Romans 8:18. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
The “problem of suffering” has plagued mankind almost since the beginning. How can God be good and powerful and yet allow evil to exist? Is our suffering all just random? Time + Chance = Suffering? Is God a moral monster? Is evil even real? Is there hope?
Christianity and union with Christ do not avoid these questions. In fact, here in Romans 8 Paul is tackling suffering head on. Yes, there is suffering. It comes with sonship. But there is also hope. The hope of glory. For those that are in Christ suffering doesn’t invalidate God, it proves God. It proves the center of all we believe – the cross.
You see Christianity doesn’t just admit suffering. It makes suffering the center of the glorified life. To be a Christian is to be crucified.
Galatians 2:20. I have been crucified with Christ.
It is to boast in the cross.
Galatians 6:14. But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
It is to live from death with Christ.
Romans 6:11. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Is this sadistic? No. It’s reality. There is no resurrection without death. There is no glory without suffering. This is what sin has brought upon this world. This is the formula. The gospel formula. The way up is down. The way to life is death. The way to glory is suffering.
Lincoln (today’s his birthday) knew this in principle if not in his own spiritual life. He knew that a “new birth of freedom” could only come through the death of the old systems of slavery. He even knew that he himself would most likely need to die in order for the nation to heal.
So for us, suffering isn’t something we seek to “get over” or “move past.” It is our fellowship with our God. It is our path to glory. The glory that he created us for in the first place. Humanity was made to be glorious and to reflect the glory of God. But sin stole that glory from us and veiled the glory of God upon us. Union with Christ returns that glory to us. How? By grace through faith. But how do we know we have received grace through faith? By how we suffer.
Many “Christians” have suffered and walked away from Christ. Or the suffering kept them from even getting started in the first place (“let the dead bury their dead”). But the true son will suffer for the true Father. In the suffering of this present time, he or she will look to their past (their cross) and look toward their future (their resurrection).
This is what the gospel teaches us. We can endure present suffering because of the coming glory. But beyond this, the present suffering PRODUCES the coming glory.
2 Corinthians 4:17. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
This is why there is no meaningless suffering. There is a direct connection between our suffering and our future glory. We know this because our God has suffered, and he has experienced glory. He gave up glory to suffer. He suffered to regain glory. Your glory. My glory. Humanity’s glory. The glory he crowned us with at the beginning (Psalm 8).
Suffering is our sanctification. Our transformation. It is how faith is produced. Paul tells us in Romans 8:18 to consider – one of his favorite words in this letter. In Romans 6:11 we are told to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God. We also must consider that the glory to come will far outweigh the pain and suffering of this life. We must believe it. Stake our lives on it. Make it our driving reality.
Sin is suffering. And sin is only overcome by suffering. “To live is Christ” requires that suffering in order to destroy that sin in your life. It required Christ’s suffering. Your suffering. A fellowship of suffering. And then a future of glory face to face.