Thursday, August 10, 2023

Finding Hope in Suffering (Romans 8)

"… we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together" (Rom. 8:17).

At no other time is the vanity of life more evident than during times of suffering. When we are hurting the unyielding weight of life presses most forcefully upon us seemingly mocking us at every turn. We find it easy to ignore the constant drone of life when we’re surrounded by loved ones, when we’re in great health, or when we kneel to receive the warm embrace of a child. But when we’re faced with loneliness, when we’re in pain, or when we long to feel the arms of our children encircle us, only then do we taste most deeply life’s bitterness.

How do we find comfort in the shadow of God’s dark providences? Some people try to find comfort in God while they deny that He is in control of their suffering. Others deny God’s existence altogether and resolve simply to face suffering with courage. Some find solace in denying the existence of pain. They believe pain is only a figment of their imagination. Too many today, even in the church, try to deal with suffering by channeling positive energies to counter the negative. They believe that if you just think positively everything will turn out for the best.

Methods such as these do not adequately deal with the reality of suffering or God’s relation to our pain. As a result, they do not offer lasting comfort to those who are going through difficult times. Only the Scriptures assure us that God is in control of everything—even our pain—and that He is working everything out according to His glorious purposes. God is not a weakling who is chained by the forces of darkness; nor is He a sadistic deity who delights in torturing His creatures. God is a wise and good God who molds us and shapes us through suffering. Paul said we share in the sufferings of Christ so that we will share in His glory. Suffering is inevitable because we have sinned against God. But God does not allow His children to be overcome; He uses our suffering to prepare us to be with Him. Suffering reminds us that this life is only temporary. It helps us to depend on God and to put our hope in Him. It humbles us for our sin and reminds us that we do not deserve God’s grace. And it helps us to sympathize with and serve others who are overwhelmed with pain and grief.

Many people deny God’s sovereignty because “their God doesn’t allow bad things to happen to good people.” What is wrong with this kind of thinking? What have been “bad” things in your life that you see now were part of God’s perfect plan? Thank Him today for being in control, and praise Him for His wisdom and goodness.