Paul is an interesting guy. He takes us really low (“we are sinners and can’t help ourselves”) and then takes us really high (“children of God and joint heirs”) and then in this next section of Romans 8, brings us back down a little bit. I think he does that, in part, to connect the truth of God’s word to our present reality. Kind of the “don’t be so heavenly minded you are of no earthly good” concept.
And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. (Romans 8:17-21 NLT)
So, we are God’s children which gives us an amazing heritage and access to the most powerful entity in the universe (read Ephesians 1 to see the scope of this). Paul then uses two words: glory and suffering. You see we typically want the good without the bad. We desire the Jesus with the little lamb on his shoulders; the popular Jesus that had throngs of people around him; the son of God Jesus who did amazing miracles. We just don’t want the suffering Jesus who was persecuted first by his own family, then later went to the cross and suffered horrible torture and death.
Paul wrote this to Christians who were about, or were already, being persecuted for their faith. The gladiatorial fights in the coliseum and Christians being martyred there are not just stories they are facts of history. So Paul was telling a group of people that we must suffer if we are to share in Christ’s victory. How does this relate to us today?
We all know we were made for something more than to suffer. Our bodies yearn for it and our souls cry out for it. An internal working that tells us there is more to life. Those “groanings” as Paul puts it look forward to a day when there will be no more suffering or pain and no more death.
When you wake up dissatisfied with your current state, know this: you are tapping into something God put there. But instead of looking at your present sufferings as a curse, look at them in light of Christ’s sufferings, and then turn your present discouragement into a future hope: “one day I will be free.”
The first Christians, amidst persecution, had a future hope that was stronger then their present suffering.
Action: In what ways can you make hope stronger than discouragement in your own life? List some thinking patterns that might help you turn the switch from discouragement to hope.