When we suffer, it is helpful to keep the pain in perspective.
If we know something bad will be quick, then we put up with it much more easily. We assure the child who has to have an immunisation that the needle will be in and out in a moment. The prisoner counts down the days until his release to help him endure the confinement. The light at the end of a long tunnel helps the fatigued walker to press on to escape into the daylight.
So it’s not surprising that the Bible often encourages us to remember that our suffering in this world is for a short time.
The apostle Peter says: ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade– kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith– of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire– may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed’ (1 Pet. 1:3-7). This is a magnificent series of verses that have much to tell us about suffering and so I’ve quoted them in this series of articles on suffering before. But notice that Peter says that the suffering of ‘grief in all kinds of trials’ is only for a ‘little while’. He knows it is helpful to remember that suffering is only for a ‘little while’.
As the Psalmist says, even if the Lord is frowning on his people, we know that it will end. He says: ‘For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning’ (Ps. 30:5).
But what about those who seem to spend a lifetime in suffering? What about those who suffer from chronic illness and pain? What about those whose limbs are paralysed all their lives? What about those who live under a heavy-handed dictator who constantly oppresses his people?
The Bible reminds us that even a lifetime of suffering is only ‘a little while’ in the grand scheme of things. Paul says: ‘For our light and momentary troubles 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. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal’ (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
In comparison to eternity, whatever we suffer in this world is short. We cannot get our heads around eternity, but we can certainly try. What is 70 odd years of bodily pain compared to a million years of living in a perfectly healthy body? What is 80 years of tyranny to a billion years of sweet peace under a righteous and loving King?
So when your life is dominated by a particular pain, do you consider that, in all likelihood, no one on earth will remember your pain in a hundred years’ time? That you will have long passed into glory. Does that remind you to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus as the light at the end of every dark tunnel we ever pass through?