Suffering and an Eternal Mindset
In Romans 8, Paul speaks to us about hardships. He knows that people in this present age are suffering. Christians are facing and will face persecution. Believers will, at different seasons of history, be impoverished by their inability to participate in sinful activities in the lands in which they live. And, of course, believers, like all other people, face the hardships of living in this world: crime, disease, natural disasters, war, poverty, etc.
How are we to deal with knowing that this life is often so hard? Note what Paul said in his letter.
Romans 8:18 – For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
One answer to surviving the hardships of this life is what we see Paul say right here. The suffering we face, sufferings that are real and tremendously painful, are not worth even comparing to the glories to come. We have here a simple analysis of the pain of the present as compared to the glory and peace of the future. And Paul tells us, God tells us through Paul, that the glories to come will so far outstrip the pain of today that there is simply no comparison.
If your pain could be measured on a scale, it might reach some pretty high numbers. Let us pretend that there is a scale for human suffering that tops out at 100 points. You may have experienced some 75 point pains. Some of you may have reached something near the top of the scale. Others of you may have barely hit a 10.
Now imagine that there is a glory scale where one point of glory is equal in value to a point of suffering. What would it mean, when you look at your suffering score, to know that a million points of joy and glory are yours in the future? What would it mean that the score is even greater, a billion, a trillion, an infinity worth of joy and peace and life? This is what God wants you to get. No matter how much pain you face in the here an now, that pain will be dwarfed by the immeasurable joy and life you will have with God.
Christians are a supernatural people. When we think properly, we have our minds set on the eternity to come far more than on the pain of the present. We do not pretend that pain in this life is not real. But, when we get it right, we also remember that there is no pain in this life that can even put a dent in the joy of eternity. We live for the joy of the infinite glory of God. We are promised that we will experience his heart-filling, joy-inducing, perfect presence forever as we live lives of absolute bliss after this life is over. Our hope is there, not here. And when we have our minds properly set there, the pains of this life, though very real, fall into perspective and we survive in hope of what is to come.