18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Verse 18 explains why affliction in time seems light and transitory (2 Co 4:17). It develops God’s philosophy of pain beyond human viewpoint. God gives meaning to suffering.
18 while we do not look [focus] at the things which are seen,
The team did not focus on their troubles. It took determination to look at the right things. The word “look” means to take heed (Php 3:14). The word carries the idea of concentration and evaluation. The idea is fixity of gaze or attention. We do not give fleeting attention to the subject of eternity. This involves fixing one’s eyes on future glory. If Christians keep their gaze set on eternal realities, they change their perspective of time.
“What is seen” relates to our experience in time. Many issues present themselves to our eyes in time. These things tend to hide something of far greater worth found in eternity.
but at the things which are not seen.
Instead, their perspective was on something beyond where they were at any given moment. The focus should be on the eternal, not the temporal experience we currently endure. To look at time without eternity is to view life as purposeless.
The “for” explains the contrasts between the temporal and eternal.
the things which are seen are temporary,
The experiences of time are momentary. Suffering will occur only for a while and then will pass away.
but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Temporal suffering does not compare to the glory of eternal fellowship with God. It will be worth it all when we see Jesus. Christians have the confidence that there is life beyond the grave. The reason is that Jesus rose from the dead, and we will experience the resurrection of the body as well (2 Co 4:14).
Eternal and transcendent perspective sustains believers during trials.
The believer needs to understand what God is doing to us in time. Christians need to get their eyes off their problems in time and look to what they have in eternity (1 Pe 5:4, 10). There is no comparison as to what eternity holds for us. We should never lose sight of what we have in eternity (1 Co 2:9; Php 3:20-21; Co 3:12; 2 Ti 2:10). God’s glory surpasses anything we could imagine on earth.