As a pastor, I often meet with people who suffer from a variety of challenges: health problems, grief, marital strife, addiction, financial issues, etc. Almost no one I know is immune to suffering and even fewer rejoice in suffering. Thus, what are we to make of Paul’s words in Romans 8:16,17: “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
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.” (emphasis mine)? Ouch! I thought we became God’s children and heirs of his eternal Kingdom by grace through faith, that is, God’s unmerited favor and our faith (also a gift from God) expressed in Jesus Christ. Why the need to suffer? Fact is, suffering is not a prerequisite for salvation, but it certainly accompanies salvation in this fallen world in which we continue to live after being saved. Suffering is also a common by-product of those who faithfully serve Jesus as He bids us to follow the narrow road. And yet the very next verse in Romans 8 (v.18) assures us that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Yes, this life is hard, even for Christians. Yes, following Jesus is difficult, and at times we will suffer for our faith or in spite of it. Yet as wearisome as our human suffering may be, we Christians can be assured of two eternal truths. First, few of us will ever come close to enduring the physical and emotional suffering Jesus faced on the cross. Second, whatever the depth of our suffering, it cannot hold sway over the glorious future that lies ahead for those who will one day meet Jesus face to face and reside with Him forever in heaven.