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 Cor. 4:16-18
~ 2 Cor. 4:16-18
Spring has arrived in Atlanta with vibrant multi-green hues, the newly born leaves glowing against the dark evergreens. They seem so fragile, so delicate and lacy in their beauty. At their feet, bold colors of azaleas and tulips burst into song, here today and gone tomorrow, but dressed more gloriously than King Solomon in all his splendor.
And yet this beauty of Spring, quiet and riotous all at the same time, full of joy, bursting life out of the dark winter, still brings pain. The very thing that makes the blossoms possible – pollen – brings misery to many an admirer.
The old adage that many women have heard about the lengths they must endure to achieve physical beauty is true, in much deeper and more profound ways than we often imagine. Beauty is pain.
I think of the people I know who have a beautiful spirit. For each of them, it was also birthed in pain. What teaches patience, love, compassion, and perseverance better than suffering? How can one truly know joy until one has known sorrow? What breeds thankfulness like famine?
For my whole life, I have feared pain. I feared it so much that I didn’t want to love (too much emotional pain), didn’t want to birth children (too much physical pain), didn’t want to grow (too much spiritual pain). Well, I did want to grow, just not at the price of hearing I was wrong – not at the price of my pride.
In recent years, I have learned a beautiful lesson: growth actually comes through both pain and the results of pain that has been submitted to God’s faithful hand – love, thankfulness, humility, etc. Especially love. I wouldn’t appreciate my husband’s love nearly as much if I hadn’t had to wait so long for it. But once we were married, I grew like Spring under it.
Suffering taught me, but love matured me.
Of course, it must be stated clearly that pain can result in simply bitterness, anger, despair, and emotional shutdown. In and of itself, pain is awful. It’s a result of the fall that we must suffer in this life.
Pain only leads to beauty when we look to God, our beautiful Creator who alone can bring good out of evil. We don’t always get to know all the reasons we suffer, but one reason we do know is that it has power to draw us to the One who brings beauty from ashes, gladness from mourning, and praise from despair.
I am learning to no longer be afraid of suffering pain – the deferral of hopes that can make a heart grow sick, the loss of a life we expected to lead. It is difficult, to be sure. But is it not also difficult for a plant to push tender shoots through hard, cold soil? Anything beautiful comes through some measure of pain, but the beauty makes the pain worth it (as almost any mother will tell you). And the beauty of seeing God’s love and faithfulness towards me is truly beyond compare.
I want to encourage myself with this reminder today, in the midst of unfulfilled longings and hopes deferred: the pain is not so bad compared to the beauty waiting on the other side of it – for there is an end to it, an “other” side. It will come in some measure in this life; it will come in full after death for those who are united to Christ. And in both cases, the other side is glorious “beyond all comparison,” even more beautiful than Spring in all its splendor!
So we do not lose heart.