Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21thath the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God . . .
What if God had not subjected all of creation to futility and frustration? This can be such a stumbling block for us; it certainly was for me. What kind of God allows suffering for a creation that he loves? Paul tries to make clear that the suffering we experience (whether a believer or an unbeliever) is so that we can be free from death (consequence of sin) and made alive through Jesus. This can be extremely hard to accept for three reasons: 1.) It is the complete opposite of our worldly thinking 2.) No one wants to suffer, and 3.) We don’t always see immediate results in our suffering. We think that if we do good we get good results. How often do we say I deserve this–just watch some of our commercials to get a small taste of what we think that we deserve. We are not thinking about the fact that the wages of sin are death! (Romans 3:23) I forget that Jesus was perfect and we crucified him. If doing good was enough for our salvation then he should not have been put to death.
So if the son of God wasn’t spared suffering, then maybe my definition of suffering needs to change. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” God prepared me for Jonathan’s death (my current suffering) with this verse. I don’t know about you, but I tend to bristle when people throw out this verse when we suffer. I can tell the difference when someone clearly knows and believes what they are saying and when someone is just spouting something that sounds good. THIS IS A CRUCIFICTION BELIEF! I am saying that I believe that everything that I have experienced, the abuse as a child, the despair as a teen, the suicide of my son works to glorify God! That has to be a core transformation because it goes against my desire for self-preservation. God even uses fleas; just ask Corrie ten Boom who scoffed when her sister praised God for the fleas. God doesn’t use fleas for his glory! She found out later that the prison guards did not interfere with the bible-study that she and her sister led with the other prisoners because they did not want to get fleas. (The Hiding Place) Not a single bit of our experiences are wasted.
We need to look no further for an example of struggle with suffering than the Rich Young Ruler. For the disciples Mark 10 is a lynch pin moment. The rich young ruler runs up and bows to Jesus. He calls Jesus “Good Teacher”. And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” Already we can see that his thinking is not the same as Jesus’ on what constitutes goodness. 18The rich young ruler wants to know what he must do to inherit the kingdom of heaven. They run down the list of the 10 commandments and the young man has to be getting excited, because he has kept those commands. But, wait there is more! Jesus tells the rich young ruler, whom he loves mind you, “Sell everything you have, give it all to the poor, come follow me and store up treasures in heaven.” The rich young ruler loses heart and leaves because he has great wealth. Jesus, thinking is the complete opposite of the young ruler, as well as the disciples. Jesus tells the disciples that wealth cannot save us. “We have left everything to follow you.” The disciples say. They might as well have said, “We have left everything, because we thought you were going to make us rich.” The cup that Jesus drinks from is one of suffering! The rich young ruler was going to have to trade in his “tangible” results for the intangible, not yet seen results in heaven!!! Many walk away from Jesus today for this very same reason. I’m first to admit that I often struggle with a desire for immediate results in my obedience to God!
When my focus is on the immediate results that I think that I should obtain, such as I accepted Jesus, I turned my life around, I raised Jonathan as a godly mother . . . I, I, I . . . should have a son that succeeds in life and does not die. You owe me God for all that I sacrificed to follow you. This thinking is small, whereas God’s is so much bigger!!! Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” My current suffering, the loss of my son will be to God’s glory! What if the suicide rate, the hopelessness felt by so many turns around because God allowed this suffering in my life? I know it is hard for us to embrace the truth that God works even horrid things in our life to his glory, but I have seen way too many examples of that occurring to dismiss it as “Christian silliness”. Not the least of which is the Son of God, being mocked, lashed, and crucified by men and women wanting immediate results from this supposed king! Only to have Jesus turn the tables on death and save those very same people who put him on the cross. Over 2000 years later my faith is a result of Jesus’ suffering. I am grateful that God caused all of creation to be frustrated in sin, so that I now have hope that is not limited by circumstances and that I can offer that same hope to you.