16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ~2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Christian writer, Frederick Buechner, wrote in his book, The Magnificent Defeat, and I quote —
“Life is the flight of a bird that swoops out of the darkness of night into the great fire-lit hall of a castle. He wings his way wildly, batting against the walls, the ceiling, until finally he finds a window, then out into the darkness again. The first darkness is birth, the second is death, and in between–only for a few moments, and handful of years–the warmth, the sound of voices, the shadows cast by the fire.” [Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat]
Some people believe we enter this world with nothing and we leave this world with nothing. There is the darkness that preceded our birth. And there is the darkness that follows our death. And in between these 2 darknesses, there’s only a few moments, and a handful of years — the warmth, the sound of voices, the shadows cast by the fire. And we call these few, short years, life. And according to Buechner, life is like a bird flying through a dimly lit corridor of a castle and we are bumping into walls, trying to find our way and figure out what life is all about.
Especially at a funeral, we are forced to deal with life’s monumental questions — how did we get here, what is the purpose of life, where do we go after we die, what is our ultimate destiny?
This is my third funeral this year and each time I attend one of these, it makes me realize one truth that often escapes me. Life is short and eternity is long.
There are the highlights, good times, happy times: getting into the school of our choice. Falling in love. Getting married. Starting a family.
And there are also times of suffering, low points, sad times and as it says in v16, many things happen in this life that can cause us to lose heart. I know that people gathered here have suffered much this year. It’s easy to lose heart when we lose a loved one and face our own mortality.
But God reminds us through this passage that everything we face, good or bad, is light and momentary. The troubles we face are light and momentary, as are the fleeting joys. Life is short.
Funerals offer us a unique opportunity as we stand at the juncture of this life and the life to come.
And in our clarity, we see that God has been with us all along. It’s not darkness, then dimly lit corridors and then a second darkness. No, life didn’t begin with darkness. Life begins with God as our Creator. He is our Heavenly Father. He knit us together in our mother’s womb. And life doesn’t end with darkness. Life ends with God waiting for us with open arms. Glory awaits, not darkness. A glory that far outweighs all of life’s light and momentary troubles.
As we remember grandmother, we are reminded that life is short. While we have the chance, may we seek God and prepare ourselves for the glory that awaits when we will one day see Him face to face.
With this perspective, let us fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.