Epistle of Paul to the Romans 8: 18-25 (NIV)
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
The Apostle Paul recognised suffering. He saw it in people he visited. He saw it in the natural world. He saw the suffering he himself had caused others. He saw the suffering of our Lord. He had written, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (verse 17). It is as if he realised that, as Jesus had to suffer for the sins of humankind, it is inevitable that humankind also must participate in suffering, particularly those who are followers of Jesus.
As I write this, the people of Northern Afghanistan and Pakistan continue to be anxious as violent aftershocks from a severe earthquake in the region cause further damage. In the past week one of the most severe hurricanes experienced in modern times crossed the Pacific coast of Mexico. When the Apostle Paul wrote, “For the creation was subjected to frustration …”, he was referring to the consequences of the original acts of disobedience committed by Adam and Eve. Those consequences are introduced in Genesis 3: 17: “Cursed is the ground because of you …”.
With Paul, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (verse 22). I believe we all yearn for the time when “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay” (verse 21).
Paul experienced personally some of the evidence of this decay. He had endured earthquakes (for example when imprisoned in Philippi), had seen drought and famine and had been shipwrecked several times (2 Corinthians 11: 23-29). The same verses also describe the suffering Paul survived at the hands of human actors. Such suffering today impacts hundreds of millions of children, women and men across the world.
The encouragement for Paul, and for us, is that these sufferings pale when compared with the glory which awaits those who trust in the risen Christ. It is for this hope we are saved. Paul encourages patience, a scarce but necessary quality and revealed as fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5: 22).
Lord, we pray for all who are suffering, that you will not allow any to be tested beyond what they are able to bear, that the yoke of Jesus will lift heavy burdens and that he will grant comfort and peace.