I’ve been thinking a lot about suffering lately. I know, that sounds kind of morbid, but I promise my ponderings have a good purpose.
I recently ran across a verse in Romans 8. In verse 18, Paul writes, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” With full honesty, I will tell you that I do not like this verse.
Earlier, in Romans 5:3-6, he writes about rejoicing in suffering. Surely there are more verses out there that I have missed with a similar message. All of them I have skimmed over or shied away from because I have failed to find them encouraging.
When I reflect upon the why, I find that, in my heart, I do not want to be told that my sufferings are small or inconsequential. They certainly don’t feel small or inconsequential when I’m in the middle of them!
Nor do I want to be told to change my perspective or focus, as if changing how I think about my sufferings or how much I dwell on them will suddenly make me feel better. If you are a person who always maintains a positive attitude and embraces the negatives in life with fortitude, I applaud you. I pray you can encourage others with the tools you’ve been given. Because there are others out there, like me, who just want to make it all go away.
I believe there are different types of sufferings we face. Lately, I’ve been facing several small things that, when dealt with alone, would be small and inconsequential. When combined, they feel like a swarm of gnats.
Picture a large, determined swarm that just wants to buzz around your nose, eyes, and mouth. If I were to try to smile and endure, I would likely wind up with one in my teeth and a few in my eyes. I cannot resist the urge to swat at them. I just want to flee from the area where they swarm.
I think there are also sufferings that are like an earthquake. They shake your entire foundation. What words are comforting in these situations? Surely not someone trying to tell you that what you’re going through is inconsequential.
Recently, however, I have taken another look at Romans 8:18 and have begun to see that I’ve missed the entire point of it. My focus has always been on the first half, where Paul says his sufferings are not worth comparing. But now I am beginning to see the beauty in the second half, where Paul talks about the glory that is to be revealed to us.
It isn’t that our sufferings are inconsequential. It’s that the glory of God is so large that it overwhelms anything down here that we can experience. I have failed to grasp how large and great and glorious God and all of His promises are. My experiences and perspective are so small and tiny compared with reality. I have chosen to limit myself to using only this perspective that I know.
In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus talks about the storms and floods of life in the story of the wise man who built his house upon the rock. His counterpart, the foolish man, built his house upon sand. It’s like you’ve heard this story many times before, especially if you ever attended church as a child. What I like about this story is the fact that Jesus tells us that the floods in life come to both the wise and the foolish. It’s an unchangeable fact of this world that there is and will be suffering. Only those who build their house upon the rock will still have a house standing when the storm is over.
So, for me, Romans 8:18 has become a new piece in the foundation of the house I am building upon the rock. I am laying it in my foundation now, when I am just facing those gnats and not the earthquake. It has already begun by the Spirit leading me in a change of perspective.
It’s also a prayer for me. I am praying that God will keep showing me glimpses and glimmers of His glory that is so much more than my tiny perspective. I am praying that I will see the glory that is to be revealed to us as a reality. That glory already exists, we just haven’t seen it yet. I am praying for God to remind me or show me little glimmers at how vast it is so that my mind will grasp and understand that my sufferings are truly insignificant in comparison.
It isn’t that they don’t feel heavy or huge to me in the here and now, but that when my perspective rightly shifts to include the glory that is to come, I see the sufferings now for what they really are–not worth even comparing. I am praying for my hope to rest firmly in this revealing of the glory to come and that it is not a fleeting hope based on wishful thinking, but a hope based on certainty, the certainty of God’s word, the word of a God who cannot lie.
To demonstrate how quickly God answers prayer, I will show you how I began writing this yesterday, I prayed as I wrote for God to reveal more to me regarding the glory that is to come. Today, as I finish what I began yesterday, He has already revealed more. Somehow, in my focus on that verse regarding sufferings in Romans 8:18, I overlooked the verse right before it. Today, I was reminded of it.
Romans 8:17 says, “Now if we are children, we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
If you are a believer, then not only are you saved, you are called a child of God, you become co-heirs with Christ, and you get to share in His glory. With one sentence, God blew my mind. I cannot only call God my Father, but I get to share in the inheritance with Jesus? I don’t just get to see this glory that is coming, but I get to share it?! What does that even mean? I can’t wait to find out. There is the hope that will sustain me. I pray you will find it, too.