God and make certain that everything we do and experience is preparing us for life there. No matter what happens to our bodies or even our minds, if our spirits are in Christ, we can gain and grow every single day more into the people who will one day stand in the full and unmitigated presence of the almighty God, singing His praises and glorifying His name.
Therefore, when life brings hardships of various kinds, we stand firm. We stand firm because we know that what is seen is transient, but what is unseen is eternal and glorious. Let us look to the glorious and walk with confident boldness through the trials of this life to receive and live the life that is truly life.