Daily Devotional: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
In 2 Corinthians, Paul sought to encourage the downtrodden believers of the church in Corinth. Paul begins his letter in chapter 1 acknowledging that there certainly is affliction that the church (2 Corinthians 1:6-10). Indeed, Paul details even his own affliction in Asia (verse 8) that was so severe that he and his companions despaired of lift itself. We don’t know what those afflictions were, but we do know that the affliction was beyond Paul’s ability to endure, and that only God could deliver them from such affliction (verse 10).
Paul uses this context to remind the Corinthians that they too will go through suffering and affliction, but even so Christians have the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (verse 4). God is himself our comfort. Even when we will share in Christ’s suffering (verse 5) we will also, through Christ, share abundantly in comfort too. Paul encourages his fellow believers that though they will share in suffering and affliction together, they will also share in the same comfort that come through salvation in Christ (verse 7).
What does this encouragement look like that would aid Paul, the Corinthian believers, and us believers today? How can Paul say, “So we do not lose heart” in 2 Corinthians 4:16? Paul reminds us that our current physical bodies are temporary and fleeting. “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” There is no escaping the fact that our current physical bodies are in decay; each day brings us closer to the day where our bodies will cease to be alive.
As I get older, this isn’t really surprising. Don’t we all feel the onset of age, the gradual decline of our physical abilities? Whether it is death by old age, by coronavirus, or by the severe affliction that Paul mentions in chapter 1, we will all eventually face death. The hope is not in our outer self that is wasting away, but in the inner self, the eternal soul that is being renewed day by day. There is a part of you and I that does not grow old. Our souls do not decay. For the Christian, it is daily renewed by God’s good work through Jesus Christ.
Finally, Paul makes it clear that this “light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (verse 17). It may not feel like it, but the suffering and affliction here on earth now, in our current physical bodies, is a very light and temporary one. They don’t compare to what they prepare us for, namely an eternal (never-ending) glory. What we will experience in heaven, with Christ and the Father, is a glory that will forever infinitely outshine the hardest hardship experienced here on earth.
Paul tells us that this happens when “we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (verse 18). We need to continually have our eyes affixed to this future hope, a hope that centers on Christ himself. 1 Peter 1:8-9 reads, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
One day we will see Christ, and in that vision we’ll rightly see the temporary nature of our affliction. Until then, I pray that the God of all comfort would bring you comfort as you look to Christ.