Is Suffering Really So Glorious?

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”—Romans 8:18 There is really nothing so glorious about suffering.

Nothing good about the indignities of growing old or being sick or having your heart broken. As a pastor, I’ve watched hundreds of people suffer. I’ve listened to families weep over a child’s death. I’ve watched beloved friends, young and old, die of cancer. I've seen broken families and broken hearts. I’ve felt my own heartache through the loss of an infant son and beloved brother and other dear friends who have gone before us.

There are days when I shake my head and close my eyes tight to stop the tears and wonder what can ever be so “glorious” that it will make all this seem so insignificant.

Did the apostle Paul know what he was talking about?

Did he really understand pain and suffering?

Or is this just a nice, religious platitude thrown as a bone to the spiritually and intellectually weak? And how does suffering translate to glory?

When a close friend suffered through cancer, it was painful and faith challenging. Her suffering changed her, stripping her of her usual good humor and upbeat attitude. She was forced to consider her faith and her perceptions of God.

And she did. She clung to Jesus through the ordeal, and in the end, died with grace and dignity and words of love on her lips for her friends and family. When all was stripped away, she was reduced to her love for the Lord and her family and friends. I thought, that’s how I want to be.

God’s Word promises us that through the path of suffering there is gold—but it is a gold not easily mined and purified. When God’s Word is hidden in our hearts, when it cleanses our souls, renews our minds, and inspires our lives, we can overcome anything. We can suffer and yet know joy. We can know what my friend and countless others who have gone before us now know for certain:

“In all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth nor any created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).