“Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
As I write this, my youngest son has strep throat. He threw up at school yesterday just before it was time to go home. We were able to get him in to see the doc before they closed for the weekend. He threw up again there. And again in the car on the way home. And again before bed. And he fought us to take his medicine. Oh, did he fight us. And then he got us up at 2:30 the following morning for the day. It was a miserable few days. If you are a parent, you likely know exactly what I’m describing. Our bodies are weak things. Some days it feels like they are falling apart faster than others.
This same tension is a little like what Paul was describing here to the Corinthian church. The thing about our bodies is that they don’t last. Some take care of them better than others and so they hold up longer—just yesterday my doctor reminded me that I need to be exercising more than I am—but as Solomon might have written in Ecclesiastes, exercise is futile even if temporarily beneficial as our bodies eventually wear out no matter how good we care for them. Sometimes the healthiest people in the world have unexpected health issues that cut their lives short in spite of or sometimes even because of the exercise they pursue.
If this life were all there was, it would be hard to conclude that taking care of our bodies is worth it. The ultimate futility of it would be hard to overcome. Yet there are many committedly secular folks who are seeking meaning in activity and exercise. It may give them purpose for a time, but it is not strong enough to sustain the weight of our lives.
More than that, if this life is all there is, we have no reason to endure or even watch someone else endure through any kind of chronic issue. My grandmother recently passed away. Most of the last 20 years of her life were marked by excruciating pain from a variety of back and nerve issues. The last half of her life was marked by her mind gradually giving out as well. If this life is all there is, her journey was a meaningless waste of 20 years. There is a reason the assistance in dying movement is growing so popular in the most secular parts of the world. The Western world doesn’t believe anyone should live with any kind of suffering, a belief that is gradually being extended even to children. The direction and implications of this movement are terrifying, but it continues because the dominant worldview doesn’t have any alternative to it.
But if there is something more, then what Paul says next carries a whole lot of weight. It doesn’t just carry weight, it has the power to completely transform the way we think about the various trials and struggles we face in this life. We’ll talk about that next time.