It’s All ‘Light and Momentary’

This past weekend, as my family sat down to dinner, I put my seven-year-old son’s plate down in front of him and returned to the refrigerator to get that most necessary of dinner accoutrements…ketchup. Tragically, I found that the bottle had been “helpfully” returned to our refrigerator absolutely empty. (Grrr!)

Battling back my desire to know who had committed this egregious lapse in long-established household protocol, I instead headed to our walk-in pantry to retrieve the mandatory Back-Up Bottle. Experienced moms generally know that you absolutely must never allow your home to run out of the essentials: toilet paper, milk, bread, eggs, Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup, and of course, ketchup.

Everyone knows that ketchup is great with chicken nuggets and hamburgers. But for those of you who may be unaware, ketchup is an amazingly flexible addition to many foods. Apparently, it goes just as well with apples as it does with French fries, and I’ve learned that I should never expect our young son to consume vegetables minus this key ingredient.

On that sorrowful day, there was no Back-Up Bottle in the pantry. No back-up anywhere in the house. Absolutely crestfallen, my son was forced to eat his dinner without his favorite condiment. For him, that was the very definition of a bad day.

Being asked to live through a single meal without drowning everything in ketchup doesn’t seem like much of a trial, however, to adults who have lived through tougher days. We smile at the sweet naiveté of a child in moments such as this; most of us can look back on the things that upset us in childhood and readily recognize that, by comparison to adulthood, life was never easier or more carefree than when we were kids. It’s all a matter of life experience changing our perspective.

As a believer, we can experience that same paradigm shift in our thinking about life this side of heaven when we look forward to a life eternally lived in relationship with Christ. Admittedly, there’s a lot to consider in that last sentence, so maybe an example would help to clarify.

Before becoming a believer, I would have told you that the worst thing I could ever imagine living through would be the sexual betrayal of a husband. The pain, rejection and broken trust that is part of that kind of experience was not something for which I could ever imagine forgiving someone. While I’ve not had to live through that, I have in the last ten years come alongside several women who have had to face that kind of painful reality, and who chose not to leave their husbands but to forgive them and work through that experience to repair their marriages.

Why on earth would a person choose to stay with a spouse who cheated? Though Jesus never taught that spouses are expected to divorce in the face of gross sexual immorality, He clearly taught that divorce under those circumstances is permitted (Matthew 19:1-9). Why, then, do the hard, slow, painful work of confessing anger, forgiving sin, and rebuilding trust, when one has both biblical authority alongside so many other culturally-acceptable choices?

For many women I have spent time with, it was their trust in God (not necessarily their spouse) and desire to follow His lead that prompted a desire to choose the harder road. And what comes with that faith in a God who is bigger than even the biggest, most painful problems is a life-changing shift in perspective as we consider that this life is not all that there is. We have more than our happiness in this life to consider. We have eternity to consider; when our short life of even 80 years is laid next to the endless days of eternity, our most painful experiences – and believe me, I understand that the pain is very real – begin to pale in comparison, much like a single plate of food without the requisite dollop of ketchup, compared to a lifetime of meals with limitless condiments. The ability to choose the hard-but-faithful path is made “easier” (or at least bearable) by an eternal perspective.

I suspect that if I had mustered the wit to bargain effectively my child – if he could contentedly get through one dinner without ketchup, I would make sure he would not have to live through that kind of trial ever again – he might have been able to enjoy his meal knowing that happier days were on the horizon.

God gives us a promise exactly ike that, and He is far more capable of following through than I am.

God tells us that this life is so very brief (James 4:14; Psalm 103:15-18; 1 Peter 1:24). Though we live with the reality that there is pain in this life, all of it will be nothing compared to the delight of living with Him forever (2 Corinthians 4:17-18), where He promises us no more tears, no more sorrow or pain (Revelation 21:4).

If we really trust God’s very great promises, we will find (over time) that His change in our perspective can shrink very real, very painful – but very temporary – trials in this life. We can trust God, even through the deepest of heartaches this life can bring. From eternity, as we behold and live alongside the glory of the risen Lord, our most painful seasons – divorce, death, illness, betrayal – will increasingly come to appear as an evening meal served without ketchup.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV)
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.

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