Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 8:18-30 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: Paul writes, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed” (Romans 8:18-19).
Suffering isn’t something that folks typically run toward. It’s usually foisted upon us. Still, sometimes we choose discomfort for a worthwhile purpose. A few months ago, I was looking in the mirror—which prompted me to step on the scale—and I discovered that I would have to suffer a little to achieve the glory that would be revealed in me. Lots of bicycling, hiking, and not eating supper produced the glorious absence of 30 pounds around my middle parts. It took four months, but the suffering was worth the result. Or maybe not; I did have to buy all new clothes.
The kind of suffering that Paul is referring to is more the kind that has been foisted upon us. We’ve been born into a world that is riddled with opportunities for us to suffer. Nobody enjoys or wants to experience involuntary suffering. But suffering doesn’t look for our consent before it visits us.
I’ve pastored for more than thirty years and have seen the kinds of suffering that produce gut-wrenching sobs next to little caskets, angst-ridden faces aching from broken relationships, parents wringing their hands over a child who has made the kinds of choices that hurt the whole family in palpable ways. I’ve seen suffering.
Paul says that these kinds of suffering can be endured because of the future glory that will be revealed, and that this future glory has something to do with the children of God being revealed (Verse 19).
One: Yes, it’s imperative that we hold out hope, realizing that there is an end plan for this old earth that will result in no more tears, no more suffering, no more little coffins, and no more broken relationships. It’s our hope. It’s our yearning. It’s our inner longing.
Two: Future hope of the Second Coming isn’t the sole solution (at least in the short term) to suffering. In the Sermon on the Mount (Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6), Jesus said that we are blessed when we suffer in humility, hunger, persecution, and broken peace. Why? We are blessed because when suffering befalls those who belong to the New Community of God’s Church, they don’t suffer alone. If I find myself hungry, the church will feed me. If I find myself mourning, I will be comforted by those who are in my church family. If I am in the middle of strife, my church family will bring calm. This is the revealing of the children of God in response to great suffering.
God’s children are revealed when they come together to relieve suffering.
Recalibrate: Think of the times that the church has been a balm to your suffering. Tell another person about those times as a testimony to the power of God’s church on earth.
Respond: Look for an opportunity today to live out your calling to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Research: Read the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. Notice the challenge for you to be the church in tough situations for God’s people.
Remember: “Consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18, NIV).
Mark Witas is the lead pastor at Pacific Union College Church in Angwin, CA. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Mark has served as a youth pastor, Bible teacher, college and academy chaplain, and lead pastor in the United States and Canada for the last 33 years. He has also authored four books: Born Chosen, Live Out Loud, Portals, and Just Jesus.
The Bible says, in Romans 8:3, that God is for us. Here are some actions to teach your child. God (Point upward) is for (thumbs up) us (point to yourself and your child, giving them a hug). Know that God is always for you.
The Bible says, in Verse 31 of Romans Chapter 8, that God is for us. Imagine life as a game. Sometimes games are fun and sometimes they are not. Imagine that the creator of the game, the only person to ever beat the game, and the best coach of the game all want you to be on their team. They want you to play for and with them. This is exactly what God invites us to do—to be on Team Live Love. Verse 31 ends with the words, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” How do you think a kid on Team Live Love would play?
Pretty sure I can ruin your entire Sunday in one short phrase: Remember, you have that big test this week. It’s September. Most of you have been in school for a few weeks now, which inevitably means those big tests are starting to happen. Ugh! School’s the worst right? Study. Work. Friends. Teachers. Projects. Coaches. Bosses. Homework. Parents. Expectations. Church. Stress. Deadlines. Stress. Stress. Did I mention stress? And now, just like that, your restful Sunday full of relaxation, Netflix, and joy have been transformed into a day of suffering. So sorry. But here’s the point. Welcome to humanity. We all, at some level, experience this awful and ridiculous phenomena called “suffering.”
Suffering is like a gift that nobody wants but one that everybody receives at some point in their life. Even Jesus Himself didn’t have a suffering-free existence. And He told us point blank that we too will have trouble in this world.
Are you weighed down by suffering? Many of us are. Perhaps we should pause and recognize this reality. Suffering can come in many different forms, and we can never fully understand the weight of suffering someone else is carrying. Which takes us to our passage this week—Romans 8:18-30. Check out these first few lines from Paul. “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”(Romans 8:18,19).
Wait, what? All creation is waiting for God to reveal who his children are? Like the trees and angels and galaxies and puppies, all anxiously waiting to meet God’s kids?
I have three kids; if you look, you’ll notice a trend. The more kids I have, the more they start to look like me. Noah (oldest) looks like Andrea, my wife. Benjamin (middle) looks like both of us. Adaline (baby) looks most like me. Sometimes it’s obvious, based on looks, who belong to which parent. Sometimes it’s not. Maybe that’s Paul’s thought for us in 2018 when he brings up the issue of suffering and who exactly is God’s child. If children (sometimes) look like their parents, then wouldn’t it make sense for God’s children to look like Him? However, perhaps it’s possible that God’s children don’t always look like Him, hence creation eagerly waits to find out who they are. Are you God’s child? Do you look like Him, meaning do you speak, listen, and act the way God does?
I’m pretty sure right now you know someone who is suffering. Perhaps this week, today, there’s something we all can do to better look like God in how we meet the needs of someone who is suffering. What does that look like for you today? This week?