“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us….” (Romans 8:18)
For thousands of years, people have taken the basic view that “good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people.” If the gods are pleased with us, they show favor toward us. If they feel slighted, they curse us.
Hinduism and Buddhism call it karma — good deeds beget blessing; evil begets evil. The Jews in biblical times assumed much the same. Hence, Job’s wife (in light of all of Job’s suffering) urged him to “curse God and die.” (Job 2:9) What else could Job lose? He had apparently already (somehow) come under the curse of God.
Christian theology differs dramatically.
No doubt, the Apostle Paul’s opponents pointed to his own sufferings as evidence that he was not in the will of God. Consequently, in 2 Corinthians 11:25-28 he catalogs an array of hardships and suffering he has endured. His list includes beatings, being stoned almost to death, multiple shipwrecks, hunger, thirst, and danger. Just the kind of list that would lead most people to conclude that Paul had fallen out of favor with God. We might be tempted to think the same. Correct?
We hold a basic (myopic) sense of fairness to which we assume even the cosmos should be subject.
However, Paul challenges our view of suffering. It comes to us — to all of us — for many reasons; our own sin, the fallenness of those around us, the brokenness of the physical world in which we live, or even spiritual attack (as in Job’s experience).
Paul seems unconcerned with explaining suffering. Rather, he reflects on it within a much larger context; the context of redemption. He had written earlier to the Corinthians, perhaps just months before this letter to the Romans:
We do not lose heart. Though the outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Then Paul reiterates this for the Romans, and for us.
Whatever you are facing today, whatever struggles or suffering afflict you right now, whatever hardships you face in this moment may have no explanation. But they will fade in comparison to the glory that awaits you for eternity, as you fix your eyes on Jesus.
What glorious hope to hold onto!