You’ve probably heard Paul’s encouraging words in 2 Corinthians 4:17 reminding us “that our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” It’s a reminder that the hardships we face here on earth really are small and temporary compared to our promised eternity with Christ.
“But while we are here among men with our sensitive hearts exposed to the chilly blasts of the unbelieving and uncomprehending world, it is imperative that we take a realistic view of things and learn how to deal with disadvantages. And it is important that we tell the whole truth to those we are endeavoring to win.” AW Tozer
Although not a specific response to that verse, the words of Tozer here elevate my heart a bit. Taken alone, Paul’s words are a bit of a hard pill to swallow. While being completely true, they beg the question ‘what about now?’ The Bible is clear that we aren’t just supposed to be hanging on until we get to heaven, scraping by while the world runs us over and leaves us for dead… not at all. We are to fight the good fight while keeping our eternal perspective. Paul understood this well and each earthly problem he encountered was kept in check by the weight of the truth of a far greater reward.
Those chilly blasts from the world hitting our human hearts… they hurt. We can’t prevent them, but we must be people who know how to handle them.
My husband coaches boys lacrosse a few times a week. He had a boy quit recently because he was being picked on by some fellow teammates. They were swiftly dealt with, he spoke to the team, and tried everything to get this kid to finish out the season, but his eleven year old heart just couldn’t handle it. Our hearts broke for him. We had an interesting talk about it all, wavering between two opinions: do you pull him out of a bad situation to protect him from these boys or make him stay and finish out the season and challenge him to stand up for himself? Not an easy answer.
As believers, we need to understand that the world is not always going to be on our side. In fact, if it is, there is probably something a little too worldly about us. Following full speed ahead after Jesus means bullies, harassers and general pain in the you know whats are going to hit us up at times. Jesus didn’t sugar coat things when He told us we would have to deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). Our hearts need to get accustomed to a harsh wind, not to the point of becoming hard, but they must become stronger.
Once a year, the hubs and I bike up (or try to bike up) Colorado’s infamous Mt. Evans. It’s a slow go, but it makes for some amazing scenery. At 11,000 feet, we reach my favorite point of the climb where the bristlecone pine trees are located. Most of them are over 1,000 years old and they are a sight. Twisted and contorted by wind and snow, they stand firm. They look completely absurd, but are the oldest and strongest living things around. Here’s my favorite:
Every time I puff my way up the hill, I am in awe of this thing. Oh the storms it has endured! As I look at it even now I can’t help but think how there are times we just need to stand our ground and grow deep roots. No, we aren’t going to look as elegant as the other trees, but the other trees wouldn’t last a second up there. Let’s be honest with ourselves and those we are trying to reach with the Gospel message. It’s not a cake walk. If you want easy, go to the hothouse where the delicate flowers are. They look awesome but they have to stay inside or else they wilt. As Christians we have to embrace the uncomfortable idea that we aren’t much use if we stay in the hothouse. We are created to withstand the winds, not alone, but under the wings of our Protector. I’m afraid we are learning that every uncomfortable circumstance is something to be avoided, but it’s not true. I know I run for the hothouse a little too often when God wants me to stand up to be winds.
His word tells us to keep an eternal perspective while fighting the good fight of faith here in this life. “In this world you will have trouble… but take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Jesus has deprived the world from its power to harm us. Paul’s message is more than a “chin up buttercup” encouragement to grin and bear it through hard times. His words remind us that though the winds blow, they can’t blow us over. Amazingly, that’s the “realistic view” Tozer was encouraging us to have. We don’t always get to escape difficulty, but we can avoid succumbing to it. The whole truth of carrying our cross includes cold winds, but it also includes them being used for our good!