So we do not lose heart.
Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. II Cor. 4:16,17
Pain is painful. It is difficult and I’m not pretending otherwise. But, the real fight for my life is not taking place in the circumstances, its in the mind. And I am in the process of getting my mind right. The rumble is going down and God, for whatever reason, has allowed Satan to choose this site – my mind. I can’t ignore it. I have to show up and fight.
My intuition, and perhaps yours, is to think of pain as an unwanted island; an anomaly jutting out conspicuously from the otherwise beautiful sea of life with its jagged edges breeching my hull and confusing the crew. Or perhaps we think of it is as a pit we have fallen into. A sudden and strange anomaly. If God were better to us and we were more astute, we would have missed this pit. We didn’t. We are in a hopeless pit. But, here is the question, how could this be extra-ordinary if it was promised to us over and over again in Scripture?
Pain is a Promised Valley
If pain is a promise, then how should we think about it? Here is a metaphor to carry with you while you walk through it.
The best metaphor for suffering is not an island or a pit, but as a valley that each one of us must walk. A pit is an interruption to a path; a valley is itself a path. God has called us to walk down from ourselves and up to Himself. The presence of these two mountains, the mountain of descent and the mountain of ascent, creates a valley.
God made a decision to make us like Jesus (Romans 8:28,29). Jesus was humiliated and exalted. We imitate the life of Christ and the trajectory of Christ as well (Phil. 2:5-11). It was His trajectory and it is ours. So the pain is promised, but there is a promise attached to the pain: those who descend will, in fact, ascend.
The Promise of Pain
In this way the presence of the valley is the evidence of the mountain. The connection is most clear in II Cor. 4:16,17:
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.
Affliction prepares for us the weight of glory. The presence of suffering is not glory, but it is the evidence of glory. Only those with a present can have a future. Pain is God’s down payment to us on future glory for us.
Therefore, the life we now live is a prelude to glory; a sort of middle glory between the peak of decent and the peak of ascent; the middle glory between the mountains of salvation and heaven. In this way our lives filled with pain are a metaphor for the Gospel.
Those who know the Gospel understand that Christ came to earth, lived a perfect, yet painful life, died a perfectly painful death, and then ascended to the Father. Jesus came down from glory and then up to glory cratering out a valley in which He calls us to walk. He walked middle glory. Jesus is not just our Savior, He is our leader. Be encouraged: your pain is not an island; a strange aberration to an otherwise good life. It is not a pit with no future. It is a breathing existential metaphor for the Gospel itself.
Your suffering is a promised valley whose very presence promises future glory. It is middle glory. And I know it is so because the presence of this pain promises it to be so. Pain is the greatest evidence for a life without it. Pain is the evidence of one day being pain free because, modeling the life of Christ, suffering is woven into the fabric of glory. There are two very different parts of one whole. Therefore, to have one is the evidence of the other.
In this way, suffering is always a prelude to glory. Suffering is walking the valley of middle glory. A middle glory which is itself a real picture of the Gospel.
 See II Cor 4:16-18, John 15:18-25, II Tim. 3:12, or Matt. 16:34