18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it—in the hope 21 that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. 23 And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits—we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 Now in this hope we were saved, yet hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
All religions have to deal with the question of suffering, and they do this in a variety of ways.
Buddhism sees suffering as the result of being too attached to the things and people of this world, and it encourages us to become essentially indifferent to all feelings and relationships. Hinduism teaches that suffering is the punishment for sins committed in a previous lifetime. Other religions see suffering as the result of a struggle between two equal forces, one good and one evil. Christian Science even argues that suffering is nothing more than a mental illusion.
The Bible addresses suffering continually throughout its pages. In today’s reading we find an important theme in the Christian perspective, which is that our suffering exists in the context of great hope. Part of this hope, as we discussed yesterday, comes from our realization that important benefits are gained through the things we endure, especially when we look for God’s role and purposes in them.
But Paul describes another aspect of our hope here in Romans 8, which is that our sufferings provide a dark background against which the glorious redemption of creation will one day shine even more brightly.
I think of the story of the blind man in John 9. Here was a man who was born without sight, not because he had sinned in a previous lifetime, or even because his parents had sinned. Rather, this man’s hardship was specifically permitted so one day a Nazarene carpenter who happened to be passing by would be able to demonstrate to the community the astonishing power of God—a miracle which (as He explained to His disciples) was on the list of works His Father had sent Him to earth to accomplish.
If we really understood what Scripture means by hope, I think we would find additional nourishment as we struggle through our trials. Hope rises out of a conscious choice to set our minds and hearts on that which is coming in the future. When a woman focuses her thoughts on the baby that will be born, it’s much easier to bear the pains of pregnancy and labor. Even more dramatically, Christ endured the cross because He could envision the “joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2).
So if what Paul says in Romans 8 is true, that our sufferings can’t even be measured on the same scale as the glory that lies ahead, then our prayer should be that God would give us the strength to “eagerly wait with patience” for something we can’t quite see yet with our eyes. What we do have is His astonishing Spirit within us, who gives us confidence that our hope will become reality, and that all our questions and anguishes and losses will fade away to nothing in the light of the splendors of a Kingdom that is coming very, very soon.
- List a few things you’re currently hoping for and think about them. Which ones are realistic? Which ones require you to do something? Which ones can happen only if you give up something? Are any of them certain to happen, or are they just wishful thinking?
- Then list some of the promises given to us in Scripture and consider how they’re different from so many of our human hopes:
- Their fulfillment is based on God’s ability, not ours.
- Their primary purpose is His glory, and our benefits are only side effects.
- God gives us strength and confidence to wait for them with endurance rather than restless impatience.
- They are certain to come to pass.