A Momentary Affliction in Light of Eternity

Are You Desperate to Have All Things Made New?

All Christians, especially those who are suffering, should be daydreaming about eternity on a regular basis. I get that straight from the apostle Paul. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,” he wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:17–18, “as 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.” Translation: We’re supposed to spend our time thinking about eternal things. Dreaming of the new creation. Imagining the world to come.

Mostly poor and suffering people do that, while rich and comfortable people don’t. Whenever I travel in poorer parts of the world, I’m struck by how much more focus Christians have on the future in their songs, sermons, conversations, and prayers. In the United Kingdom (as in the United States), a lot of us have most of the things we want, so we’re not in a desperate hurry to have all things made new (except at funerals, when we suddenly start quoting from Revelation). In many countries, however, the brokenness of things is far more keenly felt, and the desire for renewal is stronger. It’s interesting, incidentally, that almost all forms of contemporary music—blues, jazz, soul, rock & roll, funk, rock, pop, hip-hop, R & B, and so on—trace their roots to the spirituals sung by suffering African slaves, most of which are Christian songs about a coming eternal age of justice and freedom. When you realize how wrong this world is, it makes you long for the next one.

When you realize how wrong this world is, it makes you long for the next one.

I’m not comparing myself to an African slave or anything. But I’ve certainly noticed that the harder things are, the more I wait, hope, and long for them to change. Difficulty, in other words, strengthens my understanding of the future. Suffering produces hope.

I daydream about having ordinary conversations with the children, in a world free of autism, epilepsy, and hyperactivity. In his beautiful description of the resurrection, Paul says that bodies that are currently perishable, dishonorable, and weak will be raised imperishable, in glory and power (1 Cor. 15:42–43). That means that Zeke and Anna, in the new creation, will have brains that are able to reason and talk as if autism had never existed. They’ll be able to empathize, understand social cues, sit quietly thinking, and imagine what it’s like to be somebody else. I daydream about that. I imagine sitting around a dinner table with them, only instead of cajoling them into eating a cracker, I’ll be sharing wine with them, talking about why they like it, hearing them make jokes, and asking them about their travel plans.

I daydream about friends of ours and their children. For obvious reasons, a disproportionate number of children we know have special needs. Many of them can’t feed themselves, walk, or talk. Yet! But we know how the story ends, as expressed beautifully in “Joy to the World”:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.1

"Far as the curse is found.” Like the spring thaw, turning sheets of ice into fresh running water, the power of God will extend to every square inch of this world and turn every curse into a blessing. The tube-fed will enjoy home cooking. The wheelchair bound will go waterskiing and climb mountains. Those who cannot speak will sing and describe and discuss. There will be no need for words like “syndrome” or “degenerative” and no place for DNA testing, Epilim, Ritalin, hydrotherapy, or physical therapy. “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust”—fallen, broken Adam—so “we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Cor. 15:49). We will have resurrected bodies, just like that of Jesus, bodies that can eat, cook, walk, talk, laugh, barbecue, and socialize, and yet somehow rise indestructible, teleport at will, never grow old, and never decay. O autism, where is your victory? O cerebral palsy, where is your sting?

We Shall See Face to Face

I daydream about being free from sin. Much of the struggle for me (probably like all Christian parents) is the ongoing reality of, and frustration with, my own sin. It feels so much a part of me that it’s hard to imagine life without it, but that is the future I’m heading toward: a day in which I am patient and kind, not selfish, not angry, not envious or arrogant, not irritable or bitter, but in which I believe all things, hope all things, endure all things (see 1 Cor. 13:4–7). One day I will love, forever. One day I will be like Jesus, forever. I’m not sure Rachel will recognize me—but I suspect she’ll think that’s a trade-off worth making.

The Life We Never Expected

Andrew Wilson, Rachel Wilson

This touching memoir by two parents recounts the highs and lows of raising children with special needs, ultimately directing readers to the God who promises us peace and joy, even in the midst of trials.

I daydream about the new world imagined by Isaiah and Amos and Paul: freedom from futility, with abundance everywhere, the mountains flowing with sweet wine, every house having its own vineyard, and the ground producing crops so fast that the ploughman overtakes the reaper. Perhaps the oceans will turn fresh. Perhaps we’ll be able to see all the stars. Perhaps the dead planets outside our solar system will spring into glorious life. Oddly, postapocalyptic movies always depict the world as bleaker, emptier, and grayer than the one we have now, but biblically speaking, it’s the opposite way around: the world to come will have a fruitfulness, a palette of color, a sparkle to it that our current world only hints at. It’s like what C. S. Lewis says at the end of The Last Battle: “The reason why we loved the old Narnia so much is because it sometimes looked a little like this.”2 Further up and further in.

And I daydream about seeing him. For all the excitement of seeing a world in which death has been swallowed up in victory and all that goes with it—exploring, flying, talking to Zeke and Anna in a new way—the centerpiece is always Jesus. Revelation 21 pictures the return of Christ as a wedding, and for all the decorations and flowers, clothes and hats, food and champagne you get at weddings, the bride and the groom are really only interested in each other. On that day, he will be at the center, and all else will fade into the background, like stars eclipsed by the rising sun. Now we see as through a glass darkly; then we shall see face to face. I can only imagine.

Daydreaming about eternity is a great habit to develop while we wait. This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory that is beyond all comparison. For what is seen is transient; what is unseen is eternal.

This article is adapted from The Life We Never Expected by Andrew and Rachel Wilson.

1. Isaac Watts, “Joy to the World” (1719).
2. C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle (New York: Harper Collins, 1956), 216.

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