Perspective in the Midst of Trials


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.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Trials can be discouraging. In his own gospel ministry, the apostle Paul encountered a number of experiences that had the potential of leading to that very outcome in himself. But he says that, rather than losing heart, he was being renewed daily in the inner man.

How we respond to adverse circumstances is often a matter of perspective. It’s important to remember that we as human beings, made in the image of God, have a dual nature. There is more to us than the outward, physical, flesh-and-bones body that we inhabit. In fact, that part of our existence is merely a “tabernacle”—a temporary dwelling place for the true, inner self, spoken of as the heart, the soul, or the mind. The outer man faces tribulations that threaten to break it down, but the inner man can remain untouched by such external afflictions, and through faith, can even grow stronger.

That’s not to say that we are unaffected by adversity, nor that we should not desire to be delivered from trials. Elsewhere in this epistle, Paul recounts the many hardships he encountered in his life—labors, imprisonments, beatings, shipwrecks, perils, sleeplessness, hunger, and exposure. All of these trials, added to the daily pressure of his concern for the churches, must have weighed heavily upon him. He also suffered from a vexing “thorn in the flesh,” and he repeatedly pleaded with the Lord to remove it from him. Through these sufferings, the apostle learned the importance of viewing all such hardships from the perspective that his strength was ultimately not in himself, but in the Lord (2 Cor. 4:8-12; 11:23-28; 12:7-10).

So, Paul says that, while the outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed. How is the inner self renewed? When our health is failing, when our loved ones are hurting, when there are difficulties and pressures all around us—how can we, in spite of such things, grow in faith, hope, and love?

The answer certainly does not lie in anything the outer, physical body provides. Our daily renewal comes from our connection with that which is eternal not temporal, spiritual not physical, heavenly not earthly. It comes from communion and fellowship with God, from daily meditation on heavenly things, from building life on eternal principles and values—the unseen things. When viewed from that perspective, the trials of life appear as “light” and “momentary” in comparison to the “eternal weight of glory” that awaits us. In fact, Paul says, it is “beyond all comparison.”

Spend time with God in listening to him, and spend time with God talking to him. Study of God’s word and prayer will renew the inner man, no matter what is happening around us. Thank God for the tie that binds us together in Christ. When we appreciate God’s love and cultivate love for one another, the inner self will be renewed. And it will help us keep things in perspective.

Dan Petty