The Christian Estimate of Affliction
2 Corinthians 4:17
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;…

There is a passionate intensity, a kind of extravagance, in these words, which we often notice in the utterances of the noble but impulsive apostle. High feeling, strained emotion, are often helpful in our religious experiences. They lift us, as on a great wave, over the bar of difficulty. They help us in the doing of duty, and they lighten the burden of our sorrow. Our hymns and sacred poems are often the expression of such high emotions as are only felt by the best of men in their best of times; but they are an inspiration and a joy to us, though they may be beyond our actual attainment. In this way we may get gracious help through our text. The context refers to ministerial troubles, but troubles are our common human lot, and if we had to choose what form they should take for us, we should make sad mistakes. Concerning the blessings wrought by affliction we have remarkable Scripture testimonies. Moses would rather "suffer affliction with the people of God than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season." David says, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now will I keep thy word." Solomon tells us that it is "better to go into the house of mourning than into the house of feasting." And the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews says that "whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." Our text suggests what estimate the child of God may and ought to make of afflictions, and he may judge them as regards weight, time, and influence.

I. AS TO THEIR WEIGHT. He may call them "light afflictions." This is apparently untrue. Surely Job, and Jacob, and Naomi, and David, and Martha and Mary could never call theirs "light afflictions." It is truly said that "no affliction for the present seemeth to be joyous but grievous." It seems impossible to call such a catalogue of woes as is given us in ch. 11:23-27 "light afflictions." And yet this is the deeper truth, and we may see that it is if we weigh our troubles in fair balances:

(1) in the balances of our deservings;

(2) in the balances of comparison with the sufferings of others; and

(3) in the balances of consequences, for out of sorrow comes spiritual health.

Both knowledge and faith may help us to call our affliction "light."

II. AS TO THEIR TIME. "But for a moment." This also is apparently untrue. Joseph cannot call those weary prison years "but a moment." The captives in Babylon, worn out with hope deferred, hung their harps upon the willows because they could sing no longer. They could not call their captivity "but for a moment." And we can never call "short" those dreadful six hours of agony borne by our Lord upon the cross. And yet this also is the deepest truth. In comparison with life itself it is. Our times of suffering are few, of joy are many; they lie together in something of the proportion of streams and fields. Then, too, it is the actual tact that in our suffering times only brief moments bring unbearable pain. And it is found that the worst pain is the least remembered; it passes, and we cannot even recall it, so as to suffer it over again in imagination. And earthly suffering is truly but for a moment if it be compared with the eternity of joy into which it leads us.

III. AS TO THEIR INFLUENCE. "Working a... weight of glory." It is as important that we should be prepared for the glory as that the glory should be prepared for us. St. Paul's idea of glory is what is done by affliction in the Christian himself. And amongst the things wrought in the Christian character and life we may note these.

1. Patience - the power to be quiet and wait.

2. Trust - the full committal of our keeping to God.

3. Holiness - the deliverance from the enslaving power of evil.

4. The sanctifying of human relationships, which nothing makes so tender and so true as does our sharing in common sorrows.

5. And the renewal of Christian activity; for affliction is the time when we may seriously review the past, and make earnest resolves for the days to come. - R.T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

WEB: For our light affliction, which is for the moment, works for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory;

Sanctified Affliction, its Tendency and Result
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