“For I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” Romans 8:18
Why do we suffer? This is a common question from both those who know God, and those who do not. It is often used, of course, as a ‘reason’ to refuse to believe in God, or in the goodness of God. I don’t presume to know the full answer to this question of suffering, but this week I had an experience which, for me, was an example of part of the answer.
The child of a friend of mine became very seriously ill. This week has been a nightmare for the parents. The situation became progressively worse, which resulted in the child being admitted to our local hospital. This was followed the next day by an ambulance ride, with blue flashing lights, to a hospital in London at about 7pm in the evening. In the first hospital they just could not discover the problem. The child was in severe pain and vomiting constantly. At the London hospital they still could not firmly establish the root cause, but felt they had to open up the child and operate immediately. A 3-4 hour operation in the middle of the night.
I sat with the child’s Mummy at our local hospital. I wept with her, for her child, and for her pain. And I thought of God – our great Heavenly Father – whose love for me and for you is even greater than the love of a Mummy for her baby.
The little child, on the huge hospital bed, with tubes coming out of him in so many different places, looked at his Mummy reproachfully. He seemed to be saying, ‘why are you letting this happen to me Mummy? Why don’t you stop them sticking needles in me? Please take out all these tubes. Why don’t you take me home?’ But, of course, a Mummy who loved her child so much, could not do that. All this had to happen, so that the child could be made well. The child was broken and had to be mended. All this had to be done in order to fix what was wrong. He could not enjoy toys and games and ice cream and fun in the future, unless first the problem was fixed. Mummy understood this, the child did not.
And yet even while suffering, you could see the love and trust shining out of this little boy’s eyes. Mummy is here so it must be alright, he seemed to be thinking. Drifting in and out of sleep, each time he woke his eyes searched the room for his Mummy. Yes she was still there, so even though he had no idea what was happening, it must be alright.
At the same time Mummy (and Daddy at home with the younger child) were doing exactly the same with their Heavenly Father. Oh God, we don’t understand what is going on and our little boy is hurting, but we are still going to trust you irrespective of the outcome. We know you are here with us. We know you love us because Jesus suffered and died on the cross for each of us, so we are hanging onto that love and trusting you.
And I wondered about the connection between our suffering here on earth, and the glory that will be revealed in us when we are with Jesus. Each of us has been broken by the terrible effect of sin. What if we cannot be made fit for heaven in any other way? What if the only way we can have the ‘glory’ is if we also have the suffering? What if our broken minds and bodies must first be fixed, before we can enjoy all that God has in store for us throughout eternity?
And then later I understand it was even worse. Mummy was alone in the hospital in London. She had to help the doctors hold the child tight so that the preparation could be made for the operation. The child felt totally betrayed. For a short while he would not look at his Mummy or allow her to come near him. The ultimate betrayal, she had conspired with those who were hurting him.
And I remembered the times in my life, when I have turned against God because, with my limited understanding, He was doing nothing to help me. In fact, He seemed against me because He allowed things in my life which He could have prevented. And yet, His love was too great to stop the suffering. I need to be fixed before I am able to enjoy the glory which will be revealed in me. And I am sure there is still much more fixing to be done! And I can always trust in His great love and goodness. The love which was prepared to come to earth, and suffer and die for me.
Perhaps there is a link between the extent of the suffering and the extent of the glory. God is fair and just and righteous. But none of us knows how much someone else may suffer, so we can never compare. What is suffering to me may not be to you. But our Heavenly Father knows us through and through. He knows every detail of our character and our lives perfectly. He knows exactly what we need, and exactly what is best for us.
I love the way the Amplified Bible puts this verse in Romans 8:18: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time (this present life) are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us and for us and conferred on us!
The Bible also says, ‘For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone’. Lamentations 3:33. He only allows what is necessary in our lives. Can we trust Him? Can we trust His love?
Yes we can. Because He has already demonstrated such love – “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. John 15:13 (NIV). He suffered so much on our behalf. Jesus went to the cross so that we could be forgiven, and our relationship with God restored. So that we could be ‘fixed’. And now all that remains is to change us so that we are able to enjoy all that He has in store for us in the future. We would not enjoy heaven as we are, we need to be changed. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:17 (NIV)
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”1 Corinthians 2:9 (NKJV)
I learned a lesson this week from a very brave and beautiful little boy who is only 3 years old. I also learned a lesson from his brave, loving and faithful parents. I hope I will never forget this.
When we have finished running the race (Hebrews 12:1) and are face to face with Jesus (1 Corinthians 13:12) He will present us with our crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4). Then maybe we will echo words similar to those of this wonderful little boy, when he came round from the operation. He was presented with a certificate of bravery by the surgeon and said – ‘Mummy did I win?’ Yes my darling you won.