Momentary Light Afflictions

Have you ever seriously thought about what comes after life? For Christians it will be in heaven, but how long will that be? I’m not sure if we will experience time the way we do now, but imagine if we did. What is the best we can do to envision infinity or eternity? We’re not capable of grasping such concepts. I think the best we can do is comparisons. I think that’s why the bible uses them. Peter compared our experience of a day and 1000 years as interchangeable with God. That’s quite a difference.

Compared to eternity, how long is our life? It’s like a thimbleful of water missing from the ocean. Significant in relation to the container, but less impressive when compared to the ocean. Our lifespan is likened to a breath or a vapor. It is fleeting. As I grow older, each season seems to pass faster. I can’t imagine how they will seem from the perspective of 70 years, let alone 1000.

I can scarcely remember the last time I was sick. At the time, I’m sure it was miserable and it consumed my thoughts. But now, looking back in the context of time, it wasn’t that big a deal.

Our schooling is similar. Some go for a dozen years, others for many more. It seems interminable while you’re in the midst of it, but looking back it seems a distant memory.

I wonder if we shouldn’t look at life that way. Some good experiences, some bad ones – but all valuable lessons.

The bible is book-ended with images of our reigning with God. In Genesis 1, God says he will make people in his image so that they may rule over creation. Rev 22 says that there will be a new Eden where we will serve God and reign with him forever and ever. From the beginning of the bible to the end, there is this theme of God’s intent for us. Our final destiny. If we are to reign, it seems that it might be good for us to get some training. Paul says in Romans, that we should exult in our tribulations, because they bring perseverance and character. Those would be useful attributes!

Look at how Paul characterizes life when writing to the Corinthians. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our momentary light afflictions are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Momentary light afflictions? That goes by so fast, we often don’t see it. He calls the troubles in our life momentary light afflictions. That includes addiction, abuse, death, disease, divorce, suffering… all of it. He’s not minimizing the reality of the pain. He’s striking a contrast.

It’s hard to see the big picture when you’re in the middle of it. Could it be that we are trainees? Could we see our time here as an investment rather than a burden? Rather than focusing on the misery, I wonder if we wouldn’t do better to imagine God’s perspective. Mr Miyagi didn’t assign Daniel-san meaningless tasks, though that is how he experienced them. Wax on, wax off… are you serious?! Sanding floors, refinishing fences, painting your house? C’mon God – I mean Mr. Miyagi – what’s the point of all this? I came here to learn karate, he shouts. Miyagi just looks on and smiles knowingly. Is it possible that the pointless tragedies we experience aren’t so pointless? Maybe they are helping someone. Maybe they are burning away something in us. Maybe they are teaching a lesson that we don’t realize we are learning.

Eternity is a long time. One day I suspect we will see our seventy-odd years of internship as momentary light affliction.

What do you think?