Don’t Be Selfish with Your Suffering

Our lives in this sinful and fallen world are going to include times of sorrow and pain. It is unavoidable. All who desire to love and follow Jesus will face persecution as Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:12. Children of God are not immune to sickness, to sorrow, or to the other evils that mankind faces.

What we must remember is that the Lord has a purpose, perhaps many purposes, for what we walk through. And if we are to walk through our suffering to its proper purpose, we must look to how that hardship might lead us to glorify God and bring grace to others.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 – 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

As Paul opens the letter of 2 Corinthians, he is praising God for comfort in affliction. And if you will go and read that first couple of paragraphs, you will see that Paul is repeatedly clear about a couple of important things. We suffer. God comforts us in our suffering. And both our hardships and our comforts are for the good of others as well as for our own spiritual growth.

Suffering in life is a thing that is designed to make us rely on the Lord and look forward to eternity. Comfort from the Lord in our times of suffering is to make us worship the Lord in joy and gratitude. And, comfort in times of pain is something God gives to us so that we can help others who face similar pains. We comfort others with the comfort with which we were comforted.

What do you suffer? I am sure it is real and painful. It is also a thing that should drive you toward the Lord, toward longing for eternal life in his presence. I hope that God is also providing you with a means of comfort. Perhaps it is comfort in Christ and in the hope of eternity. Perhaps it is comfort in teaching you to cope with hardship. Perhaps it is comfort in an escape from your pain.

No matter what the comfort, the Lord wants you to find godly comfort in him and then to help others with your comfort. Your suffering is not merely for you. Neither is your comfort. If we are to live out the Christian life rightly, we must be in genuine communication with one another. We must be comforting each other in times of sorrow with the very comfort we have received from the Lord in our times of sorrow.

What does this mean for your life? If you have suffered, don’t waste it. Where did the Lord comfort you? How can you bring that comfort to bear for others?

Are you suffering? Don’t waste it. God wants you to let others in the body know. Do not keep it to yourself. Do not hide your sorrow out of a foolish pride or some silly notion that you would dishonor the Lord if people saw that you could face hardship. Do not whine and complain in self-pity. But, tell others and pray with others. Allow them to comfort you with the comfort they have received from the Lord.

Shepherds’ Conference 2020: Session 2 — Austin Duncan

Shepherds’ Conference 2020

General Session 2

Austin Duncan

Job 25-26

Theological Balance

We want to be careful with the word balance.

It can be quite selfish.

Jesus is radical and extreme.

This section of Job represents the book of Job faithfully.

We know the context of the story.

The opening chapters are preached often.

WE often neglect the middle of the book.

Theological balance means we let the whole Bible speak and say what it wants to say.

Theology can be close, and still quite far off.

This is true especially when we work with souls.

Job 25-26 includes the final speeches from Job’s friends.

4 rounds of speeches.

Job’s friends are telling him that he is being punished.

The counselors can sometimes be right, even as they misapply the truth that they may know.

Chapter 25

Dismantling Theological Imbalance

The chapter has the ring of theological credibility.

It looks like big-God theology.

What Bildad says about God shows us that we can be right but imprecise about how we communicate about God.

Verse 2 exposes a problem.

This use of dominion is very rare.

The word is common.

This form is different.

Bildad sees God as a particular kind of ruler.

See Psalm 8:7.

Sheep and critters are under his dominion.

Bildad seems to see God as ruling man as livestock.

To Bildad, God is tyrannical, despotic.

Daniel 11:39 also uses dominion in this way.

The word terror Bildad uses is ominous.

Again, we see that God is a despot and terrifying.

Bildad does not really understand what God is like.

His deity grinds people down, with little benevolence, all power and terror.

Bildad’s deity is likely more like the deity of Islam, not the God of the Bible.

We are not saying God is not the ruler.

But if you preach a God who is mighty and ruling but who is not good, you do not preach to them the truth.

Bildad calls man a maggot and worm.

There is worm language in other passages.

But maggot is really low language.

Psalm 8 says that man is a little lower than the angels, or than God himself.

Bildad misses truth about the value of man.

Bildad sees Job like a maggot.

HE is missing biblical balance.

Human beings matter as we carry the image of God.

Bildad is skewed in his look at mankind.

He sees man as only despicable and low.

Verse 4 is the very center of Bildad’s speech.

There is a chiasm.

IT almost looks right.

IT almost looks Calvinistic.

How can a man be just with God?

How can he be clean, pure, who is born of a woman?

