sorrow

Permanent, Invisible Things

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The year was 1951. It was Valentine's Day and I (Ted Smith) was 3 ½ years old. My two brothers, Dick (11 yrs old), and Gary (7 yrs old), had just come home from a Cub Scout Party. Our family farm situated on the west shore of West Grand Traverse Bay, about five miles out from town. The frigid February temperatures had just put a thin film of ice over the whole bay. My two brothers, and a neighbor boy, were excited about the new ice and without saying a word to my parents; they left the safety of the farmyard and headed across the road to the bay. When my dad discovered they had gone down to the bay he went running after them.....but it was too late.

My dad nearly drowned that day! He searched desperately for the boys, repeatedly falling into the frigid water as the in the hole in the ice got larger and larger. The three of them were gone….forever. As I grew up in our home I heard many stories about the boys, about that horrible day, about “loss,” and what life was like from mom and dad.

The life of the Christian has many blessings. It’s important to have a thankful heart. But, if we’re honest, we’ll admit that the even though we’re endeavoring to follow Christ in this life, we who have placed our hope and trust in God also have our share of pain, grief and loss. Unexpected events can arise that shake us to the core and leave us wondering what happened. Was God asleep? Am I a crazy? Did I miss some important bit of instruction about life?

I suspect that every one of us could tell of events that have shaken our world. I’ve known more than one believer who has turned away from following Christ because they could not regain their sense of stability following the pain or loss that came their way.

 For my parents, their faith in Christ and the support of their local church family  kept them "putting one foot in front of the other." What  my sister Judy and I witnessed, first-hand, was not not “running from God,” but a purposeful “running to God.” From what I observed, my parents did just what Paul talks about in his letter to the Corinthians.

 Paul gives a perspective for handling this earthly life while waiting for the promised, eternal life. He draws on his own experience of suffering, and gives them answers to questions that still arise. We’re followers of Christ…but we still live this earthly and sometimes painful existence. How do we handle the difficulties and disappointments that arise?

Paul has just finished saying that “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9) After establishing the trials they faced, he adds:

“Therefore we do not lose heart; though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

The “eternal weight of glory” refers to the splendor, the magnificence, the honor, and the happiness of the eternal world, the world that has been promised to those who have been reconciled to God through forgiveness of sins and faith in Jesus Christ. There is an eternity in the presence of God that is prepared for those who love Christ. Something about this “looking at things not seen,” looking at God in the midst of -- and in spite of -- the pains and sorrows that come our way, opens the way and brings us into an “eternal weight of glory.” The Bible captures the beauty of this promise in the next chapter:

 “For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven; inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord — for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-7 )