For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.
In this one verse, there are three implicit contrasts: light and weight, momentary and eternal, affliction and glory. Our suffering in this world is light. It may not feel light to us. Indeed, it may be extremely painful, even overwhelming. But compared to the weight of glory that God has for us in heaven, all our suffering is light. Paul spoke from painful experience. Later in 2 Corinthians, he recounts his experience:
With far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers, in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”
(2 Cor. 11:23b-28)
That’s an incredible list. And yet Paul says that our affliction is light? Yes, light, compared to the glory that awaits us. It is light because it is momentary. However painful our troubles are, they won’t last. They won’t—they will end. But the glory of heaven, the glory of life with God in heaven, that will never end, for it is eternal.
In If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil, Randy Alcorn retells the story of Howard Hendricks, longtime professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, when he visited a leprosy center in India. He met a woman with leprosy who was remarkable. Even though she was partially blind and badly disfigured, Hendricks called her one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. Raising nearly fingerless hands to heaven, she exclaimed, “I want to praise God that I am a leper because it was through my leprosy that I came to know Jesus Christ as my Savior. And I would rather be a leper who knows Christ than be completely whole and a stranger to His grace.”
This woman got it. She understood suffering from God’s perspective. She understood that even extensive suffering here is light and momentary compared to the eternal weight of glory that awaits us in heaven. That glory is beyond all comparison. Heaven must be far richer than we can even begin to imagine.