Suffering has a way of messing with our hope. In the midst of experiencing pain, loss, or hardship, we as Christians can easily lose our focus on what matters most and on our certain future. I was reminded of this reality recently and encouraged as I read the following story from David Jeremiah’s book What Are You Afraid Of?: Facing Down Your Fears with Faith (see my review):
Suppose you won a free trip around the world for you and a loved one. It included first-class accommodations at five-star hotels, private planes, lavish gifts, and personal tours. (See how powerful the imagination is?) But suppose as you opened the envelope containing the tickets, you suffered a paper cut on the end of your finger. You might say to your companion, “Oh, I cut my finger!” You’d grimace for about half a second before grinning from ear to ear and saying, “Who cares? We’re about to take the trip of a lifetime!” I would say nothing to trivialize disease [or other intense suffering]; I know the misery of it firsthand. But according to Paul, and from the perspective of our eternal God, the sufferings of this present world are less than a paper cut in relation to the glory yet to be revealed to us (p. 56).
The Apostle Paul’s perspective that David Jeremiah mentions comes from Romans 8:18:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Paul was no stranger to suffering. Later in Romans 8, Paul gives a long list of potential sufferings that some might think separate us from God: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, death, angels, rulers, powers, etc. The truth is that for the Christian, none of those things mentioned or “anything else in all creation” can separate him or her from the Lord! Paul himself faced many of these sufferings:
24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? (2 Corinthians 11:24-29)
So when Paul said that the “sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us,” this glory must be great to outweigh all of the intense sufferings that he faced. Indeed, this glory did outweigh Paul’s sufferings and it does outweigh ours!
Meditate on Heaven and the joy to be found there deeply, so that you can be of great earthly good and endure whatever may come in this life!
Let the example of Paul and the truth that even your hardest sufferings cannot separate you from God be an encouragement when you face suffering of any kind, whether small or great. If you know Christ, you have hope beyond measure and a certain joyous future in Heaven with Him!