Better Hope Than "This Too Shall Pass"
As a kid whenever I was disappointed about something, my dad would always say to me, "This too shall pass." In other words, your disappointment won't last forever. The thing that's bothering you right now will, at some point in the not-too-distant future, merely be a memory. I'm not sure it provided me much comfort, but nevertheless it's stuck with me through the years.
But it's really not much different from things I've heard Christians say to one another in times of suffering and hardship. When a friend is hurting or grieving, we say things like, "Cheer up, the sun is just behind the clouds!" Or, "Down the road, you won't even remember this." It's like the best attempt at comfort we can muster is, "At least your pain won't last forever !" Is that really the best hope the Christian faith has to offer? The vague hope of the pain fading at some point in the future?
We've spent the last two Sundays in John 11, where Jesus responds to the illness and death of his friend Lazarus. In these passages we have seen the strategic, merciful purposes of God behind our suffering, and the promise of his sympathetic presence in our grief. He tells us that the suffering is intended to reveal to us the glory of God (John 11:4), which will in turn lead to immeasurable joy and fulfillment for us. And he tells us that "everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die" (John 11:26).
The real hope of the Christian isn't merely that our pain will fade over time. It's that our pain is actively working on our behalf, to store up for us "an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Corinthians 4:17). We have the balm of Jesus' presence in the midst of our sorrow, and the joy of eternal glory awaiting us at the end. That's great news!
So why don't we talk to each other more about this? It seems that Christians are almost embarrassed by our beliefs about "the afterlife." It makes us look weird, and perhaps a bit naive, to think that we'll just go on living forever after we die, doesn't it? So maybe it's better to keep our beliefs about eternity quiet, so we don't look like fools to those around us.
I say it's time to bring our confidence in our life to come to the surface. To not be embarrassed that we believe in an eternal, conscious existence after we leave this earth, and in a literal, bodily resurrection at the return of Jesus Christ some day. And I think it's time for us, as Paul instructed the Thessalonians, to "encourage one another with" the reality of the eternal life and glory that Jesus has purchased for us (1 Thess. 4:18), and will one day reveal in its fullness.
So next time you're with a sister in Christ, and she expresses frustration and pain over the hardship in her life, remember that "This too shall pass" is not the best hope you have to offer her. Try reminding her of the "eternal weight of glory" that she will enjoy forever on the other side of these sufferings, and assure her that in the end it will be worth it.
That's a far better hope.