…our present sufferings……glory!
Suffering is inevitable in a fallen, sinful, broken world. There is general suffering where we all know, to differing degrees, the aches and pains of a wide variety of illnesses, sickness, weakness and ultimately the finality of death and all its adversities. Then specific suffering as a result of particular circumstances and individual events. Tragic incidents, unique and personal suffering through distinct calamities, disasters and catastrophes. They can be in whole families, communities, national or even worldwide as this pandemic shows. In many parts of the world there is the suffering of persecution.
In the midst of the storms of suffering the first thing most people want and need is sympathy, support, comfort and some hope. Answering arguments and giving slick answers to complex questions is not the first priority. When Jesus eventually arrived at the home of Mary and Martha, after hearing the sad news of their brother Lazarus’ death, one of his responses was to weep. He weeps with those that weep. He fully identifies with the sadness and bereavement of his friends. Jesus is not detached and unfeeling in His response. He shares their loss and sorrows. He will go on to personally face the humiliation of rejection, the pain and profound cruel suffering of the cross. Truly a “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” Jesus’ willingness, ability and unique qualification to counsel, comfort and console all kinds of sufferers is unquestionable. He then provides hope in declaring himself to be the great “I Am the resurrection and life.”
In all of our suffering the Lord promises His presence, peace and power to sustain, support and strengthen. When Paul faced a disturbing, persistent thorn-like pain and asked three times for its removal the Lord assured him that His grace was sufficient. There are strange and often mysterious purposes to suffering. Back in Romans 5 vs 1-5 Paul outlines an amazing interconnected chain of blessings. Faith, peace, grace, hope, glory, and love. But he also mentions the reality of suffering as it produces perseverance and character. The best qualified people to talk of lessons in suffering are those who have personal experience. So Job, David the psalmist, Paul and Jesus himself have benefited as they “trace the rainbow through the cloud.” Together they testify that suffering has a transforming, redemptive effect on their lives. Their perspective, experience and awareness of God’s greatness, goodness, generosity and glory seem to shine clearer than before. Patience, perseverance, gratitude, even joy seem to be more real albeit through struggles and tears.
Then the great final goal of glory is no small incentive, inspiration and encouragement. These verses surrounding 8:16 talk of an ultimate redemption coming to its final completion as a groaning creation and groaning believers will be “liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” This glory won’t just be a wonderful display of majestic splendour all around us but – wonder of all wonders – in us! Finally transforming our whole being. Mind, body and spirit. Fitting us for the glory of the new heaven and earth. All sin, suffering, pain and tears ended. This vision of glory can and should sustain us through every trial, grief and loss. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17). This is one reason why we may even rejoice in our trials and sufferings. But now in our present sufferings, weakness and inabilities the help of the Holy Spirit as our intercessor is a guarantee. He is alongside us and also groans but knows all of God’s will for us. Then above and gloriously beyond is the intercession of Christ. 8:34 May all these encouragements and blessings support, strengthen and sustain us today and into the future.
Meirion Thomas, Malpas Road