Have you ever heard the saying, “Be kind to everyone you meet because everyone is having a hard time”? Suffering is part of this broken world. Job, who is known for his suffering, said, “Mortals, born of woman, are of few days and full of trouble” (Jb. 14:1). You cannot go through this life without suffering. We cannot control when suffering comes, but we can control how we respond to it.
The Problem of Suffering
In Romans 8:18 Paul says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.” Notice the words “suffering” and “present time.” Christianity does not give us a free pass from suffering. Knowing Jesus is not a “get out of suffering” card. Jesus said in this life you will have trouble (Jn. 16:33). In fact, being a Christian can bring more suffering because then you have Satan attacking you. To say yes to Jesus is to say yes to suffer (2 Tim. 3:12). Paul knew what it meant to suffer. Take a minute and read 2 Corinthians 11:24-28, 12:7-10. He does not write about theory or philosophy but from personal experience. So, why do we suffer? Suffering exists because of original sin. Sometimes we suffer because of our own sin. Sometimes we suffer because of someone else’s sin. (Not all suffering is the result of personal sin.) Because we live in a sinful world, there will always be suffering in this life.
The Patience of Suffering
In verses 19-25, creation is mentioned four times. In the beginning, God created everything and said that it was very good. When Adam and Eve sinned, it affected the whole world. In Genesis 3, every animal is under the curse of sin. Roses now have thorns. Gardens now have weeds. Ivy now is poisoned. The whole world around us is groaning. We live in a world of disorder and chaos. Verse 20 says that “creation was subjected to futility.” Futility means things are not as God originally intended for them to be. Another phrase repeated in these verses is “eagerly waits.” Creation looks forward to the day of its redemption. Creation is on its tiptoes looking for Jesus to return with all His children!There is coming a new heaven and earth. Revelation and Isaiah teach that heaven will be full of animals, animals that are not poisonous or predatory in nature. The lion is going to lie down with the lamb and the children are going to play with the snakes! We are also looking forward to the redemption of our bodies. In the present suffering and struggle, our bodies get sick and friends and family pass away. There is coming a day when all of that pain and all of that suffering and all of that struggle will be totally outweighed, overcome, and eclipsed by a glory that is yet to be revealed! One glimpse of His dear face, All sorrow will erase, So bravely run the race, Till we see Christ!
The Perspective of Suffering
When Paul said that he “considers” the present sufferings not worth comparing to what’s coming, he’s using a banking term. “Consider” means to reconcile or balance the books. God balances life with pain and pleasure. When all the pain of earth is put on the scales and all the pleasure of eternity put on the other side, the blessings to come will far outweigh the burdens of the present. Faith means trusting God even when you can’t see him. When you can’t trace His hand, trust His heart. God sees you, loves you, and cares for you. He is a faithful Heavenly Father. Last August, when Pastor Zac spoke at 21 Days of Prayer, he and Tori had buried two baby boys stillborn. Zac said God showed him through that time of suffering that the author of a great book doesn’t put the ending in Chapter 1. The writer of a great movie doesn’t put the bow on the story in the opening scene. God is writing an eternal story and you cannot insist on the happy ending in Chapter 1. We can’t demand that He give us the ending we desire at the beginning of the story. A happy ending is on the way, but it’s only Chapter 1. This life is only Chapter 1.
In verse 22, Paul uses the illustration of labor pains. When a woman gives birth, she is in pain. But the suffering is only momentary and gives way to a bundle of joy! Suffering does not have the final word. Our suffering is limited to this life if you know Jesus. In pregnancy there is waiting. You find out you’re pregnant and you’re hopeful, eagerly longing for the day when that baby will be revealed. You can’t wait, but in between there’s morning sickness, discomfort, uncomfortable bodily changes. And when that day comes the pain intensifies! Then, in the blink of an eye, when that baby is finally in your hands, all of the waiting and pain give way to joy. That’s what salvation is like. Right now, we are waiting, and there is much difficulty in between, but it will be worth it all when we see Jesus. Not one second of your suffering is wasted. Not one thing. We sorrow and we suffer, but not as those who have no hope.
We do not have a God who is distant from us while humanity suffers. We have a God who entered this broken world as a human. He took humanity’s sin and suffering upon Himself. He endured the most horrific suffering of all so that you could have eternal life and hope. Don’t let your suffering keep you from God. Jesus suffered on the cross to bring you to God.
Truth for Life Romans 8
Essential Christianity Greear
Exploring Romans Phillips
Swindoll Romans 8