Do you have earthly sufferings?
Yes…me too…way too many of them.
Have you ever struggled with your earthly sufferings?
Yes…me too…way too often.
I have found that sometimes my struggles with my earthly sufferings play with my mind and hurt my spiritual growth. Sometimes questions creep into the edges of my consciousness like…
God, do you still love me?
God, did I do something that you are punishing me for?
God, are you purposefully not answering my prayers?
God, why are you allowing this to happen?
Now, in my right mind, I believe God loves me, he has forgiven me so does not punish me, and he answers my prayers. I know these things. Yet somehow, at times when I’m struggling with my earthly sufferings, the other questions creep into my thoughts.
I have learned it is really hard to grow spiritually during what I call the “question creep.”
In Romans 8:18, Paul says something which has been very helpful to me that I share with you with the belief it will help you too:
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
On the surface it sounds like Paul is crazy. I want to shout things like,
“Do you know my present sufferings?”
“Do you know how difficult this situation is in my life?”
“Do you know how painful my day was?”
I am sure if Paul were in front of me he would say, yep, Jamie…I know…let me tell you the things I have been through. The truth is he already has. Just a quick read of some of his letters in the Bible shows me he has been through much in his life that I have in mine.
So knowing the magnitude of his sufferings makes his statement very interesting and compelling.
He was imprisoned…
He was flogged…
He was beaten with rods…
He was stoned…
He was shipwrecked…
He was hungry and thirsty…
He was cold….
Yet, when he wrote to the Christians in the city of Rome he said that all his sufferings in this life are nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed in us in eternity.
The words “in us” are extremely important. The glory will be revealed in us.
This is huge because it means our spiritual growth in this life affects the glory to be revealed in us in the next life. I am not talking about salvation. Salvation is by faith alone, and God will always remain steadfast to the promises he has made. If you are a follower of Jesus, you are forgiven and have been saved into eternal life.
However, obtaining salvation by faith should not cause us to ignore the reality that our spiritual growth in this life still has a significant effect on the glory revealed in us in the next life. Who are the ones in whom the most glory will be revealed in Heaven? It will be those who experience the most spiritual growth while here on Earth. This is why our present sufferings do not compare with the glory revealed in us for all eternity.
The reality is we are all going to face trials in life. We are going to suffer and become frustrated with our suffering. Sometimes these sufferings will cause us to ask very hard…and not-so-nice questions about God.
Then, in the end, each of us will face death. Given that reality, shouldn’t we make our lives count for something that lasts? This is the opportunity that spiritual growth gives us. The opportunity to create eternal value with our lives.
Here is the thought that helps me when I am struggling with my sufferings and it is hurting my spiritual growth. Here is what I try and remind myself when I am feeling anxious, frustrated, angry…you fill in the blank…over my sufferings:
“Although our trials and sufferings do not last, our spiritual growth lasts for eternity.”
May this truth help you as much as it helps me. May we have the strength to use our present sufferings to focus on our spiritual growth, which lasts forever.
May we both benefit in eternity from our trials today.