Summary: #6 in Romans 8 - What a Way to Live! series. This deals with suffering, and how to let it do its work in us until God brings us to glory.
Romans 8:18-25 – How to Endure the Pains of Childbirth
(I would like to credit The Ultimate Blessing, written by Jo Anne Lyon, a Wesleyan pastor and married to one as well, founder of World Hope International, for a lot of the thought processes. As well, Eugene Peterson’s The Message for this section of scripture proved very helpful as well.)
A newspaper reporter phoned a story into his editor about an empty truck that rolled down a hill and smashed into a home. The editor was unimpressed and told reporter he didn’t want to run the story. The reporter replied: “I’m glad you’re taking this so calmly. It was your house.”
Today we are talking about difficulties in life, problems, sufferings. Today, we are picking up where we left off in Romans 8. Now, I’ve been calling this Romans 8 series What a Way to Live! You might be surprised, then, to see a discussion about suffering in a passage describing what true life is.
But you may not be surprised. You may already be very aware that suffering is a part of life. None of us escapes it. Christian thinker Oswald Chambers wrote this: “Suffering is the heritage of the bad, of the penitent, and of the Son of God. Each one ends in the cross. The bad thief is crucified, the penitent thief is crucified, and the Son of God is crucified. By these signs we know the widespread heritage of suffering.”
Every person’s suffering is different. Christians over the years have been doomed to die as sport in the arena. Others live under constant threat of being discovered. While it may or may not be in our futures for these types of suffering, each of us faces the grind of day-to-day of living. Some work monotonous jobs while they are being bombarded by their non-Christian and anti-Christian workers’ comments. Some face the torture of dreams going unfulfilled, and the loss associated with that. Some of you have wayward children, and that causes such a strain on your souls. Some of you don’t remember what it’s like to feel healthy. And some of you are lonely, perhaps because you have an unbelieving spouse or because you think no-one really understands who you are.
Whatever the source, we all suffer at least a little. Others may scoff at our sufferings, but they’re real to us. The apostle Paul is honest about sufferings in this passage, but he also presents a solution to the problem of pain. Let’s read v18-21.
I believe Paul makes 5 statements about pain in these 2 paragraphs. I only read the 1st one now, I’ll read the 2nd one in a second. These statements aren’t overly abstract, but they are God’s words to us. The 1st statement Paul makes is this: 1) Suffering is a part of life. Paul doesn’t say you shouldn’t be suffering. He doesn’t say you should, either. He just comments about suffering’s existence. It is part of our existence on earth. Which, by the way, is suffering too.
He says that all creation is subjected to frustration, too. The KJV uses the word “vanity”, which means uselessness, emptiness, idleness. It means that all around, creation is yearning for something more. You remember in Genesis 3 that the earth was cursed too. It would no longer yield good fruit easily. It would have to be worked at. And I feel that the world is in the mess it’s in today, partly because it isn’t designed to withstand the problems we’ve inflicted on it. It can’t handle pollution and overuse. It can’t support billions of people for extended periods of time. It’s feeling the strains of over-hunting, over-fishing, over-eating, over-using. As well, earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, and polar melting are all groanings of the creation. It’s yearning to be fixed, and it’s waiting for the right time. Creation is suffering, right along with us.
Going even further, Paul compares the sufferings of creation with childbirth: v22-25. From this analogy, from this point of view of an expectant mom, Paul gives us the 4 remaining statements about suffering. The 2nd statement Paul makes about suffering is this: 2) There is an end to it. Suffering will not last forever. Just as pregnancy lasts only for a certain length of time, so does suffering.
Now, I understand not everything about pregnancy can be considered “suffering”. There are all the wonderful things that go along with it, too. But what Paul had in mind are the uncomfortable things about being pregnant. There are the pains, the discomfort, the cramps, and the contractions. There is also the emotional trauma: the fear factor, the helplessness, the uncertainly aspect of it all. These are the difficulties pregnant women face as they look ahead.
But these things end at some point. At some point, the baby will be delivered, and the pregnancy will be over. Folks, you need to know that no matter what suffering you face now, at some point it will come to a very definite end. At some point, you will no longer face a day filled with pain. Your job, that has been misery on this earth, will one day be through. That painful relationship will be fixed. That loneliness will be felt no more. All these things, that Paul would call the pains of childbirth, will one day be erased. That’s a good thing to remember when you don’t know how to face another day.