In 2 Corinthians 4:17–18 Paul says, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
The momentary and light afflictions that Paul spoke of weren’t easy, little problems. No! What he called “momentary and light” were big things—being shipwrecked, beaten, stoned and whipped! He was cold, imprisoned and hungry (see 2 Corinthians 11). Yet he called these afflictions “light” and “but for a moment.” He could say this because compared to the eternal weight of glory, they were just that—pale in comparison to what they were producing in him. Paul knew that the hardships were working in him something good and of great weight that would last forever.
There is a paradox, too, in what Paul is saying. How can we look at things that we don’t see? In 2 Corinthians 4:18 he writes, “[We look at] the things which are not seen.” How does that work? It’s like a man who is blind saying that he is “going to see a movie.” How can you see things that you don’t have the natural ability to see? We find the answer in the example of Moses, for this is exactly what he did and what kept him trusting. “By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27, NIV, emphasis added). It’s that gaze—that looking to Christ—which gives us the grace to persevere in our journey of faith.