18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it—in the hope 21 that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. 23 And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits—we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 Now in this hope we were saved, yet hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience. — Romans 8:18-25
The Now and the Not Yet
I was 18 when it happened. It was a Sunday morning and I was getting ready for church when a pain on the right side of my lower back went from a mild cramp to a major earthquake in less than 30 seconds. I was scared. I was shocked. I had never experienced this level of pain—not even years earlier when I did an impersonation of a piñata by walking head-first into Russ Queen’s practice swing with a baseball bat.
At first I was afraid I might be dying. After a few minutes I was afraid I wouldn’t. I recall being stunned and confused by my body’s capacity to hurt this badly…and not let up. Every other terrible pain (from an injury) I could recall had an initial flash point with gradual subsiding. This pain didn’t let up. It kept increasing with no relief in sight.
In the emergency room I was diagnosed as having a kidney stone. After the morphine kicked in I began to have hope and actually wanted to live to see my 19th birthday.
Paul writes to the Christians in Rome, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18-25). It sounds very similar to his words to the Corinthian believers: “For our light and momentary troubles are producing for us an eternal weight of glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
In addition to the standard difficulties of life, the Roman and Corinthian believers (as most early Christians) were being subjected to deadly persecution. It was probably enough to make some question if being a Christian was worth the added distress.
It occurs to me that these words of promise and reassurance probably don’t do much for you if you’re currently in a season of life where things are going fairly well. If your body, bank account, and relationships are reasonably healthy, you may not be all that intrigued by the promise of glory and peace in the life to come. In fact, your life—albeit with its share of problems—may be going so well you don’t want it to end. Frankly, right now you’re probably not longing for the eternal glory that will be revealed in you or the weighty eternal glory that tips the scales.
But the moment will ultimately arrive, for you or for someone you care deeply about, in which the hope that this life isn’t all there is will be more important to you/them than oxygen. However and whenever that moment comes, Paul wants you, dear believer, to know that you can let go of this life with the assurance that you will be caught by love and grace.
- What kind of assurance does this statement from Jesus give you? “In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).
- Jesus announced that He was bringing fullness to daily life (John 10:10). So what do you make of Paul’s statement, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied”? (1 Corinthians 15:19).
- Paul described his present/future perspective when he wrote, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Do you see how filling the blank of “For me to live is ____” with anything other than Christ is likely to make death feel like nothing but losing what you put in the blank—thus making heaven seem to be some kind of consolation prize?
- Paul goes one step further in offering a past/present/future approach to life: “Forgetting what lies behind, and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). Pressing on is an ongoing present-life task. What is your current greatest challenge that requires perseverance?
Ramon Presson, PhD is a licensed marriage and family therapist and the founder of the Marriage Counseling Center of Franklin. As a therapist for 30 years, a local newspaper columnist for a decade, and with a dozen books in print, he is the most published practicing therapist in Tennessee. From 1989 to 2004 Ramon served as an assistant pastor in large churches in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and in Tennessee at Brentwood Baptist. Ramon and his wife Dorrie will be celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary this summer and have two young adult sons. Not surprisingly, Ramon's life verse is Philippians 3:13-14 because "it's hard to ignore your own last name challenging and inspiring you in the Scriptures."
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.