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There may be no word besides love that Paul speaks more of than suffering. Sometimes it is suffering in relationship to the cross of Christ. Sometimes it is suffering because of his missionary efforts as he encounters dangers on the highway, dangers on the seas and dangers in the wilderness.
Suffering is not something Paul seeks but he is willing to embrace suffering when it comes his way. Paul believes that suffering for the believer is sometimes part of the plan of God. The Patriarch Jacob suffered as he labored another seven years for the wife he desired when he had already worked for seven years for the wife he was given by deceit. Joseph suffered being sold into slavery by his brothers, and forgotten in prison.
Suffering may not be desirable nor sought but there is no denying that God uses suffering to prune us and reshape us to his image.
So, when Paul is going through suffering, he declares that the present suffering cannot compare to the glory that is going to be revealed to us. Paul places his focus not on the suffering but the coming glory because he is certain that in the suffering, God is up to something. Suffering forces us to wait on God and not get ahead of him. For God has His own timing for when He will bring to flourish all that He has planned and prepared for our good.
There is a rush to get back to what we believe to be normal: sporting events, work, summer fun and dining with friends at our favorite restaurant. For some of us, all we want to do is get back to church. However, the pandemic invites us to not rush back to normal whatever normal may be but to reflect upon how loss and suffering may be the things that God is using in this moment to reshape us as persons and as a nation.
The suffering--although necessary for the moment--cannot be compared to the glory waiting to be revealed to us. The glory is not of our making but the glory comes from our God who is working for our good. I do not know when the glory that is waiting to be revealed will be made known. All I know is that suffering paves the road to glory.
May we be willing to hold on and hold out even in the midst of suffering as we wait on the glory. Because it will be worth it.
Published on Tuesday, May 26, 2020 @ 8:33 AM EDT