"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer man is wasting away, our inner man is being renewed every day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."
Lord, thank you for everything, even this suffering. I feel as though I am wasting away, but you renew me daily. Although my heart is in pain, I will not be discouraged. This suffering is but a slight, momentary affliction that is preparing me for heaven with you! Glory beyond all comparison! What I experience now is earthly and passing; I take my hope in you, my eternal Father in heaven. Give me grace to persevere now with joy and thanksgiving. Amen.
These two verses are by far my favorite in all of Scripture. So we do not lose heart. St. Paul's encouragement is beautiful and moving. He identifies with the suffering that comes from feeling everything is wasting away and nothing is worthwhile. His words cut through the despair to bring hope, reminding us of the eternal glory waiting for us at the end of our lives!
However, St. Paul does not simply say that we should tough it out because heaven is better, and life is always hard. Instead, he enters into the reality of human suffering and shines the light of the Holy Spirit on it, putting it all into perspective. He acknowledges the reality of suffering but reminds us that God is forming us into better people and strengthening our faith.
Many times we do not overcome great difficulties and past hurts until we can truly be grateful for them. The hard part is that this requires us to take a step back and try to see with the eyes of God. According to Scripture, we know that "in everything God works for good with those who love him" (Romans 8:28), so what good is coming from this suffering? How is He bringing good fruit from unfortunate circumstances?
In my own life, I have experienced my fair share of pain, suffering, fear, and shame. I don't know if anyone ever really escapes this life without it. In the hardest moments of my healing process, this scripture passage and the constant habit of thanksgiving are what sustained me each day. And that's definitely all that I could handle - one day at a time. I didn't even try to tackle having hope for years to come because that was just too big of a mountain to fathom. It was every day, every morning, every night, reading these verses over and over again until I almost believed them, and thanking God continually for what I did have, that made the pain and suffering bearable.
Eventually, I didn't have to thank God for everything else I had in life that was good. I could thank Him for the suffering itself because I could see how my faith was growing exponentially faster than if I had never experienced it. A priest once said, "God works all things for the good, and sometimes He will bring an even greater good from evil than if the evil had never been committed in the first place." How amazing! How merciful! He takes our worst moments, our worst sins, our worst failings, and uses them precisely to show the greatness of His love.
So do not lose heart in your suffering, and seek the good that God is doing through it. It will change everything.