This exposes what Bildad thinks of his deity.

He thinks God is so big and so mighty and so other and so holy and so sovereign that he could never forgive.

Forgiveness was necessary.

Forgiveness is clearly necessary in the book of Job.

Job offered sacrifices, so we know that he needed forgiveness.

Job is not calling himself perfect.

The book does not call Job perfect.

But the book shows that Job had sought and found forgiveness in God.

Bildad misses the point, as he cannot see how God could be compassionate and able and willing to save.

Bildad’s view of man could use some work.

He could use a little C.S. Lewis doctrine of man.

Chapter 26

Discovering Theological Balance

Job handles this differently than we might have tried to do so.

Verses 1-4 are sarcastic.

This is rich.

Job gives Bildad a very sharp response.

Job tells Bildad, “This is not helpful.”

This is for the other bad counselors too.

They have applied no real wisdom.

Verses 5-13 build from low to high.

Verse 5, the departed spirits tremble.

Maybe dead souls, maybe demons

Lowest of the low tremble.

Verse 6, sheol

God hangs the earth on nothing.

General revelation.

Job is telling Bildad that God is making mysterious spirits tremble.

God is authoritative over all things, seen and unseen, high and low.

Verse 8

God wraps up waters in the clouds.

None of us know how God makes all these things work.

Job is building a conception of God from natural revelation.

Job is looking at the world and seeing the glory of God.

Mountains look like the pillars of heaven, looking like they hold up the sky.

The word Rahab points to all sorts of evil deities and monsters.

Job does not try to balance God and man by bringing God down or exalting man.

HE explores God and man better.

Job tells Bildad that Bildad’s view of God is still too small.

A huge part of theological balance shows us that we do not have a big enough view of God.

WE are not strong enough on the glory of God.

IF you want to prepare your people to suffer, you must present to them a God who is far greater than the God they could ever imagine.

Only that God can accomplish redemption.

Even when Job overextends his own righteousness on occasion, he knows that God knows more than he does.

Job knows what verse 14 says so powerfully.

These are only the edges of God’s ways.

Job has based his case on the God who has revealed himself to Job.

This is the doctrine of the knowability of God.

God is both knowable and incomprehensible.

We must think about God rightly.

He is immense and ungraspable.

He has revealed himself and made himself known in creation and in his word.

Job shows us that the way through suffering is to see the glory of God.

Job never gets the answer that he wants and demands, at least not in this book.

Calvin reminds us that the heavens and the earth are not as great as the power and the wisdom and power of God.

To understand God is to try to hold the ocean in a single hand.

Job’s grasping of the greatness of God is what we must see for balance.

God’s blessing of Job in the end is not the glorious conclusion.

New kids do not make up for dead kids.

At the end of the book, Job died.

Job longed to have a face-to-face with God.

HE wanted answers.

He wanted to know god.

In that final line, all of Job’s questions were answered.

Job wanted a mediator.

He meets Jesus.

He wanted an intercessor.

HE meets Jesus.

Job finds one who would not accept our sacrifices, but who became a sacrifice for us.

God is mysterious.

Nothing is mysterious to God.

Yet I Will

Scripture speaks in a beautiful way to those who are hurting. A student of the Bible does not have to read far to recognize that there are men, faithful people of God who have gone through hardships that are difficult to fathom. And if the people of God were believers in the prosperity gospel, their faith would have crumbled.

Repeatedly in the psalms, we see David cry out to the Lord. He asks questions like, “How long O Lord,” and then lists calamity after calamity. AT the end of those psalms, however, we quite often hear David say something like, “Yet I will trust in the Lord.” David tells us how hard things are, how hopeless his situation looks, and yet he cries out to God in faith knowing that, in the end, God will do all things rightly.

WE see a similar prayer at the end of the book of Habakkuk. For some of you, these beautiful lines are familiar. To others, these need to be lines you memorize. The prophet has cried out to God. He knows that God is going to judge a wicked nation of Judah by bringing in another wicked nation, Babylon. Habakkuk is aware of calamity after calamity with still more to come. But Habakkuk expresses, at the end of his book, genuine hope in the Lord. Just take a peek at his closing proclamation.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

17 Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
19 God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.

Habakkuk, in classic Hebrew poetry, comes up with six lines that express the potential misery that the nation faces. They may have no wine, no crops, no livestock, no real reason for hope that they can see. All has fallen down around Habakkuk, and God has let him know that it will continue that way for a while.

