I’m delighted to announce today’s post is from my friend David Vincent. You’ll be seeing more from him on weekdays.
For I reckon 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 (KJV)
I want to look at Paul’s use of the words worthy and compared. It is a way our brains might be able to grasp the relationship between our suffering and our hope. We could describe the meaning of this verse as measured contrasts between two different worlds. The world of Paul’s suffering versus his glimpse of an awaiting heaven.
In our own present time we are suffering with COVID-19. Everyday it is being measured in how it tortures the body; how it is affecting populations; and how it is disabling the world economy. The only way to deal with it is to compare it to a future hope.
I have spent much of my fifty-four years suffering with messed up guts. I’ve lost count of the number of surgeries, procedures, images, hospital-stays, and time on the couch. Oh and the pain. The standard medical question you get is: From one to ten what number would you give your pain? My answer has often been, with an attempt at humor, “24”. Such an outlying number might seem exaggerated, but when I’m in the moment, it sure seems unbearable, because, in the moment, I’m asking, “Compared to what?”
When we are in the midst of suffering it is an unscalable mountain. We are under the mountain. We are in its molten belly, strapped to a medieval torture rack. Gears set at maximum. Clock set to your final end. Nothing but your suffering exists.
But Paul sets these places apart for us with the word axios. Most Bible versions use two English words: worthy and compared to better show what God is doing. Axios takes your attention away from the suffering and says, You think your suffering is great and mighty and beyond measure. But compared to what God has for you it is not worthy of your trepidation. It does not deserve to be measured. What God has for you is of a measure infinitely beyond and outside of your suffering.
That day when you find yourself in the glorious presence of Jesus your suffering will not exist.
As Isaiah said,
You will not remember this former place. (Isaiah 65:17)