Thoughts on Suffering and Hope

1. Christians are saved into suffering – to be Christian is to put on Christ – to join with him in suffering.

The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ—seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. (Romans 8:16-17 HCSB)

2. Christians are saved into hope – described as the hope of glory (v18), freedom of God’s children (v21), adoption, the redemption of our bodies (v23) – ultimately a compound description of the hope of resurrection.

This hope connects us more fervently than ever with the creation around us – when a mother goes into labour and confronts the long night of pain in the hope and joy of delivering a new life into being, she is acting out, she is connected into, the experience of this whole created world – the groaning, the pains and convulsions, as the creation waits to bring forth new children, the new children of God. There is a proper, Christian, love of this world – she is wracked with pain, sweating, struggling, crying out, but her hard labour by God, who has appointed her to nurture us, to sustain us. It is from the pain and struggle of this world, this creation, that God will deliver his new life. This is the non-idolatrous sense in which Christians may speak of ‘Mother Earth’. And any child of God who does not love and care for this world, even in her broken and pain-wracked state, is an ungrateful, unworthy child.

3. Christian Hope is not without foundation because we have been saved into suffering. In fact our sufferings are witnesses that we have been caught up into the plan of God – we have begun to follow Jesus on the path of pain that leads to resurrection. And further, God has given us his Spirit (vv26-27), a glimpse of the future, who shows us what it is to be adopted as a child of God – to have access, to be known and heard – and though our feet now tread the path of the cross, daily dying with Jesus, our groans, sighs, tears are not unheard or ignored – rather they are amplified, shouted right into the heart of the Father God who loves us, who loves this broken world – and who will not fail to answer his children. When the New Creation comes it will be God’s answer to the prayers of his children.

4. Why then does he wait – why does he not answer us now?
Because it is his will to conform us to the image of his Son – to train our humanity to its true shape.

For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30 HCSB)

These verses should be read in the light of the surrounding discussion, they should be read in the light of the Cross. To be conformed to the image of Christ is not to participate in some amorphous divine nature, or to merely share his moral excellence, it is to be conformed to The Cruciform. “Those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of” …a Broken Man on a Cross.
It is from the Cross that we are then called, justified, and glorified.
We follow the steps of the Crucified, Justified, Risen and Ascended (Glorified), Christ.
Read vv 16-17 again:

The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ—seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. (Romans 8:16-17 HCSB)

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