Summary: Suffer now glory later
We live in a suffering world. And we, too, suffer. Every honest person on earth testifies that life is not fairly easy. And biblical Christianity does not minimize our difficulties and sufferings. We are saved and we are looking forward to the coming of Christ. But at present we are struggling. The Apostle Paul, in our passage, tells us that we are at present suffering. And he underscores the fact of suffering by using the word “groaning”.
When you hear someone groan it is not a pleasing sound. It signals that a person is either hurt or exhausted. In this passage the whole creation including Christians is groaning (vv. 22-23).
Watch the news, read your newspapers and you’ll witness the groaning of the creation. The unprecedented rise of crimes, the decline of morality, the food crisis, and the continuous increase of prices of gods and services are just manifestations of that groaning.
We hear people- both old and young- dying of cancer, AIDS, and other wasting diseases. We feel the climate change which is the effect of the so-called global warming.
If you look around you today you will see a world in tear, a world in fear, and most arrestingly a world in suffering!
How do we address this kind of issue? There are many voices in the past as well as in the present that try to solve or at least give their opinions about the issue of suffering. Some totally recourse to the denial of the existence of God (the position of atheists), others believe there may be a god but he does not care at all.
Probably the most popular voice that offers a solution to the problem of suffering is that of Harold Kushner, a Jewish rabbi. He penned his opinion in a best-selling book entitled, WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE. After the lost of a son during his teenage years and after a decade of encounter with people who suffer lost and injustice, Rabbi Kushner concludes that yes, there is a God and he is all-good, but he is not all-powerful!
Rabbi Kushner attempted to give comfort to his suffering readers but he fails miserably! For what he offer is not comfort or encouragement and obviously not hope but disappointment.
For us Christians the reliable guide to address the issue of suffering is not the opinion or ideology and philosophy of man but the word of God. It is the voice of God.
The Bible tells us that suffering is real and inevitable. Our very passage tells us at present we are suffering. But it does not end up there. The Bible perceives suffering in the context of God’s glorious purpose.
The Apostle Paul tells us we are indeed suffering for a moment but after that comes glory.
Paul tells us a great deal about this glory in this passage. Let’s look at it closely.
I. Glory is the fullness of our redemption
Paul further defines this glory through the following phrase: “eager expectation”, “revelation of sons of God” (v. 19), “glorious freedom of the children of God” (v.21), and “the redemption of our bodies” (v. 23). To clear up the matter, the glory reserved for us is the fullness of our redemption. It is the time when our identity as children of God will come into perfection.
Such is so great that it cannot be compared to our present struggles.
Don’t lose heart if we are aging, deteriorating, and dying. For we have this assurance that the glorious day is coming when we will be clothed with perfection as children of God.
A Christian who suffered more than any others can barely says,
“Though outwardly we are wasting, 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. For what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.”
(2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV)
The glory that awaits us as children of God seen from eternal perspective supersedes our sufferings. Our glory is eternal while our sufferings are momentary; our glory is great while our sufferings are but light.
There was an old woman who was always bright, cheerful, and optimistic even though she was confined to her room because of illness. She lived in an attic in the fifth floor of an old building. A friend decided to visit her one day and brought with her a wealthy woman. Since there was no elevator the 2 ladies began the long climb upward. When they reached the second floor the wealthy woman commented, “What a dark and filthy place!” Her friend replied, “It’s better higher up.” When they arrived at the third floor the remark was made, “Things look even worse here.” Again the reply is, “It’s better higher up.” The 2 ladies finally reached the attic where they found the bed-ridden saint of God. A smile on her face radiated the joy that filled her heart.