One of my cousins lived next door to me when I was a young boy growing up in Pennsylvania. Her father had built a sandbox for her and her brother and sister (and as it turned out, half the neighborhood) to play in. We spent many hours forming walls (castles weren’t our specialty), filling pails and emptying them to make shapes, and building roads and driving toy cars on them. The box may have been four feet square—pretty small—still, I can’t imagine how many grains of sand it must have contained. How many would it take to fill even an eight-ounce cup? Well, consider that a sparrow would come to that sandbox once every thousand years and remove one grain of sand. When he had finished removing the sand from that box, he would go to the nearest beach and begin removing the sand from there, one grain every thousand years. Then he would move to the next nearest beach until he had removed all the sand from the inland areas, after which he would proceed to the ocean beaches and the ocean floors—one grain only every one thousand years. When he had finished that process, he would begin removing the dirt granule by granule, and peck away at the mountains and remove them a tiny pebble at a time. When he had removed every last speck of solid matter on the earth by this process, it would still be the equivalent of less than the first moment of eternity.
That tedious description, as inadequate as it is, illustrates the impossibility of comprehending the vastness of eternity. But it does serve to provide a little perspective on our brief sojourn here. It helps us to realize how brief are our lengthy trials, how light our heavy burdens. It illustrates the truth that there is no hyperbole in Paul’s observation that “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” ((II Cor. 4:17, 18). And Paul does not exaggerate when he opines: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). As some wag has observed: “eternity is a long time.”
When we are tempted to question the lifelong hardship of a family struggling to survive, the suffering of a little child in the throes of some dread disease, or the severe persecution of faithful saints in other parts of the globe, we have forgotten a number of things. Among them are the facts that God is absolutely perfect; God is only good; God is always right and just. And we have forgotten the reality of eternity. Looking back from the shore of eternity, we will never say that the sufferings of this present time were too lengthy. We will remember with Peter that “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away” (I Pet. 1:24). And we will agree with James: “For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (4:14). And we will affirm with John that “the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of the Father abideth for ever” (I John 2:17).
Blessed, glorious word “forever!”
Yea, “forever!” is the word;
Nothing can the ransomed sever,
Naught divide them from the Lord.
- J. Denham Smith
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