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[This is the seventh of fourteen passages that sustained me in the while in the dark.]

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.    2 Corinthians 4:16-18

I’ve loved the fourth chapter of 2 Corinthians for many years, especially for the encouragement it’s given me during difficult moments as a pastor. It begins and ends with Paul’s testimony: “We don’t lose heart.” Everything in between is pretty much all about how not to lose heart, how to endure, how to persevere in the midst of the tumult in and around us.

It was entirely fortuitous that this chapter was on my radar during my radiation treatments. My daily appointments spanned over three weeks during which they bolted me to a table and shot my neck with radiation! (I tell the story in, “Skip this if you’re claustrophobic” in the Tunnel Vision memoir.)

While on the table I quietly repeated over and over:  “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

Rehearsing all of the verses of the chapter boosted me while I lay there motionless getting radiation shot into my vertebra – and believe me – I needed all the encouragement I could get.

“Don’t waste these sorrows. Live from the inside out. Don’t let your outward condition determine your inward disposition. Even if and when your body fails you and drags you down, your spirit may buoy itself by focusing on the bigger picture.

“I’m the only one who can grow something good in bad soil. I can see to it that when one part of you is flagging, another is fortified. When you look in the mirror and see your outside deteriorating, don’t overlook my daily renewal of your inside, something not so obvious to the eye.

“By themselves, your afflictions won’t make you a better person. Without my participation they’ll only make you a bitter person. You have a role to play. Decide to look for my help and I will rush to support your inside person.

“Your troubles may not seem ‘light or momentary,’ but remember that there is a place that lasts longer and is more substantial than the place you now live. Exercise your faith muscle by envisioning my place of splendor and substance.

 “Your grief and your sickness won’t last forever, but your life in me will. For every glance at the temporal, gaze at the eternal. Wait for me intently like a dog left in the car watching for his master to return. Though your eyes are prone to wander, fix them on things worthy of a long and pensive gaze.” Jesus

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