Suffering is an unavoidable part of our lives in this fallen world. But earth is not our permanent home (1 Peter 2:11; Hebrews 11:13). As we wait for eternity, we can cling to this life-transforming hope communicated by the apostle Paul: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18, NKJV).
Redemptive suffering is Paul’s theme in Romans 8:18–27. Because of humanity’s fall, everything in creation has been subjected to God’s curse (Romans 8:20; see also Genesis 3:14–19). Along with every other created thing, believers long with eager anticipation for their ultimate adoption and emancipation from the curse (Romans 8:19). We can endure through the suffering of this present time because even our best experiences here on earth don’t hold a candle to the matchless glory of our future destiny and lasting reality in God’s eternal kingdom. When the curse of sin is lifted in the new heavens and new earth, we will live as “God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay” (Romans 8:21, NLT).
Today’s trials pale in significance when reframed against the setting of heaven’s Eden-like glory. The apostle Peter affirms, “I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world” (1 Peter 5:1, NLT). After we have “suffered a little while,” Peter promises that Christ Himself will restore us and make us “strong, firm and steadfast” in His eternal glory (1 Peter 5:10, NLT).
For now, we place our hope and trust in God because we “through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5). Paul testifies that God gives us the strength to endure all things (Philippians 4:13). And Peter encourages us through every difficulty to “greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (1 Peter 1:5–6). Again, the apostle urges, “Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world” (1 Peter 4:13, NLT).
Paul describes the suffering of this present time as “our light and momentary troubles” (2 Corinthians 4:17). He equates the experience to “groaning as in the pains of childbirth” (Romans 8:22, NLT). A mother can undergo excruciating labor accompanied by the joyous anticipation of embracing her newborn baby. We “groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently)” (Romans 8:23–25, NLT).
Paul describes the sufferings of this present time and then crystalizes their purpose: “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Corinthians 4:17, NLT).
The early apostles knew more than most of us ever will about the suffering of this present time. Both Peter and Paul died as martyrs for their faith in Jesus Christ. According to tradition, Paul was beheaded and Peter was crucified upside down because he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus. Yet, even if we suffer as violently as these two brave apostles, we can hold on to the hope of a glorious future where death is conquered and sorrow, grief, and pain will all be wiped away (Revelation 21:4). When we apprehend this indisputable promise from God, we realize that the sufferings of this present time weigh no more than a feather compared to the hefty, eternal weight of glory.