But look at the turn of faith. Habakkuk says, “yet I will rejoice in the LORD.” No matter the circumstances, Habakkuk makes a decision of faith. Habakkuk will rejoice in the Lord. HE will find hope and joy in the true character of God. Habakkuk acknowledges that the Lord is his strength. And no matter how painful is his life, no matter how bare the cupboard, Habakkuk will choose, in the face of pain, to rejoice in the Lord.

Christians, we may face pain like Habakkuk. WE may face worse. The nation may turn on us. Our friends or our families may betray us. Famous church leaders will fall short. Denominations will split. Once reliable church members will depart. We will hurt. If you think you will live without pain, you have not believed the words of the Savior who promised us that this world would be a hard one to live in.

What do you do when you hurt? Learn from Habakkuk. Make rejoicing in the Lord and hoping in his goodness your choice. You can weep and still declare God to be good. You can cry out in sorrow and find a sustaining joy in the true, revealed character of the God who made you. You can face a life of seeming emptiness and ruin knowing full well that the Savior who promises you forgiveness has also promised you that he will return, he will judge, he will do justice, he will bind up the broken-hearted, he will make all things new. Our hope is not in the ease of this life. Our hope is in eternity. While Jesus can, and often will, make this life happy for his followers, he promises us something better. Jesus promises us to sustain us through the hardships of this life and to grant us everlasting life in his presence forever.

So, when your life hurts, Christian, what should you say? Perhaps try, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord.”

Are You Hearing God’s Voice?

How often do we deal with a person who says that they do not believe in the existence of God? It seems, of course, to become more common from day to day. But that unbelief, or at least that claimed unbelief, has nothing to do with the revelation of God. Scripture is clear that God reveals himself to all people everywhere. Nature itself, the heavens and the earth, communicate to humanity something of the power and grandeur of God. No person on earth is beyond this language that speaks without words and reveals that we are creatures beneath a Creator (cf. Psa. 19:1-6). And honest people also recognize that we have fallen short of perfection.

But there are people who claim that God is unfair and unkind, because he will not speak to individuals and prove himself to them. Many are angry with God, because he has not answered their questions to their satisfaction. Like job, there are people who demand that the Lord explain himself and his ways to them. Unlike job, many are waiting that revelation before they will determine whether or not they approve of the Lord.

In the case of Job, in the midst of his suffering, God allowed Elihu to help Job to remember that God is good, and God is always telling us things we need to hear. Look at the words of Elihu in response to Job’s feeling unfairly treated or that God is too silent.

Job 33:12-14

12 “Behold, in this you are not right. I will answer you,
for God is greater than man.
13 Why do you contend against him,
saying, ‘He will answer none of man’s words’?
14 For God speaks in one way,
and in two, though man does not perceive it.

Why accuse God of not speaking? He speaks to us all the time to show us things we need to know. IN the rest of the chapter, Elihu will point to a couple of ways that God speaks to us. These are fascinating. They are part of what we call general revelation. General revelation is the revelation of God that is available to mankind generally. General revelation is not enough to reveal to a person the true gospel, but it is enough to convince a person that there is a God who made us and that we need his favor and forgiveness.

Job 33:15-18

15 In a dream, in a vision of the night,
when deep sleep falls on men,
while they slumber on their beds,
16 then he opens the ears of men
and terrifies them with warnings,
17 that he may turn man aside from his deed
and conceal pride from a man;
18 he keeps back his soul from the pit,
his life from perishing by the sword.

Verses 15-18 show us that God speaks to humans in our dreams. This is not Elihu pointing to a form of charismatic dream prophecy. Instead, he seems to simply be pointing to night terrors. In our dreams, the things that make us afraid are there to remind us of the evils that we deserve if we are not forgiven by the Lord. In truth, we ought to learn from our dreams that the wrath of almighty God is far more frightening than any terror our imaginations can stir up. Nightmares should cause a human being to be humbled, to be reminded of our frailty, and to turn to the Lord for mercy before it is too late.

From verses 19-22, Elihu speaks of painful illnesses like the one Job is facing. Elihu points out that these are messengers of God to remind us that we are mortal, and we need to be rescued. In verses 23-25, the argument is that a man healed from a disease, restored from the doors of death, should see this as the kind favor of God.

Job 33:26-30

26 then man prays to God, and he accepts him;
he sees his face with a shout of joy,
and he restores to man his righteousness.
27 He sings before men and says:
‘I sinned and perverted what was right,
and it was not repaid to me.
28 He has redeemed my soul from going down into the pit,
and my life shall look upon the light.’
29 “Behold, God does all these things,
twice, three times, with a man,
30 to bring back his soul from the pit,
that he may be lighted with the light of life.

