On contractions, suffering and glory

I wrote this article back in 2015 on another blog I had. Reposting it today.

Recently I have been poignantly reminded of the brokenness of this world. I have read stories that have made my mother’s heart tremble and weep. The story about a mom of four young children who is about to die from cancer (and is finishing so well!). Or the one about a father who had already lost a daughter and then died to brain cancer, leaving his wife a widow with two young sons.

Trials show up in our lives in so many ways: from the tragedy of losing a child to having to cancel our long awaited (and needed!) vacation due to illness; from the child diagnosed with an autoimmune disease to ongoing chronic pain; from relational problems to distance from our loved ones. What do we do with these reminders that this world is not what it should be?

When I was pregnant with my kids I experienced Braxton Hicks contractions that were preparing me for labor. During active labor, contractions intensified into sharp pain that left me breathless. Those contractions reminded me of Romans 8: 18-23:

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with
the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the
revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly,
but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the
firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

As I read this passage, several things struck me. The idea of eager longing and hope is repeated three times. Paul speaks with the certainty of knowing that glory will be revealed. We are hoping for something that we know is coming and not just that we desire.

Yet, it also struck me that even as we know that there is future glory stored for us, we still groan. All of creation is groaning. The certainty of glory doesn’t take away our suffering but it does impact how we groan. We are groaning knowing that our suffering will end, believing that something wonderful beyond belief is coming: we will inherit God!

Life on this side of Eternity is a rhythm of contractions. All forms of suffering are contractions getting us closer to starting our real life, to being fully adopted as sons of God. Each contraction is preparing us for glory. Each loss, pain, death-a contraction; weakness, temptation, sickness–a contraction; disappointment, unanswered prayer, conflict- a contraction. Waves of contraction after contraction, but because we are His each one is preparing for us a glory we cannot fathom.

When Paul says that we have received the Spirit of adoption as sons it applies to both men and women. In Hebrew society sons were the ones with a right to be heirs. But in the new covenant era, if you are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8: 1), you have received the Spirit of adoption as SON and you are heir of God and fellow heir with Christ. Stop for a moment. Please think about this. You, sister, will inherit everything Christ will inherit from God!

Your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3: 4). Being united with Jesus is being united with his life, death, burial and resurrection. Yet suffering is the current experience of our fellowship with him now. It is part of the birth pains that creation is going through now as it waits for the sons of God to be revealed.

That is why as I thought about the brokenness of this world in the situations mentioned above, I was reminded the believer is actually being born through suffering. Each form of suffering that the Lord allows into our lives is a contraction that will bring us to life. Even as we are dying in this world, we are being born.

This gives so much hope to our suffering! All suffering we experience in this world has a purpose. It is not wasted. Just as you cannot stop labor when it has started, our suffering is pushing us forward, and it is inevitably, without question or doubt, bringing forth our life. 

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