As Americans, we hear the alluring phrase “Limited-Time Offer” frequently. Often such enticements are attached to special deals on hotel rooms, vacations, flights, or large-ticket products. If you doubt our love for taking advantage of limited-time opportunities as a culture, wake up before the sun on Black Friday and see the throngs drawn to such deals (my husband and high school boys included).
Hidden within the dark clouds of suffering are a few limited-time-only offers that offer perspective to our experiences of suffering on this earth. In the New Heavens and the New Earth, suffering will be no more. When the Apostle John recorded the glorious words he heard and visions he saw during his exile on the island of Patmos, he assured us, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). While it is right and good to hang our hope on such potent promises, it is easy to miss some significant implications.
The God of All Comfort
Our time on earth is the only time we will be able to experience the comfort of God and subsequently offer comfort to others. Comfort is necessitated by discomfort, the presence of pain, or a lack of ease. In the presence of the Triune God, we will never lack security. During our time on earth, we are uniquely poised to receive comfort from the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3). Having received such comfort in all our afflictions, we are entrusted with another limited-time-opportunity: to comfort one another with the comfort we have received (2 Cor. 1:4-5).
The sigh of relief that comes when we proverbially crawl into the lap of the Father who holds us and quiets us with his love is birthed out of the temporary discomforts of being away from his presence (Heb. 4:14-16; Zeph. 3:17; Ps. 131:2).
Hope has an Expiration Date
The human propensity to hope is astonishing even to those outside the faith. Accounts of survivors from concentration camps repeatedly recognize the power of hope, even amidst atrocious evil and horrendous circumstances. As Emily Dickinson so beautifully writes, “Hope is the thing with feathers -/ that perches in the soul- / and sings the tune without the words- / and never stops – at all.”
I would add “In this life.”
In the New Heavens and the New Earth, there will be no need for hope for the flower of faith will comes to full fruition in sight! As Paul said to the Romans, “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Rom. 8:24-25).
Our time here on earth is our only chance to practice lifting our eyes to the mountains from whence shall come our help (Ps. 121). When we are like him, seeing him as he is, we will have no need for hope (1 John 3: 2).
A Chance to Show Our Preference for God Over Sin
During our time on earth we are saved from the penalty and power of sin, not from the presence of it. Only in the New Heavens and the New Earth will we finally and fully be saved from even the presence of sin. This means that our days of exile here are our only opportunity to show Christ that we prefer him over sin and the fleeting pleasures of this earth. To be clear, he must be prior in our lives to enable us to prefer him since apart from him, we can do no good (John 15:5). Even so, I long to live a life worthy of the calling I have received. I long to string together days and moments which show Christ his surpassing worth even over the greatest offerings of this world (Phil. 3:8).
Likeness to Our Suffering Savior
Finally, and most importantly, our days on this broken earth are our only chance to share in the suffering nature of our Savior. As paradoxical as it sounds to our flesh, God grants us the gift of being partakers in his suffering (Phil. 1:29). When we suffer for doing what is right, we share in his likeness and show our semblance to our Savior (1 Pet. 4:16-19).
The fullest picture we have of God is Christ on the Cross, the suffering savior whom Isaiah foretold. This means that God’s glory is inextricably bound up with suffering. To be a partaker of his glory is to be a sharer in his suffering.
In a book entitled Suffering is Never for Nothing, published posthumously after her death, Elisabeth Elliot writes in depth about the mysterious gifts of suffering. Speaking of the martyring of her first husband, she says, “Jim’s absence thrust me, forced me, hurried me to God, my hope and my only refuge. And I learned in that experience who God is…. And so I can say to you that suffering is an irreplaceable medium through which I learned an indispensable truth.”
Endless days of wholeness and satisfaction in the presence of our Savior await those who are in Christ. But there are only limited days to know his comfort, to experience hope, to show preference to him over sin, and to meet him in his suffering.
Let’s not miss these limited-time opportunities!
Beautifully written. I really needed this today. Thank you, Aimee.
Aimee, thank you for writing about the truth so deeply and clearly. I will never look at suffering the same way again after reading your blog post/article. God has spoken to me through your words and it has led my faith to arise during an especially challenging season of my life.
Oh thanks for sharing sweet friend! These thoughts have been helping us grieve with Hope and lean into suffering!