It is a truism that things are often not what they seem. I was struck recently by a verse of scripture which suggests that volume (the apparent size of something) is far less important than weight (its true value).
We’ve all done it: we open a package–it’s a big box, suitably heavy. But what’s inside looks so much smaller than the outer wrapping promised. We are hard-pressed not to feel disappointed. Why does size excite us so? Our Let’s Make a Deal impulse is to take whatever looks bigger: Do you want what’s in the box? No, let’s choose what’s behind the curtain!
Manufacturers know this. Once upon a time, packaging was designed to make things appear to be more than they were–the huge thick dimple on the bottom of a glass bottle, the enormous wad of cotton wool filling the top of a container, enlarged photos on the cover. Truth-in-advertising laws, combined with a new environmentally-friendly consciousness, have eliminated many of those problems. And we read the fine print:
- “Enlarged to show detail”;
- “Contents may settle during shipment”;
- “Product sold by weight, not by volume.”
Having the appearance of quantity is much different than what something actually weighs. A pound of gold is tiny compared to a pound of marshmallows. But which is more valuable?
I know you’re thinking: this is elementary. Why is she bothering to rehash something so self-evident?
It’s because of a verse of Scripture on which I was meditating recently:
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 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.”
(II Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV)
The apostle Paul had certainly seen his share of afflictions, which he detailed for the church at Corinth later in that same letter:
Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
(II Corinthians 11:24-28 ESV)
I am forced to conclude from this that Paul felt his own trials, as summarized above, should be considered “light and momentary”! What does that make my OWN troubles? I may have endured a tragic loss, faced a chronic illness, or slogged through year after year of a tedious or distasteful job. Whether I measure my hardship by the length of time or the intensity of the suffering, it may indeed seem voluminous to me.
But Paul is pointing out that all these hardships, no matter how awful, are finite. They will end. As will our lives on earth. Our lives in heaven are eternal. “The real world, the real waking” as C.S. Lewis calls it, is infinitely more substantial. The eternal glory we will enjoy will far outweigh any trial. “Exceedingly to excess” is what the Greek implies. Like a pound of feathers compared, not to a pound, but to a cubic ton of gold…our glory is vastly weightier than our trials.
Right now we wait.
Someday we’ll feel that weight.