Nothing in This World Compares
Suffering isn’t just part of this life; it’s a major part of this life. Granted, some suffer more than others. We may question how someone with great possessions and the riches of this world can be said to suffer, but suicide exists among the wealthy as with the poor. Christians are not exempt from suffering either. Indeed, the entire New Testament teaches us that suffering is our lot and expectation in this world. It comes in many forms. Of course, our minds first turn to our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world who must worship in secret and endure hardship and even death for the faith. But we all suffer something be it from physical ailments to emotional or relational pain to just plain living in this world. It is all the result of our sin, and we cannot evade it. And in this passage we learn that even the subhuman creation itself suffers because of our sin. Eden was a paradise, but upon our sin the ground produced thorns and thistles, the lion no longer lay down with the lamb, nor could a little child lead them. The curse spread far and wide, and extended all the way to the cross.
But Christians do not suffer for nothing. It is a great pity that unbelievers must endure suffering to no purpose, or at least to no eternal purpose, which is that for which we suffer. As people who have been born of the Spirit, we “acknowledge that [we are] strangers and exiles on the earth.” “[We] desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.” “Therefore God … has prepared for [us] a city” (Hebrews 11:13-16). And as Paul says here, we groan within, not simply to be released from our sufferings, but that our sufferings may serve our redemption and God’s great glory. This redemption we wait for is the redemption of our bodies, when our bodies shall finally be transformed from these lowly bodies, that we may inhabit a heavenly city. Moreover, the creation itself shall participate in that redemption and be transformed into the creation it was ever meant to be (Revelation 21:1-4).
But for this we must wait and endure. And he is the Spirit who nurtures the fruit of hope within us that we may wait patiently for the realization of the ultimate blessing. And when we compare what we see from afar with what we see before our eyes, we agree with the Apostle: “The sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Let pagans scrap over their scrawny piece of turf; after all, when that is all they have to hope for, it makes sense that they would cling to it with might and main. We have a far greater reward which liberates us from such worthless pursuits, and frees us to live without worry in a fading world.