Elihu has a grasp on salvation. Hard circumstances and pains in life exist to remind us of our need for salvation and our lack of power on our own. They remind us that we must cry out to God for mercy. We are sinners before a holy God, and we need his mercy to live.

Elihu said that Job complained that God would not answer his complaints. But then he told Job that God had been speaking all along. God has spoken in creation to display his glory and power. God has spoken in Job’s nightmares to remind us of the wrath we face for our sin. God has spoken in Job’s hurts and illness to remind him of his mortality. God has used all sorts of circumstances to check Job, pulling him back from the danger of diving headlong into bitterness against the Lord and certain destruction.

Do you hear the voice of God? Do you realize that the created world around you shows you his power and artistry? Do you see that your worst fears are but tiny reminders of the deeper horrors of falling under the judgment of God? Do you understand that our pains and sicknesses remind us that we are mortal and in need of God to rescue us? Will you let that voice of God call you to turn from sin and cry out to him for mercy?

IN God’s special revelation, the Bible, he has shown us that our salvation is completely bound up in the person and work of Jesus. If you wish to be forgiven, believe in Jesus. Turn your heart from all that God calls sin. Cry out to Jesus for mercy. Surrender lordship of your life to him. God promises that all who will repent and believe will be saved.

Hardships Are Calls

What should we do when we face pain? There are lots of reasons, after all, that hardships may come into our lives. This is a hard and broken world. Sometimes we do things to mess up our own lives. Sometimes things happen to us that we did not contribute to at all. And often, these are hard things to interpret.

In Job’s experience, as an example, he faced major hardship, but he had done nothing wrong to deserve it. God had a particular plan to accomplish for his own glory, and Job was part of that. The blind man in John 9 was born blind in order that the glory of God might be revealed. Esther was pulled from obscurity into a throne room for, as she was told, “such a time as this.”

But what are we to do with hardships? Is there anything we should assume that God wants us to do with them? I think we may see something in Amos 4. The passage is a little scary. After all, God is talking to a very rebellious people. But there is still something for us there.

The people of Israel had refused to return to God. Through this chapter, God had told the people that he had sent several hardships their way. But in each of them, the nation refused to turn to him. And God has a response because of that refusal;

Amos 4:11-13

11 “I overthrew some of you,
as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,
and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning;
yet you did not return to me,”
declares the Lord.
12 “Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel;
because I will do this to you,
prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”
13 For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind,
and declares to man what is his thought,
who makes the morning darkness,
and treads on the heights of the earth—
the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name!

Stop and see that ending. It is scary. God says that he sent them through some hard times. But they refused to let their pain cause them to return to the Lord. And then God said, because they would not repent and return, they were to prepare to meet their God. Judgment was coming.

Now, do not misunderstand me, I am not suggesting that all our hardships have the same causes or the same purposes. But I will say this, no matter what our hardships, each of them should call us to turn to the Lord. Whether our hardships are chastening for our sin or trials for our sanctification, they should still cause us to turn to the Lord. We can always repent a little more. We can always see our need for God a little more. We can always recognize that he is holy, and we need his grace a little more.

Are you facing pain? I’m sorry if you are. None of us like hardships. But can I call upon you to turn to the Lord? Whether you have been super-noble or quite dodgy, your hardship should remind you that you cannot stand on your own. You need God’s help. You need God’s mercy. You need to remember that this world in its fallen state is not your home. You need eyes on heaven, eyes on eternity, eyes on Jesus. Let a hardship, any hardship, be a reminder to return to the Lord.

Misreading our Pain

The story of Balaam is one of those accounts that we have a hard time learning from simply because of the strange miracle that occurs. WE find ourselves fascinated by the events, and we focus on the supernatural rather than considering the principles.

As I was reading through this text, I found myself considering, not the talking donkey, but the circumstances of Balaam, his anger, and the Lord’s providence. And I believe that such a consideration would be good for any of us.

If you do not recall the story, a pagan king sent for Balaam to ask him to pronounce a curse over the people of Israel. As Balaam travels toward his meeting with the king of Moab, the Lord sets an angel in the pathway. Balaam’s donkey, enabled by God to see the angel, moves off the path to avoid the angel two separate times. During one of those detours, Balaam’s foot gets squished up against a wall. Finally, the donkey sees the angel in a narrow place, and refuses to carry Balaam any further forward, refusing to walk him to his death.

