“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.”
2 Cor 4
And some of the detail of that suffering?
“Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.
2 Cor 11
So what’s Paul’s view of this?
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
2 Cor 4
We need to get an eternal perspective on what is going on; too often we conform to the world’s expectations, and see God as the way to get an easy ride through our human life. Two things tend to follow:
We can drift into self pity when things go wrong, getting focused on ourselves instead of God and what He is trying to do. An extra downside of this is that He may have to shout louder if we don’t get it the first time.
We lose sight of what is important in God’s perspective, and become focused on relieving the physical sufferings of the world at the cost of offering salvation.
Of course we can go too far the other way and lack all sympathy for those who are suffering. Yet the present attitude of much of the church seems to be making this mistake; we can end up offering earthly medicines, not true salvation. We end up being so earthly minded that we are no longer of any heavenly use.
As ever of course this is a matter of balance; of course it is good for Christians to offer medical care. The question that needs to be there below the surface is whether we are getting the balance right, because it is easy to let the world’s expectations encourage us to focus on what the world regards as valuable, not on what God sees as valuable.