Images of human suffering flood our consciousness with numbing regularity. We are constantly confronted with the fragility and apparent futility of much of the world’s experience of life. It is not hard to see why some people become cynical, depressed or despairing.
The apostle Paul writes about “this present suffering” as the reality in which we all share. Yet, it is not seen as the ultimate or defining reality. Instead it is compared and contrasted with “the glory which is to be revealed in us”. What is this glory and how do we experience it?
When I think about glory my initial thoughts go toward images of light or heaven. C. S. Lewis associates glory, specifically God’s glory with the notion of “weight”. It is connected with the idea of substance or being substantial. As the ultimate example of this, God is unchanging, immovable, constant and stable.
But such imagery can easily seem escapist or in the realm of fantasy without an understanding of the journey involved in living with suffering while anticipating glory.
Essentially, the ability to live in this way requires a framework of hope. This hope Paul says flows from a belief in the grace and goodness of God. His “glory” is his “goodness”. While the “creation groans” and “we groan” too, God’s Spirit also groans with us and for us. Even our groans are offered up to God as prayers by his Spirit.
(See Romans 8:18-27)