"Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward." So says Eliphaz, one of Job's "comforters." Unfortunately, it is easy for us to "comfort" others in the same way. We sometimes don't know what to say when someone is suffering, and we go ahead and say it anyway because we feel we should say something. So much of what we say can come across as uncaring or cliche and usually does more harm than good. Often times, simply being with the one who is suffering and being quiet is the best thing we can do at first.
Suffering is a fact of life, and Scripture recognizes this. One of the characteristics of the Christian faith is the recognition that we suffer. Many of the other religions of the world seek to escape suffering, or teach that it is all a state of mind. Unfortunately, within Christianity itself there are a couple of streams that see suffering as something to avoid or escape. Some preach that suffering is something that comes straight from the devil, and that God wants us to not suffer. Others preach that we will one day escape this evil old world, and in the meantime we just put up with it. Both groups miss the idea that God works through and redeems our suffering. So, where does the connection between suffering and glory come in?
In Romans 8, Paul tells us that our suffering doesn't even begin to compare with the glory that will be revealed to us. Just before this statement, he says that this suffering enables us to share in Christ's glory. It seems that our suffering is an indication that we are children of God and fellow heirs with Christ. The early church understood this. They saw their suffering as bringing the kingdom to earth the same way the suffering of Jesus did. That's why they could rejoice in their troubles.
Paul continues to state that the very creation is groaning and waiting for the final redemption of our bodies. We live in a broken world and will deal with that brokenness until Christ comes again. We can take comfort in knowing that God is with us in our suffering. He knows what we are going through, because he suffered in the incarnation. We also can know that the sufferings we go through
are things that our Father can and does redeem and work for our good and for the good of his people. God works through our troubles to make us more like Jesus.
Paul goes on to tell us that we not only will be glorified with a glory far surpassing our suffering, but that we are already glorified. God has begun the glorification in us and will finally bring it to completion when Jesus returns. We can look at our suffering and see it not only as something that will bring God's glory in us in the future, but also something that is bringing God's glory in us in the here and now. We also know that there is absolutely nothing that the powers of this world or the powers behind those powers can do that will rip us out of our Abba's loving arms.
When we suffer, let us take heart in the realization that God is with us in the midst of our suffering, and that he is working through it for his, and our glory.
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