It’s not the happy times that mess with us. It’s the suffering that threatens to derail us. Nowhere in Paul’s writings does he rise to the heights of Romans 8. And in this very context he teaches on suffering. For Paul, pain-free Christianity is an oxymoron.
He is telling us what it means to be a son rather than a slave. It includes freedom from condemnation (v. 1), victory (12), guidance (14), adoption (15), and an inheritance (17). Then whammo! The massive word “if.” Bummer: “…if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (17b).
We usually don’t put suffering and glory in the same sentence. Paul does—twice. If you want to understand what he learned, look at Romans 8. Go through pain not with resignation but with the sound of victory. It is not seeker-sensitive; it is Christ-sensitive. Here goes:
Our suffering is His suffering. We over-personalize suffering. The next step–make ourselves victims. Though Paul suffered greatly, we hear nothing resembling a victim mentality. He even speaks of “the fellowship of his sufferings.” If you are fastened too much on your cross, you’re not focused enough on His.
Present suffering enhances future glory. Paul put all his marbles in the age to come. He said, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (18). No “poor me” attitude. He contrasted trials to the coming glory and called them “light and momentary troubles” (2 Cor. 4:17). See your sorrows in the shadow of forever and they diminish!
Our groans for redemption matches the cry of creation. We share a common bondage, the hope of reversing decay. Paul told the Corinthians that “we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling” (2 Cor. 5:2). The kingdom is now—and not yet. Good news—the Spirit understands and prays for us (26). And get this—so does Jesus. Could we build a more impressive prayer team?!
Nothing is wasted, and certainly not pain. Meaningless misery prolongs agony. Purposeful pain enhances steadfastness. Paul says, “We know…” That knowledge gives us hope: “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (28). Upgrade your confidence in God’s sovereign work, right in the thick of your pain. And that “good” is making us look more like the Beloved Son.
Pain does not separate us from God’s love. We sometimes interpret pain as the God’s absence. In truth, it makes God’s love stronger. Paul references disasters like persecution or the sword and concludes, “That cannot separate us.” Then he lists the greatest enemies, including demons and death, concluding with the same triumphant spirit, that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (39).
A victim says, “I’d be happy if it weren’t for these trials .” A victor says, “Those are the things that made me who I am.” Everything counts! Do I hear a halleluia?!