Paul was talking to people who knew him. He’d lived in their town, eaten with them, argued and cried with them.
He sent them a letter about struggle and suffering and hope. He didn’t talk about the details of his struggles. He doesn’t mention the trivial: “Yesterday, when I was making coffee, I forgot to put the filter in. What a mess!” He doesn’t mention the painful: “When a messenger arrived from my hometown, I learned that my mother was ill when he left. She is likely gone by now. And I’m here.” It may be because recounting the details would have taken the readers into comparative pain and comparative suffering.
Instead, he talked about the challenging life he was called to in a way that others could identify with:
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
Many of us identify with the first half of each pair. Hard-pressed, perplexed, persecuted, struck down. As we pursue our work (rather than comfort), those words describe our feelings.
But the second half, that’s harder. How did Paul arrive at that endurance? Practice? Positive mental habits? Grit?
Yes to each of those ideas. In part. But underlying it all for Paul was an understanding that there was something more substantial than positive mental habits.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 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.
Paul believed that the eternal had more weight, that though he had troubles, they were lighter and more transitory than what is forever.
He had asked for, and received, wisdom to discern.