December 30, Year A

Inspired by 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

“So we do not lose heart.  Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NRSV)

Life isn’t easy.  Regardless of your religious faith, you will face pain, disappointment, loss, and sorrow at different times in your life.  Some take comfort in believing that God causes suffering for a good purpose known to him but hidden from us.  Others believe they know the reason God is afflicting them: he’s testing their faith and preparing them to be worthy for heaven.  Both approaches assume that the reward will come later, and all we have to do now is endure.

While this can help some to get through difficult times, it disregards the goodness and value of the world we live in.  Yes there is suffering and cruelty in this world, but there is also creativity and kindness.  Much of our suffering is, at its root, caused by the worship and pursuit of material things, not divine design, and all of these things are temporary.  But things like kindness, generosity, and mercy have effects that benefit us now and endure through eternity.  In this way we are being renewed in this life even as we prepare for eternal glory.  That glory is not a reward for how stoically we endure our suffering now, but a continuation of the grace of God that is, and that was, and that is to come.

Our lives are made up of a complicated web of the seen and the unseen.  Some of those things are temporary, and need not define us.  But whatever is good can lift us up today, and we can trust that it will last beyond the confines of this world.

Let us pray.  Eternal God, your eternal glory fills both heaven and earth.  Help us to recognize your presence in the midst of our difficult times, that we may be comforted and renewed in our spirits now, even as we look ahead to your future.  Through Christ our Lord, Amen.