But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us… Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 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 Corinthians 4:7, 16-18 NIV)
Life can really wear you out sometimes, can’t it? We work so hard to try to better ourselves and to make the world a better place for our families, but some days, it just looks like we aren’t making a difference at all. It’s enough to make you wonder if it’s worth the effort.
What is it that wears us out when the problems of the world overwhelm us?
Everyone’s situation is different, of course. It seems to me, though, that the things that often trouble us the most usually aren’t even happening to us directly. The problems that are too much for us to bear weren’t even supposed to be our own personal burdens. We barely have enough strength to get through the trials that life hands us, but we can’t seem to keep from taking on extra baggage as well.
Why do we do this?
Can we just call this what it is?
It’s fear that gives birth to worry. You worry when you see angry mobs rioting on the news, but is there an angry mob outside your house right now? (Of course, if there IS an angry mob outside your house, you have an actual problem, and should stop reading this blog and take action to protect yourself.)
My point is that we worry ourselves into exhaustion and despondency about things that aren’t even happening where we are. Yes, they are happening in the world, and they are real, but if we’re not in a position to directly solve the problem, it’s not our problem.
Now please don’t misunderstand what I mean by “not our problem.” I am not saying that we shouldn’t be concerned about things in the world that are wrong and need fixing. What I am saying is that 99.99% of the time, it’s not up to us to fix it, either because we lack the resources, the ability, or we are simply too far away to have a direct and immediate impact on the situation.
So, what can we do?
We can give the situation over to the God of eternal glory who can do something about it. And while we’re at it, we can give Him our anxieties as well.
Yes, the world is a mess. It’s a mess because it has people in it, and people are a mess. And yes, you and I are people, so guess what? We’re a mess too! But we can be less messy.
An effective way to start that process is to examine what you expose your mind to. How do you start your day? If you’re turning on the TV or rushing to social media, that’s what’s going to set your tone for the rest of the day. Is that the tone you want?
In the same amount of time, you could meditate on a Bible verse or an inspirational quote of some sort. You can’t control what happens out in the world, but you can control what goes into your head, which is what feeds your attitude.
Once you have developed the habit of being intentional about this, it will become easier for you to shift your perspective from the dumpster fire of the now to the eternal glory of the not yet.
When things are going badly, it is easy for fear to rob us of hope but remember this. EVERYTHING we fear, or could possibly fear, has an ending. We may not be able to see it from where we’re sitting, but all the troublesome things of this world will pass.
Instead, what we can learn to do in ALL situations is to focus on the things that won’t pass away.
Truth. Love. The Word of God. Best of all, the eternal life that is given as a free gift to all those who put aside their fears, worries and the troubles of this world and trust in Jesus, who by His death and resurrection, has overcome all of them.
Now of course, we can’t see any of this. We can’t see our fear, the Lord’s Spirit, the actual physical Kingdom of Heaven. We only see this world, its problems, and our own aging faces in the mirror.
Eternal Glory Up There
Stay focused on what’s above, not on earthly things, because your old life is dead and gone. (Colossians 3:2-3a VOICE)
Why is it that we dwell on things that we know aren’t good for us?
How many times have you caught yourself starting a sentence with “I really need to,” but then you don’t do what it is you really need to do? It’s as though we think we’ll at least get partial credit for acknowledging that we have fallen short of what is necessary. I really need to eat a salad, but I’m going to have pizza instead. I really need to go to the gym, but I seem to have grown butt roots here on the couch.
Or how about these. I really ought to pray more. I really ought to read my Bible more.
Or these. I really ought to get off the Internet and pay attention to my kids. I really ought to put my phone down and talk to my wife. Can you relate to any of this?
You could say that acknowledging the problem is the first step to solving it, and it is. However, one step does not a journey make. You must take the next one.
The thing is, the next step is usually not anything difficult. We just. . .don’t. . .do it. How hard is it to make simple choices like ordering something different at the restaurant, standing from a seated position, or simply TALKING to someone?
SO WHY DO WE MAKE IT SO MUCH HARDER THAN IT IS?
I would chalk it up to a combination of habit and fear of change.
We do what we do because we have always done it. If not always, then at least for long enough that it has become automatic. Habits are comfort zones; therefore, breaking them makes us uncomfortable. We will always gravitate toward comfort, no matter how obvious it is that a change would do us good.
Christians do not have this luxury though. When we turned our eyes toward Christ, we also turned them toward heaven, where He is. Once you have seen a glimpse of the eternal glory, the things down here lose their luster a bit.
The problem is that the things down here are the things we are used to and are surrounded with every day of our lives. We love our stuff. We love being in control of our own schedules. And of course, we love our dreams and ambitions. Even if they no longer satisfy us as they once did, we have claimed them as our own. Therefore, we defend them.
We can not forget this simple truth though.
When we made Jesus the Lord of our lives, we signed a spiritual quit claim deed for all of that stuff. Our possessions are not ours, because the earth and everything in it belong to the Lord.
We are not in control of our lives, because we have no idea what the next day, or even the next hour, may bring. And all our dreams and ambitions die with us when we die. From a spiritual standpoint, they have already died, because we surrendered them when we surrendered to Christ.
When we talk about “overcoming the world,” we are usually focused on all the evil bad things that we wish we didn’t have to deal with down here, and that we know won’t exist up there.
However, if we are serious about overcoming the world, then we also must focus on overcoming the pleasures down here along with the pains. This is much more difficult, because while pain usually catches us by surprise, pleasure is something we continuously seek. We want to do what we want to do when we want to do it.
Now is it bad to do things that feel good? Not necessarily. The point of this is that we need to realize that eternal life with Christ will feel, and indeed be, better than anything we have going on down here.
The thing we must learn then is to be patient for the eternal glory that is coming for us up there instead of being consumed with rewarding ourselves down here.