I think one of the greatest challenges we face in the midst of suffering is keeping our focus on the eternal. When we are weighed down by the weight of our trials, our eyes naturally fixate on our burdens and what is going on around us. So how do we change our focus from the earthly to the eternal? How do we keep heaven in our eyes while earth is weighing us down with trials and suffering? The author of Hebrews helps us focus our attention heavenward by calling us to remember those who have gone before us. Read what he says in Hebrews 12:1-3:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted
Just prior to this, in chapter 11, we read of the many men and women who, by faith, believed and accomplished the impossible, and many of whom “were tortured, refusing to accept release, so they might rise again to a better life” (v. 35). These saints also “suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains of imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about…destitute, afflicted, mistreated” (vv. 36-37). These “great cloud of witnesses” are our motivation and encouragement to persevere in the midst of our suffering. Even more so, we look to Jesus who endured the cross for our sake, and is now seated in heaven with God the Father. Consequently, God has “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6), hence granting us citizenship in heaven through “Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Php. 3:20-21).
Our trials are painful, and suffering is inevitable, but if we learn to focus our attention on heaven and the glory that awaits us there, we unexpectedly find ourselves sharing in Paul’s grand profession of confidence: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18). Paul reaffirms this profession in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:
16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
No matter what trials or suffering we face, let us keep heaven in our eyes. Let us remember that our afflictions are light and temporary compared to the eternal weight of glory that is ours in heaven. Likewise, let us be steadfast in faith, remembering that we are not alone in our suffering: “[Be] firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Pet. 5:9-10).
Keep heaven in your eyes, my friends! No matter what your are going through, remember that heaven is a far greater prize than the trials we endure here on earth.
In God’s divine love,