This World But a ‘Light Affliction’

Posted on February 18, 2021

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By David Ettinger

This blog is a followup to yesterday’s, Never Lose Heart, Christian

Callous Paul?
Think of the worst day you ever endured. Think of the worst sorrow you ever suffered. Think of the worst pain you ever felt. Think of the worst injustice you ever experienced.

Bad, wasn’t it? Yet, if you were to share these painful memories with the apostle Paul, he would categorize them as but “light affliction.” Seems rather callous of him, doesn’t it? Put that way, yes, but in context, Paul’s “light affliction” is comforting truth!

Another Layer
We find this phrase in 2 Corinthians 4:17: “For our momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.”

In verse 16, Paul talked about how though life is exceedingly difficult, Christians are not to lose heart because though we suffer in the flesh, our spirits are being renewed daily.

Paul then adds another layer of significance to this reality in verse 17. He tells us that something so wonderful awaits us that by comparison it will make the suffering we experience here on Earth but a glitch on the way to eternal bliss. One would hardly call human suffering a “glitch,” but this is what the phrase “light affliction” roughly means in this context.

Play on Words
To drive home his point, Paul employs several play on words. Though he penned 2 Corinthians in Greek, he referemces the Hebrew word for “glory,” which is kabod, from the root word for “heavy,” kabed.

Therefore, the word “glory,” when referring to God, speaks of heaviness, something weighty. In this case, the glory of God is “heavy” in magnitude.

In Paul’s theology, the ultimate glory awaiting Christians is the receiving of our permanent, glorious resurrection bodies. Such glory is so “heavy” and “weighty” in magnificence that while we still exist in our decaying flesh, we cannot even fathom it.

Paul has this incomprehensible “heavy” or “weighty” glory in mind when he contrasts it with our current earthly circumstances. For where our future heavenly glory is filled with heaviness and weight, so our afflictions now are merely “light” – not weighty at all!

The Greek word for “light” is elaphron, meaning “light in weight,” “easy to bear.” So no, while in these mortal bodies our sufferings are anything but “light,” in context of the coming “heavy” eternal glory awaiting us, they are entirely bearable, a pothole on the road to paradise.

And not only this, but Paul goes one step further by referring to our “light affliction” as “momentary.” The Greek word for “momentary” is parautika, meaning “brief,” “for a slight moment,” or “on the spot (right here and now).”

Living with body-ravaging disease for 20 years, or mourning the loss of a loved one for 30 years hardly seems “momentary” or “brief,” but in contrast to the unimaginable “heavy” glory that awaits us, this is indeed what our earthly sufferings amount to.

Summed Up
Though Paul suffered greatly for his faith (2 Corinthians 11:22-33), he always had his mind on eternity. He summed this up richly at the end of his life when he wrote, “in the future there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day” (2 Timothy 4:8). And wonderfully, he added, “and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

Paul was talking about me, you, and all who put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

May we embrace Paul’s majestic teaching, grateful that the “heaviness” of the glory awaiting us will make the suffering we now experience but a “momentary, light affliction”!