We have already considered our suffering with Christ in the form of affliction and persecution because of our firm stand on the Word and unwavering faith. It has well been said that faith is trusting in spite of consequences. So when affliction or persecution arises because of our stand on the truth and trust in Christ, we trust in spite of consequences. We take our stand on the truth; we will not be moved; and we refuse to throw away our confidence. This is called the perseverance of the saints and those who have been genuinely saved will persevere to the end.
So affliction and persecution are intended by the devil to cause men to stumble and turn away from the truth, believing his lie that Christians are not supposed to suffer. But on the other hand God uses affliction and persecution to cause genuine Christians to cling tighter to Him and prove them to be His children through their perseverance. The ones that endure to the end are proven to be the children of God and the ones that don’t endure to the end are not and will not be saved (Matthew 24:13).
Christians are to know and believe God’s truth that they are to suffer and that their suffering is working for them and not against them. With suffering comes the temptation to “throw in the towel” and give up on the faith. However, God gives His children the grace and the power to endure for His name’s sake (2 Timothy 1:8-12). So when we endure suffering without turning away from the truth; trusting God through it all (Romans 8:28); we prove that we have genuine biblical faith (1 Peter 1:7-9) and are not of those who shrink back and prove themselves to be children of destruction (Hebrews 10:35-39).
All suffering, no matter what form it takes, is a threat to ones faith and will ultimately prove that faith to be either genuine or counterfeit. So the Holy Spirit wants us to shore up our faith by the Word of God (Hebrews 4:2); knowing that God’s intentions are for our good even through our suffering (Romans 8:28); and to trust Him completely in spite of the circumstances (Romans 8:35-39; 2 Timothy 1:12; Hebrews 3:14). We are to be patient and persevere and live by faith (Hebrews 10:35 – 11:1).
So here is the wonderful truth that is presented to us in God’s Word – suffering is the divine decree of an all-mighty, all-wise, and all-loving Creator that causes us to rejoice in Him for what He has done, for what He is doing, and for what He is going to do. Suffering prepares us for glory (2 Thessalonians 1:4-5). Suffering causes us to long for what is coming - glory (Romans 8:23).
But not only do we suffer and long for glory – so does the creation (Romans 8:18-22)
Suffering works for us and not against us (Romans 8:18). In the hands of our wise and loving heavenly Father we are going from groaning to glory. Our suffering in this world is worth it because our sharing in glory will be greater. Our suffering is temporary; our glory will be eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Therefore we have a proper perspective about suffering and we do not focus on it but on what is to come. This makes all the difference in the world. We see our suffering as a necessary means to a greater end. This makes the suffering endurable and worth it! Suffering is a tool that God uses to prepare us for the glory that is to come and that makes the suffering worth it. We are given the example of suffering the pains of childbirth (Romans 8:22) and the joy of the baby’s birth causes the suffering of labor to dim in comparison. The glory we will see and the glory we will share will be far beyond all comparison to the sufferings we endured.
We are not alone in this suffering or this longing (Romans 8:19). The creation is watching and waiting for the glorification of the children of God which will result in the glorification of the creation. Creation is patiently enduring suffering and eagerly waiting to be set free which will not happen until the children of God are glorified. The glorification of the children of God is the culmination of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ to redeem all who will believe in Him from sin and creation from the curse (Colossians 1:20). So when this blessed event happens – the revealing of the sons of God – the creation will be set free (Romans 8:21) – and it will all be the result of the sinless life, sacrificial death, and supernatural resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then we will cry, “Glory!” The creation will cry, “Glory!” We will bow on our knees and clap our hands and sing, “Glory!” And all creation in one huge symphony will sing, “Glory!” Glory to the Son of God!
Suffering is intended by God for good for the children of God and for the creation (Romans 8:20-21). God Himself is the One who subjected the creation to futility. Man is responsible for the curse on creation but not the one who cursed it. Subjecting the creation to futility was God’s judicial and righteous judgment because of man’s sin. However, God’s ultimate design in death and decay is two-fold. First and foremost, suffering because of the curse is to define the reality and horrors of sin. There are great and severe consequences to sin because our sin is against a holy and righteous God. Second, suffering because of the curse is to demonstrate the wisdom, power, and love of God through His ability to make suffering work for us and not against us. Suffering makes the children of God better. But notice too that creation will also be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Romans 8:21). The curse will be removed and there will be no more suffering. There will be a new heaven and new earth with no more suffering of any kind. God will be glorified for His ability to save and deliver from bondage!
Suffering is designed by God to end in life and not death for the children of God and for the creation (Romans 8:22). God wants us to have the proper perspective for the suffering that is happening to us and the whole creation. For those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28), suffering is like the pains of childbirth – it is going to end in life and not death. Our suffering will be worth it and it will dim in comparison to glory that is coming. Our groans that arise from our suffering are like the screams of a woman in the maternity ward. Knowing where the screams are coming from and why they are coming makes all the difference in the world as to how you look at the suffering. So be patient; persevere; and live by faith! God knows what He is doing!