Your Present Suffering
"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Romans 8:18 (NIV)
My wife shrieked, her voice straining between hurried gasps for air. As a news reporter, I had seen human suffering. But never before had I witnessed such pain from someone I loved so much.
Pacing that hospital room, sitting, holding my wife’s hand and stroking her hair, I encountered pain I was unable to control.
She was giving birth to our first child, Jack.
And she, like generations before, had no epidural or pain medications to soften the suffering. I did my best to cheer her along. But honestly, I was trying to keep myself together. (Kudos to all you mothers. You have my utmost respect!)
When I revisit the excruciating pain of childbirth, I am amazed that any mom has ever had more than one child. And yet, so many do!
Why do smart, sophisticated moms knowingly choose to endure that pain again? Why do so many desire, even ache, to experience one of the worst sufferings known to humanity … again?
Veteran mothers invite this pain because the lifelong joy of motherhood outlasts the temporary suffering of childbirth.
Without belittling or demeaning our hurts, God assures us that, much like childbirth, our present sufferings will end. Even more, our difficulties will give way to future fulfillment that eclipses and outlasts our present suffering.
During the agony of labor, a hopeful mother fixes her thoughts on the arrival of her child. In the same way, Scripture encourages us to "… set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:13b, ESV).
In times of unthinkable pain or dead-end depression, we can "set our hope" on the coming moment when our pain will transition into unending joy. When Christ returns, He will re-create the earth to be unpolluted by evil. He will restore us into bodies with no sickness, no sin-bent, no need for pain sensors or tear ducts.
I have a rare medical condition that produces unpredictable episodes of severe pain and disability. When it happens, I lose my ability to speak coherent words. With half my body numb, I battle emotional anxiety in tandem with physical pain. In those moments, God has taught me to grab this hope — with the hands of faith.
I choose to believe that, like childbirth, my suffering will end.
I choose to believe that, like childbirth, my future fulfillment will far exceed my momentary pain. It actually won’t be worth comparing.
Fixing my hope like this does not mean the pain immediately ceases. But it does allow peace to invade the cavities and caverns of my soul, even at the peak of my suffering.
In our key verse, John 16:20-22, Jesus likens our "present sufferings" to the grueling pangs of childbirth, saying we will grieve but eventually, that grief becomes joy.
I will never forget when the OB-GYN set our firstborn on my wife’s chest after all the excruciating pains of labor, driven by the hope of future joy.
In that moment when the doctor cradled new squirming life, then set that life on my wife’s chest, tears of joy overcame her. I’ve never seen my wife shed more tears of overwhelming joy.
That joy is a glimpse of what will be yours when Christ delivers you out of your pain for good — when all of your waiting, believing and hoping delivers.
Because there will be a day when the birth-pains of this world are over, and we are forever delivered. Rescued. Forever in a place of no pain, no suffering, no broken relationships.
We will not only be empty of those negative experiences, but entirely filled with the good of God, with oceans of pleasure, joy and goodness that were once only droplets on fallen earth.
Father, where there is pain, doubt or discouragement in my life today, help me believe in Your future deliverance. I set my hope on the future glory Christ will unveil. I choose to believe Your fulfillment will eclipse and outweigh my present sufferings. Help me build my life around this hope today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
John 16:20b-22, "You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." (NIV)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Describe your present sufferings to God by saying them aloud or journaling them. Then, read Romans 8:17-39. Ask God for strength to believe these words and set your hope on the future glory that will eclipse your present suffering.