“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.”
— Romans 8:18 (NRSV)
In times of pain,
Like being stuck,
In the cold driving rain,
There seems no way to cope.
But when we’re real,
And we’re open to feel,
God provides relief of hope.
SUFFERING may actually be the perfect accompaniment to true rejoicing, but only if – in the material of suffering – we can suffer the right way; that is to “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)
Suffering meets everyone sooner or later, but the human response is to rail against it, and, in that way, we learn nothing; God cannot mould our characters when we resist the work of his Spirit by resenting the suffering, overall.
But in a paradox of all wisdom we do need to resist and resent a little; enough to be admonished and encouraged. There is great benefit in issuing a lament before God. There is healing in dealing with God alone. God knows there is no healing to be done purely through our fellow human beings. Healing occurs in transaction with God.
There is precursor to healing: suffering. But not just any suffering will be the material for healing. We must suffer in humility and continue to give God glory as our hope in the glory to come overcomes our worldly concern. What is coming cannot compare with what already is.
So suffering is a necessary prerequisite to the glory enfolded in true rejoicing. Many consider themselves having not suffered, and it might be the case that there is a quiet envy going on when those who haven’t suffered compare themselves with those who have, who faced their suffering courageously, and have hence been healed. Forgiveness is now a bit of an instinctive no-brainer as the heart of God has moulded a human heart to be a purveyor of compassion, kindness, and tolerance.
Those who have suffered humbly to the point where God has shaped their character and healed their broken souls have found the way to true rejoicing.
Suffering is a prerequisite to a true understanding of the gospel, for, as Jesus suffered, we too must suffer to comprehend a little of what he went through.
Suffering is not a bad thing; it is a gateway into the glorious hope that prevails which is still to be revealed. We understand the ways of faith, hope, and love when we have a bearing for suffering – our own or others’, and certainly Christ’s.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.