“Awaiting the Weight of Glory”
by Katie DelSignore
Beep, beep, beep. My alarm goes off, again. How many times had I hit snooze? Not because I’d actually been snoozing, but rather procrastinating that first movement that will bring a flood of pain with it and hang tightly onto me all day.
I’m 26 years old, living an incredibly blessed life with an amazing husband in a beautiful home I don’t deserve. Yet, degenerative disc disease has become my identity in more ways than I’d like to admit. Most people know this as a simple condition associated with aging, but in my case, it’s been plaguing me since I was 15, demobilizing my body more every year. It occupies much of my thought life, makes decisions on my behalf, and lurks in my body with every motion, reminding me that I can’t pick up that basket of laundry or bend to wash my face or sit at the piano for hours like I used to. I’ve taken everyone’s advice for how to get better, yet I’m worse. I just visited a doctor this week who said there are just some patients they can’t help. This is starting to sound like a pretty grand pity party, isn’t it?
But in the midst of all this…I’m thankful for this disease. No, I don’t have some weird obsession with pain. Yes, I would gladly give my right arm to be rid of it. In fact, most days I have to admit I wonder what it would be like to live without pain. But, without pain, I am sure of one thing: I surely would know nothing of God’s beautiful grace and very little of my ugly self-nature. My story of the past 12 years is not the story of a miraculous physical healing, although I expect one day soon it will be. My story is of a much deeper, ongoing miracle that occurs every day.
I’m the first to admit I have endured very little, next to nothing, in comparison with many Christians, perhaps even some of you reading this. I’m no expert on suffering – but God is, and I’m thankful He is my Instructor.
The apostle Paul, who endured extreme physical harm for the sake of the gospel, writes about his hardships in 2 Corinthians:
“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)
I love this passage because Paul is saying that his suffering is an advertisement for the resurrection life of Jesus at work within him. Because of his perseverance through hardship, people are drawn to the grace and glory of Jesus Christ. Paul is able to use his suffering to further the gospel! I have been praying for this outlook and spirit of faith to see suffering as a tool rather than torture.
This passage also shames me, because I fall so far short of Paul’s testimony. I’ve seen my true ugliness in complaining, questioning, and frustration with God. I’ve seen how quickly I can snap at my husband and blame the pain, and how self-seeking I can be with my time and energy. I’ve seen my lack of endurance and perseverance. I’ve also seen the beauty of God when He reaches out to me time and time again in love, showing that He has not forgotten or forsaken me. Even when I see the most despicable versions of myself, He still sees His child. Paul concludes this chapter by penning what has become one of the most precious exhortations to me in the entire Bible:
“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.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
It’s hard for me to fathom that Paul calls his suffering “light” and “momentary,” although it was horrific in seasons and lasted for many years. It is not some mind-over-matter trick that he is preaching here. Paul hurt just like we hurt. It’s unpleasant. But I believe the Lord expects us as Christians to possess a firm understanding of the eternal “weight of glory” we are going to receive because of the hard things He places upon us. In comparison to the eternal, spiritual character the Lord is working in me, this is nothing! In comparison to the wonderful and complete healing that will be in Heaven, it will be like disease never existed!
I wish I had already arrived. I wish I could say I have learned all my lessons and have mastered this “pain” thing. But I haven’t. And I know the Lord uses adversity as a schoolmaster, for ease and comfort are poor teachers. As Samuel Rutherford said, “When I am in the cellar of affliction, I look for the Lord’s choicest wines.” So friend, whatever your affliction may be today, do not lose heart. Look for the Lord’s choicest wines in the midst of your pain, and know that eternity is coming soon.