So, as is familiar, Balaam begins to beat his donkey for its supposed disobedience. And God allows the donkey to speak to Balaam. That Got Balaam’s attention, and then the Lord allowed Balaam to see the angel in the path threatening his very life.

Numbers 22:31-35 – 31 Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand. And he bowed down and fell on his face. 32 And the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let her live.” 34 Then Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you stood in the road against me. Now therefore, if it is evil in your sight, I will turn back.” 35 And the angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only the word that I tell you.” So Balaam went on with the princes of Balak.

OK, we could get really excited debating the merits of talking donkeys. But how foolish is that. If you are willing to accept the presence of an angel, if you are willing to accept the existence of God—a God who once spoke to Moses through a bush—you should have no problem accepting that the Lord could speak through a donkey to a stubborn man. But the method of God’s speaking here is not the main point. The fact that God will be in control, the fact that God will not allow Balaam to accomplish a task outside of God’s parameters, the fact that God will sovereignly protect his people from Balaam’s curse, that is what is at stake here.

But I also think there is a lesson for you and me living our Christian lives today. Three times in this account, Balaam experienced painful inconvenience. He was frustrated. He was angry. He did not understand. It made him want to lash out. But the moment Balaam was allowed to see what was really happening, he fell on his face and confessed sin.

I wonder how often you and I experience painful inconvenience. We get mad. We get depressed. We want to lash out. But we also seldom get to see what the Lord is doing behind the scenes. In Balaam’s case, God was protecting his people, and in a way protecting Balaam, from Balaam’s folly. What God was doing was good. What God was doing was loving and kind. And just because Balaam was not in a position to see that does not change the perfection of God.

What pain and struggles are you facing? Do you actually think that you know all that the Lord is doing through your pain? From what is God protecting you ? Toward what is God shaping you? Be careful wanting to get out a stick and beat on something that the Lord may be using to save your life or strengthen your soul.

Balaam misread his pain. He did not understand, and he lost his cool over it. You and I often do not understand what the Lord is doing behind the scenes either. May we trust the Lord enough to believe that he is using all things for our good, even our frustrations. May we remember that the goal of our lives is our being conformed into the image of Christ. But may we also remember that sometimes a little heat and a little pain is often needed for that form to take shape.

Only Eternity Helps

There are many promises made in Scripture, promises of the great care and kindness of God. We see promises that the Lord makes that his people will have life and good days. We see promises of healing and preservation.

But, what about the world we live in? We do not, in our world, always see the rescue that the Scripture promises. What then do we do?

If the Scripture promises us a rescue from God, but then we do not seem to experience that rescue, we have a couple of choices. Primarily, we can choose to believe that something is wrong with the Scripture, or something is wrong with our understanding. Since Scripture is the revelation of the Holy God, inspired, inerrant, true in all it intends to teach us, we ought not assume that the problem is in the word. And that leads us to measure our understanding of and interpretation of that word.

Take the words of David here as an example. Consider what appears to be said. And then consider what we really must take from the text.

Psalm 34:19-22

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
21 Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

Take this first on the surface without attempting to consider context or reality. It looks like the Psalm is promising us safety in all circumstances. God will not let the bad guys get us. God will not let our bones be broken. God will judge the wicked and rescue the children of God.

But, is that the experience of folks living in a fallen world? No, it is not. Pain crosses the path of the evil and of those who seem to follow the Lord. In many countries, Christians are brutally persecuted. Their bones are surely broken, and often their lives are forfeit. And it looks like the bad guys are getting away with everything.

One side note on the interpretation of this text, by the way, is that it prophesies Jesus. He had none of his bones broken. John noticed this and highlighted it for us in John 20:36. But we cannot say that Jesus did not suffer. What we find out is that, though Jesus died as a sacrifice for the sins of others, Jesus rose from the grave and lives eternally. His eternity of glory is the rescue that the Psalmist was writing of.

And for Christians living in a hard world, the concept of rescue in eternity is the key to dealing with these promises. If we do not have forever, if this life is all there is, then it looks like something is untrue in the promises of Scripture. But if we have forever, if we will live again after we die, if there is an eternity on the other side of this life, we can see the promises intact. How are we redeemed and kept from harm? In Christ, we are preserved. None of Christ’s bones were broken. In Christ, when we are raised from the dead, we will apply that text to ourselves, knowing that we live because of Christ. WE will see that, even if we die at the hands of evil men bent on persecution, we were not eternally harmed.

