There’s a piece of my calligraphy in our bathroom, where it’s been for many years in a place where my sons would see it (over the commode!), of one of life’s most important questions: “In the scope of eternity, what does this matter?”
This simple question can create a lens or filter through which we can assign value and importance to our experiences. It helps us know if something is worth getting upset about or not. If it’s not going to matter two weeks from now, much less in eternity, let it go. Many of our stressors would be less stressful if we would just put them in perspective.
Both of my sons were athletes when they were growing up. They had a full supply of testosterone and were quite competitive. When you play sports, there are going to be wins and losses; when you’re a boy or a young man, you can think those wins and losses are a lot more important than they actually are. But when filtered through the question, “In the scope of eternity, what does this matter,” you can see both wins and losses as valuable for teaching and revealing character. (I put another calligraphy plaque in the bathroom as well: “Win without boasting, lose without excuses.”)
I find myself invoking this question when trying to encourage people caught in the throes of temptation. One of my friends is in the excruciating process of withdrawing from an addictive and sinful relationship. I ask her, “One hundred years from today, where will you be? When you are facing Jesus, what do you want to be glad you did now, and what do you want to avoid regretting? Think back on this difficult time from the position of one hundred years from today, when you are in eternity.”
One of my dear ones has been doing hard work in counseling for over a year. When the challenge of facing one’s internal pain is filtered through this question about eternity, it is encouraging to realize that cooperating with the Holy Spirit to uncover and relinquish his unhealed and broken parts is changing him forever, making him more fit for future Kingdom responsibilities and glory. The answer to the question, “In the scope of eternity, what does this matter,” is “The hard work and pain will be totally worth it.”
It’s helpful to ask myself this question when I’m experiencing nighttime sleeplessness, or physical pain, or financial stress. And it’s also helpful to ask myself this question when I’m concerned about my loved ones; when the answer is, “In the scope of eternity, this is REALLY important,” it motivates me to pray. Hard. And long.
What are you wrestling with? In the scope of eternity, what does it matter, really? Does this question help?
This blog post originally appeared at blogs.bible.org/tapestry/sue_bohlin/in_the_scope_of_eternity on Aug. 30, 2011