Momentary Afflications

2 Corinthians 4:17-18                                                         

For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

Last night I was involved in a car accident. Needless to say I was quite shaken by the experience. I find myself being acutely aware of everything; my voice, my walking, every sound around me, especially the sound of cars. I am an anxious driver so this will not help. But it reminded me of two important things; 1) that there are so many more important things in life than what we spend so much time worrying about and 2) there are so many others in our world going through their own anxiety and I feel compelled this morning to call each and every one of them and tell them I am thinking/praying about them.

This sense of proportion and empathy are crucial to healing in times of crisis. There is always the temptation to take one’s own troubles and feel they are the only thing going on at the time. I sat in my room last night watching my daughter draw and realized that there is what I truly care about, that nothing else even comes close. Cars can come and go but these relationships are what matters. The other realization hit me this morning when I realized how many people in the church deal with pain, grief, loss of a magnitude that a non-fatal car accident cannot compare to. Perspective is so important to me in my healing and coming to terms with challenges. I need to see what I am experiencing in relation to the world around me, not the “others have it so much worse than me” but rather how big is this challenge I am facing. Sometimes these challenges are big, huge even, and sometimes they are big in terms of a day or a week. Knowing the difference helps with the coping.

Not to minimize our challenges, I am so stressed right now and someone telling me, “It’s all in your head, shake yourself” would NOT be helpful. I don’t want to hear that or say that to others. But I can say it to myself, I can be aware of what is going on around ME, I can take that responsibility to engage my own anxiety and weight it accordingly. I know car driving and mishaps are my nemesis and that is not going to change, least of all when others tell me it’s all “in your head.” But allowing myself to feel the anxiety while at the same time knowing another day, another week, will change this perspective, is helpful.

We can only see what is temporary and thus our view is always narrow and particular. Still it is our view and God loves each and every one of us. We all need to learn to care for ourselves in the unique ways we know that works. But part of moving forward is connecting our challenges to the broader story of humanity. If I face a life threatening illness that is an existential threat, if my daughter or wife are ill in a serious way that too is existential. If our planet is heating up to the point of no return or civil society is about to fall into anarchy, that too is existential. But other challenges that particularly unnerve us need to be understood in a larger context.