“Therefore, being always of good courage,
and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord –
we walk by faith, not by sight –
be are of good courage, I say,
and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.
Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.”
2 Corinthians 5:6-9
Lots of “therefores”! What are they “there for”? The verse before this passage reminds us that God purposed us for eternity in heaven and that He “…gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.” Therefore, since we have this pledge, this promise of eternity with God, we should be of good courage in spite of our earthly condition. 2Corinthians 4:16- 5:5 is speaking about suffering in our earthly bodies and reminds us that we are to look to the eternal not to the temporal. Our “Right Now” serves a purpose, but it is just the end to the means, not the means itself. Suffering is a part of being human. Suffering as a Christian is part of being born again. What Satan means for evil, God will use for good as Joseph reminded us in Genesis. Suffering is from the unholy one. It is part of the curse because of Satan’s disobedience and rebellion. He is the ruler of this age and suffering is His weapon. For those who don’t know Christ Jesus, suffering is an excuse to keep them from God. For Christians, sufferings are to remind us that we are not of this world and that we have a better place awaiting us for all eternity.
Now, we are called to live as if this is true. If we understand that physical and emotional suffering is from Satan and that God will use it for our good – to prepare us for our eternal destiny – then we can take courage, look to the finish line and make it through victoriously. That brings us to the next “therefore”. If we understand that suffering is only for a moment, then we can take courage and we can live with our ambition to be pleasing to God. What does that look like? It is a journey of maturing. It is not fighting against the suffering, but rather accepting it and allowing God to walk with you through it. For me it often means finding contentment in being alone and in bed in pain. And yes, that is possible! Because I know that God could raise me up pain free but has chosen not to, then I trust Him that the suffering is preparing me for His eternal purpose for my life. Therefore, I rejoice. I rejoice that I can lay there and be in the presence of my God. I rejoice that my ecstasy of heaven will overshadow and cast out memories of the pain. I rejoice that I can trust a God who is good and who will care for me. It means surrender – giving up my selfish ambitions and looking to be pleasing to God in the midst of the circumstances.
I can’t always change my circumstances, but I can change my attitude and my responses. This requires prayer, surrender, trust, rejoicing, and contentment. And, I remind you again, this is a journey. Do I always feel like praising God through the pain? No. But when I do choose to spend my time in praise, then I am pleasing God. My prayer for each of you today is that no matter what circumstances you find yourself in that you would strive to seek God, follow God, and rejoice in that relationship to the point of rejoicing in your suffering. I wish that I could wish away your suffering, but I can not. Better that I pray that God will meet you there and that you will be faithful until the end of this life and the glorious entry into the next.