In today's culture, we are bombarded with messages that faithfulness can mean an absence of suffering.
They tell us that if we pray hard enough and follow the rules well enough, we can escape hardship. They hint that the reward mentioned in Hebrews is one of health, financial security, good things happening to good people. (See Hebrews 11:1-7.)
So when bad things happen to good people? When we follow Jesus faithfully, yet still suffer—sometimes profoundly? When our earnest prayers for healing, restoration, life, seemingly go unanswered? We can plummet into a crisis of faith.
But Jesus tells us—and shows us—the Truth.
At the Transfiguration, the Apostles are so astounded by the spectacular glimpse of heavenly glory that they’re rendered speechless, save for Peter who starts stammering silly things. Yet in the same breath Jesus says, "[H]ow is it written regarding the Son of Man that he must suffer greatly and be treated with contempt?" (Mark 9:12)
Christ never equates faithfulness to freedom from suffering in this life, but our Lord indeed promises an unfathomable, eternal reward for our faithfulness—and even gives illuminating glimpses of this glory, as in His Transfiguration.
Philosophy professor Peter Kreeft writes that there are things worse than suffering and death. “Death is the sum of all physical evils, but it is not the sum of all evils. Spiritual evils are far worse" (How to Be Holy, Chapter 4).
And on the flip side, Jesus also tells—and shows—us that there are things far greater than the earthly “goodness” we seek. When we’re faithful, especially in the midst of suffering when we cannot yet see the full reward, God uses it to lead us to everlasting security, eternal freedom from suffering, and endless, uncontainable joy.
As we face life’s trials, let’s ask our Lord to help transfigure our expectations. Let’s ask for the grace to purify our worldly intentions. And yes, let’s still pray for good and hopeful things in this life—while also holding on to faith that even if the answers don’t fit perfectly with our desires, the unseen eternal reward in our faithfulness is around the corner, and glorious beyond our wildest expectations.
Are you familiar with this painting of the Transfiguration? It's housed in the Vatican.
Megan Hjelmstad is a wife and mom 24/7 and an Army Reservist in her “spare” time. She is the Stories Manager for the Blessed is She Instagram account. She’s a bibliophile, tea drinker, sleep lover, and avid admirer of Colorado’s great outdoors. When the writing bug hits, you can find out more about her here.