Trials -- How to Thrive, Not Just Survive

An open secret. Clearly confused. Act naturally. Found missing.

These phrases are known in literary circles as oxymoron (or oxymora), a figure of speech in which seemingly contradictory terms appear together. 

Here are a few more to make your brain hurt: rolling stop, unbiased opinion, seriously funny, and minor crisis.

I coined an oxymoron of my own during a trying time in our family life – peacefully panicked

If you’ve ever lived through a crisis that turned your world upside down, yet experienced God’s peace in the midst of it, you understand peaceful panic. 

And if you’ve suffered through a tragedy or trial as a believer (maybe you’re living through one right now), then you understand how contradictory the apostle Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 4:17 is: 

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” 

 A “light affliction”? 

The Greek word Paul uses here to describe his trials (which included being stoned, shipwrecked, imprisoned, and flogged), means a “weightless trifle.” 

I don’t know about you, but if I’d been stoned, shipwrecked, imprisoned, and flogged, I wouldn’t describe my trials as a “weightless trifle.” I’d use words like overwhelming, oppressive, and devastating. 

At least he gets the “trouble” part right. The Greek word Paul used for trouble refers to “intense pressure.” Like the mythological Atlas carrying the entire world on his shoulders. If you’ve experienced life-threatening sickness, death, financial ruin, relational strife, or heartbreak, you understand this type of pressure. The type that squeezes you in a vise from which there is no escape. 

This contradictory combination, a “weightless trifle of intense pressure” creates the oxymoron. 

How can Paul describe his life this way when trouble and tragedy stains every step? 

The second half of verse 17 explains: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” 

“Weight” in Paul’s original language means “a heavy mass.” The weight of a skyscraper. Or a thousand skyscrapers. The weight of the sea (including the whales that live in it). Or the moon. Or all the rocks in the Grand Canyon. 

Paul knows that his "light" afflictions are far outweighed by the scale-breaking weight of glory that awaits him because of what he’s suffered. Under God’s inspiration, Paul deliberately chose this oxymoronic description of his (and our) trials to communicate a life-altering truth: no matter how devastating the trials of our lives are, they are weightless and brief in light of the heavy mass of glory they’re enabling us to accumulate in eternity. 

The secret to living with our feet in this world and our eyes on the next is this: 

“. . . we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal,” (v. 18). 

This is our hope – and the power to face each day of trial and tribulation, heartbreak and pain, struggle and fear, “weightless trial of intense pressure.” We can rest in the knowledge that while this day’s troubles are real, the promise of a trouble-free eternity full of glory is equally real, yet infinitely longer. This truth provides an anchor to cling to when the storms of life threaten to drown us. 

If your life feels more like intense pressure and less like weightless trifle, take heart. You will not only survive, but thrive, because God’s presence surrounds you and an exceeding and eternal weight of glory awaits you. 

Now it’s your turn. How has the promise of eternity sustained you during an overwhelming trial? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts. If you’re reading by email, click HERE to visit Hungry for God online and leave a comment.

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