For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. | Romans 8:18
In the sermon this Sunday we talked about God’s use of suffering. We said that avoiding suffering is not possible in this life, and that it isn’t God’s main concern. Instead, our energy should be put into glorifying God in our suffering. Specifically, we should press into Him as our only hope and use our gratitude as fuel for our faith in hard times. Finally, we made the point that the fact that the Bible describes the peace of God as passing understanding and the love of Christ as beyond all understanding means that we should trust in His comfort rather than trying to explain it.
Now I am going to try to explain it…or at least, give some reasons why God allows us to suffer. The existence of grief is a part of how God to reveal to us who He is. The fact that this world exists for His glory, not just for our joy, means that He is working toward a higher purpose than our immediate situations. Which makes it hard to trust Him in our daily circumstances. It is only by looking to this higher purpose that we can begin to makes sense of suffering. In Romans 8, we get a glimpse of this greater good; lets look at what it says:
What is God waiting for?
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. | 19
This is helpful when we struggle with why God does not just end it all now. When we want to know why He doesn’t just make everything better now. It is because, in mercy, He is allowing the time for all of His people to come to Him. His patience is what allowed you to be ushered into His family, and your waiting with eager longing is what allows future generations the opportunity to be adopted in.
Why allow suffering at all?
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope | 20
The Bible makes it clear that God is in control, so nothing, including sin, can happen outside of His sovereignty. This verse makes that clear: He subjected it. That creates a question for us: WHY? Paul gives us a clue here when he says, He subjected it IN HOPE. In hope of what? In the hope that we would see the glory of God. So why is grief necessary for us to have hope? Without need, a Savior saves us from nothing. Without an understanding of our own futility, we will never seek God. God’s means of displaying His character is through saving us from the bondage of our sin; the grief of our broken world is part of the story of God’s goodness.
Is this really necessary?
that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. | 21
I often have people ask me: couldn’t God have done this differently? Isn’t there a way that He could have overwhelmed us with His love without all of this pain? My answer is: apparently not! If He could have, I believe that He would have. The fact that God has allowed this grief is because the glory He is building toward, the freedom that we will experience, is worth the cost. The glory at the end will make sense of all of the grief that led to it.
What does this accomplish?
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. | 22-25
The hope that is created in this struggle is an utter dependence on God; we even have to trust Him to make sense out of it! He is not just a piece to the puzzle of our joy, He is it. It is only through this eager waiting that we are able to build toward true freedom: living in perfect relationship with our God and Father.
How does this help us now?
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. | 26
We can trust God and come to Him for comfort in our everyday situations specifically because He doesn’t view them as we do. We are overwhelmed by them. We struggle to see the big picture. We can’t even put words to what we are experiencing. God will meet us in our weakness and will intercede for us. He won’t explain it all or take it away; He will simply give us a place to put our hope as we wait.
How is grief good?
It is good because it forces us beyond ourselves. We are so self-centered; we want to be the solution to our problems. Grief forces us to see that we are not in control. We can’t make things good. We don’t have the power to affect the change we want to see in the world (to be clear, we can make a dent, but there will always be something else). Rather than being overcome by this, grief gives us the opportunity to put our hope elsewhere. When we do, grief gives the chance for God to show us the truest and best description of His love for us in how He rescues us from our own mess.