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Adoption Helps Us Endure Suffering, Part 3

by Dennae Pierre Published Nov 28, 2011

This is part three on a series I am posting on how the theology of adoption helps us to endure suffering.  I have been looking at Romans 8 and in my first post, I looked at how Paul uses the theology of our adoption by God as a way to endure, persevere, and have joy in the midst of suffering (Romans 8:1-17). In part two, I looked at the next verse (Romans 8:18) and talked about how we are able to endure suffering by comparing our present trials to the glory of God.

Paul tells us in Romans 8:18 that God’s glory is so spectacular, that it makes our present troubles unworthy to compare. Even though this is the case (as I tried to briefly unpack in my first two posts), the good news is that this does not minimize or diminish the reality of our current pain. We are not told that because God is SO glorious, then we should walk around in a state of constant euphoria, detached from the earthly reality around us. Paul does not have a weak or trite view of suffering. Scripture does not make light of our suffering, nor does it reduce or make our suffering seem petty.

In fact, Paul has a much larger view of suffering then we often do. When we suffer, often we just look only to our own personal suffering. In these verses below, he expands our understanding of our personal suffering to the suffering of everything and everyone around us. He has the suffering of creation itself in mind. Paul empathizes so much with the sufferings of his brothers and sisters that he says we can join all creation in groaning for this world to pass and all things to be made new. Listen to the realistic view Paul has of suffering in Romans 8:

“ 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

The reality of our pain, as crushing as it may feel at times, shows us even more of God’s glory. When we are full of pain, what our soul most needs is to pull back the lens of the camera and see a wide-angled view of God’s glorious grace. Nothing else on this earth will give us true hope in the midst of our suffering except the gospel our our Lord Jesus Christ.

We may try to alleviate or numb this pain in many ways. Perhaps through relationships, addictions, careers, religion, busyness, children, or by trying to escape reality.  But just like none of those things will ultimately satisfy the pain of creation, they can never satisfy the pain we encounter.  That is because the pain we suffer is not a pain without purpose. The suffering we face reminds us that the circumstances we face in this life are not the end of the story. That is why we see creation being described as “groaning in the pains of childbirth.”

The pain of childbirth is real.  It is excruciating pain, but the reality of that pain is bearable because something worth the pain is coming.  It is the same with us, trying to “alleviate” our pain with things other then the hope that awaits us in Christ, is about as useful as a woman trying to “alleviate” her pain of childbirth with a couple of advil. Nothing, not even an epidural, will bring that woman permanent rest until the child arrives, and it is the hope of holding her child that helps her endure.  Nothing will permit us to endure the pain of this life, except the hope of the glory of God that is to be revealed to us.

While we groan along with creation in pain we take heart in this glorious reality that something wonderful is coming from this pain. We see in these verses a picture of eager expectation as we wait for our adoption as sons. We long for the redemption of our bodies because we are in the midst of a life that screams, “This is not how things should be!” That eager expectation should have us at the edge of our seat in wonderful anticipation that the pain will be over.

The key is starting with looking to God and then our pain, not our pain, and then to God. God’s glory puts our pain in proper perspective and our pain reminds us of the magnificence of God’s glory. When we START with looking to the fact that we have a loving God we can trust, who has given us the spirit of adoption as sons THEN we can look at the reality of our pain and actually acknowledge how real and sometimes horrific it is. But instead of being devastated by our pain, we can rejoice that the pain has a purpose and an end goal.  If the order of our gaze is right, then we have no other way to respond but with hope! And as Paul says in verse 25, we can then wait with patience, because we are looking at our sufferings in LIGHT of the glory of God.

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