Christians, the Lord delivers us out of all afflictions. That does not mean that he keeps us from harm or death. Instead, it means something far better. He preserves us eternally. In Christ, he forgives us, keeps us, and brings us a resurrection. That resurrection will be to perfection, an eternity of joy without any sort of failing or sin. How can we know this will be ours? The fact that God raised Jesus from the dead is one piece of evidence. The presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer is another evidence. Our hope is not in comfort and protection in this life. Our hope is in the promise of eternity. That is Christian hope. And that hope helps us to see that all of God’s promises in his word will come to pass, even if this world is hard.

Two Thoughts on Comfort and Afflictions

A passage that has always been beautiful to me is the opening of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. There Paul speaks, in that first paragraph after the greeting, of the comfort of God that is ours in affliction. And there Paul reminds us that God comforts us so that we too may comfort others with the comfort we have received.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 – 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

Let me quickly remind us of one lovely and one hard truth that we should see in this passage. On the lovely side, we have our God comforting us and letting us comfort others with the same comfort we have received. When you hurt, when you struggle through something to the glory of God, when God helps you, one thing you can know is that the comfort he has given you is not yours alone. Your pain, even when it seems to have no purpose, can at least be to testify to the comfort of Christ and to share that comfort with others who are going through similar pains. This is good. It is good to know that our pain is never useless. It is good to know that our comfort is part of how we can be connected to the people of God.

But then there is the harder side of this. If this is beautiful; if it is a good thing that God’s children are comforted by God in their afflictions, the truth must be clear that Christians will face afflictions in which they will need comfort. In short, we will hurt in this life. Being a Christian does not put that to a stop. And we are foolish if we think that being saved is somehow going to be our way out of hardship and pain in the here and now.

The reason that I highlight this harder truth is that I know that, for myself at least, when I hurt, I really want to cry out against it. I want to let God know that he shouldn’t be letting me feel this way. He should not let me go through hardships. After all, I am his child. But the Lord, when we read Scripture with honest and open eyes, shows us that, lives surrendered to him are lives that will walk through pain. After all, how can we rejoice in being comforted in all our affliction’s if the Lord does not allow afflictions to touch us?

Friends, sometimes God is more glorified when he comforts us in times of affliction than when he keeps us from pain. This is a truth that we need to keep alive in our brains so that our hearts are not bewildered when pain comes. But the great news is that, in all afflictions, the Lord does comfort us and give us the ability to use that comfort to proclaim his glory and spread his healing in the church.

Suffering and an Eternal Mindset

In Romans 8, Paul speaks to us about hardships. He knows that people in this present age are suffering. Christians are facing and will face persecution. Believers will, at different seasons of history, be impoverished by their inability to participate in sinful activities in the lands in which they live. And, of course, believers, like all other people, face the hardships of living in this world: crime, disease, natural disasters, war, poverty, etc.

How are we to deal with knowing that this life is often so hard? Note what Paul said in his letter.

Romans 8:18 – For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

One answer to surviving the hardships of this life is what we see Paul say right here. The suffering we face, sufferings that are real and tremendously painful, are not worth even comparing to the glories to come. We have here a simple analysis of the pain of the present as compared to the glory and peace of the future. And Paul tells us, God tells us through Paul, that the glories to come will so far outstrip the pain of today that there is simply no comparison.

If your pain could be measured on a scale, it might reach some pretty high numbers. Let us pretend that there is a scale for human suffering that tops out at 100 points. You may have experienced some 75 point pains. Some of you may have reached something near the top of the scale. Others of you may have barely hit a 10.

Now imagine that there is a glory scale where one point of glory is equal in value to a point of suffering. What would it mean, when you look at your suffering score, to know that a million points of joy and glory are yours in the future? What would it mean that the score is even greater, a billion, a trillion, an infinity worth of joy and peace and life? This is what God wants you to get. No matter how much pain you face in the here an now, that pain will be dwarfed by the immeasurable joy and life you will have with God.

Christians are a supernatural people. When we think properly, we have our minds set on the eternity to come far more than on the pain of the present. We do not pretend that pain in this life is not real. But, when we get it right, we also remember that there is no pain in this life that can even put a dent in the joy of eternity. We live for the joy of the infinite glory of God. We are promised that we will experience his heart-filling, joy-inducing, perfect presence forever as we live lives of absolute bliss after this life is over. Our hope is there, not here. And when we have our minds properly set there, the pains of this life, though very real, fall into perspective and we survive in hope of what is to come.