The best is yet to come. These words have stayed with me throughout my life, ringing in my ears whenever I think about suffering, especially long suffering.
I’ve never really liked the verse about “light momentary affliction.” It seemed like Paul was making fun of our trials, saying that they weren’t really all that bad.
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” 2 Corinthians 4:17, ESV
I’ve been sick a very long time-most of my teen years (I’m 18), and since we don’t know when I contracted Lyme disease, maybe much of my childhood. I’m very good at being sick. I know how to preserve enough energy so I can walk to the restroom, how to simplify an answer down to one word if I can’t speak for lack of breath, how to save my “spoons” with a blank faced expression-you wouldn’t think it, but you really can be too exhausted to smile.
But I’m not very good at being well. In fact, feeling good actually scares me.
Any time I have a short burst of energy, I’m so excited that I tend to overdo it and crash the next day. I hate this, so I am always calculating my “spoon” levels-how much can I possibly get done? Do I have energy to walk to the garage fridge, or would it be better to send my sister?
I’m scared of the future, scared of my dreams-what if they’d don’t come true?-and if they do, will I be able to handle it?
I’m scared to call my friends-what if I’m too tired to talk and end up silently listening instead of sharing my heart?
Most people don’t know that I will only phone friends I deeply care about. If you’re one of the people I’ve given energy to call, well, congratulations. You’re extremely important to me.
I’ve been ill for so long I’ve started to fear health. Being sick is comfortable. It’s no longer a frightening unknown but familiar-take the pills, soak your feet, take the herbs, put your feet up, take the pills, sit in the sun, take the pills, cook healthy food, take the pills, sleep, repeat.
Ever since I read Paul speak of “this light momentary affliction,” I was a bit cynical. Of course, thinking of eternity, it is probably light. But that doesn’t change the pain I’m experiencing now.
In A Place of Healing, Joni Eareckso Tada speaks of this same dilemna. On the anniversary of the accident that paralyxed her from the neck down, she and friends gathered and read John 5:2-6.
“Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” ”
Scripture says Jesus was not only moved by the hardship of lameness, but the sheer length of his suffering. Reading Joni’s words about this passage, I too was moved.
“The Lord of the universe who lives outside the confines of time, the Alpha and the omega, the Beginning and the End, who existed before time began-this Jesus feels that living without the use of your legs for thirty-eight years is a long time.” (A Place Of Healing, Joni Earekson Tada, pages 97-98.)
She goes on to share that God does have compassion on our sense of the length of time.
A long, light, momentary affliction.
Light? Somethimes I wonder. It doesn’t seem very light, when day after day there’s a new development-since we were “unhomed” (my doctor’s words) by mold, five days out of seven contain a small disaster.
But I don’t think Paul meant to downplay our suffering here on earth. It is heavy. Paul himself spoke of hardships with clear calculation. He wasn’t downplaying suffering but upplaying the vastness of eternity.
Whenever my days are especially difficult, I close my eyes and picture my own spot in Heaven. A great, tick-free wilderness-it will be just me and the Lord the first thousand years. I think it might take that long for me to really drink in and know that I’m fine. Maybe not-maybe I will know right away, but for now I’m enjoying the thought of a thousand acres of forest and meadow and worship, without medicine breaks.
The best is yet to come. As we endure the small troubles of shoulder rubbing and lack of camper storage, dreaming of the home we’ll build and trying to build up health to enjoy it with, we remember: the best is yet to come.
There will be ticks at the new farmhouse. There will be broken friendships, sins gripping our hearts, lost love, hurtful words, hardships to overcome, someday even deaths to grieve.
The best is yet to come.
I’m a beauty loving pessimist. I used to be an optimist for sanity but I think I lost my sanity somewhere along this journey. Now I temper my perception of the good with the bad. Sometimes I forget about the good in worrying about the bad.
The best is yet to come.
Maybe you think it’s odd for a teenager to think so long on the suffering she will face. It probably isn’t very healthy. But I’ve been given much more time than most my age to reflect.
I don’t have a rosy view of the future anymore. I know there will be cool blue days, tepid yellow times, red seasons of hot emotion, white flashes of clarity, as well as the temporary rising of a rosy sun. I know that feelings fade and relationships must be built on commitment.
I’m not wise. I’ve just been brought up through hardship.
As difficult as my life has been, I’m not so naive as to think I’ve had it worse than anyone. As we prepared our home for sale, my father hired a young man to help us. He was recently miraculously adopted from a country with no adoption policies. Sitting at the dinner table, he shared that families in his homeland never eat together. There is no true love-even your friends may hurt you. Apparently it is considered a great joke to set fire to your friend’s foot if you catch him napping.
“People do not smile in my country.”
“Families do not eat together in my country.”
“People do not nap in my country.”
I’ve always been blessed by a family who cared. We trust and value each other. We’re far from perfect and have our squabbles and arguments and even quarrels, but it all comes from a base of love and respect. We help each other. We give up our wants for each other. If someone is sick, we serve them.
I thank God for the gifts and the suffering. They come together in my world. The blessings are so intertwined with the poundings that I don’t separate them anymore. It’s just life to me now.
The best is yet to come.
How can we bear the unbearable? Only by setting our eyes upon Heaven and knowing that whatever the weight of sorrow, the weight of glory will be oh, so worth it can we survive long suffering.
I may sink so low I have no thought of rising. I may even fear the healing because I don’t remember how to act normally anymore. But even if I make a thousand socially awkward mistakes, I can rest: the best is yet to come.
There isn’t a hurt that the hope of Heaven won’t cure.
Whatever brings tears to my eyes will be washed away.
Somehow, I believe the suffering prepares us uniquely for glory. When life is good you just accept it. When things are going well you just enjoy or take it for granted. But when the things you used to expect or think of as your right are taken away, then you truly appreciate them.
After my brother’s yearlong bout with rare kidney cancer, we found that even his irritating quirks were precious in light of his possible death. Even now, a healthily loud twelve year old, we can look back and realize: he could be dead now.
That’s true of anything and anyone in your life. It could be gone. They could be dead.
I remember an acquaintance bringing a meal during one of those hard cancer weeks. She looked around at our home, seeing the care with which we’d decorated, the homeschool material, the cooking equipment. “Doesn’t it all seem so empty now?”
My mother was taken aback. Most cancer parents would have glanced at the home and said, “Yes, it’s just stuff. People are so much more important.”
But she didn’t. Instead she cast her eyes over the home, the place we’d loved and grown and lived, and with a catch in her throat, she replied, “Actually, it makes it all more beautiful.”
Knowing that temporal things will pass away makes you appreciate even the most shallow blessings. You savor every bite of ice cream-not because it’s so valuable, but because you’re with the people you love and because it’s a blessing, for goodness’ sake! Suffering doesn’t have to make everything bland and worthless.
We appreciate it more. We know it’s a gift from our Heavenly Father to remind us that as beautiful as this life is now, the best is yet to come.
So I will raise my tired eyes from the hurt to the hope.
The best is yet to come.