The Best Glasses
What do these people have in common? A mom of three young sons, loses her husband suddenly to pancreatitis. A young Coast Guard officer loses his younger brother (early twenties) to a tragic drowning accident and later struggles through a bewildering divorce. A refugee escapes from war-torn Vietnam with his family, settles in California, graduates from the Naval Academy, but almost loses his promising career when an eye infection comes close to destroying his eye. A young lady from Rhode Island suffers through two painful miscarriages and loses her mother to a drug overdose in less than two years.
These are all what I would call “Underdog Stories.” Back on Easter Sunday our church started a new sermon series called “Underdog Stories: when the odds are against you, God is for you.” Newport County residents shared their intimate, real life stories of how God has shown up in the midst of profound pain and heartache. The resurrected Jesus, through his presence and power, has given them the grace to grow in faith and not quit.
How did these four Christians endure? How were they spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically resilient in the face of potentially devastating circumstances?
I believe we find an answer in Romans 8:18: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” What is the Apostle Paul saying here? Let’s break it down.
First, he states, “I consider.” In the original language it’s where we get our modern word “logic” from. It means “To reason, to decide, to conclude.” It refers to deliberating a matter or to weigh something. We do this all the time, don’t we? For example we ask questions like, “Should I go to this college or that college? Should I date/break up with this person or not? Should I stay at my current job or look for another?”
In the Apostle Paul’s case, what is he weighing? He is reasoning over the value of the present compared to the future. In the present, there are all kinds of “suffering,” which in the original language means, “affliction, agony, deep emotion.” People we love die. We get painful diseases. We experience unexpected betrayals, financial fallouts and crushing disappointments.
The truth is, the Apostle Paul understood suffering intimately. In fact in 2 Corinthians 11:16-33, he lays out his resume of suffering. It’s pretty intense physical, emotional and psychological stuff: floggings and beatings, being shipwrecked, jailed multiple times, treachery, excruciating hunger, thirst, and coldness, to name a few. If you are having a rough day, I recommend you read 2 Corinthians 11 to feel better, because a least a few people have had far worse days (and years) than us!
Knowing Paul’s profound suffering, it’s absolutely astonishing he writes, “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” What is this glory? In the original language it means “honor, renown, splendor.” For the Christian, one day, when we get to Heaven, the glory we touch, taste and luxuriate in, will be so wondrous, our past pain will feel infinitesimal. Indeed, it will vanish like a drop in the ocean. Put another way, the glory to come is far greater than the pain now.
However, you may be wondering: “That may be true, but in the meantime, how do we endure the pain, sadness and disappointments of the present?” I humbly contend Paul is teaching us an important principle: To surpass suffering, we wear glory glasses. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying “she’s wearing rose colored glasses.” It refers to someone who’s inherently optimistic: the glass is always half full. Their house could be crushed by a tornado, but if their dog, Fluffy, survived, they know they will be all right. In a similar (but perhaps less hyperbolic) way, the Apostle Paul challenged the Christians in Rome, and you and me today, to wear glory glasses: to see our suffering through the lens of glory.
Bottom line, the Apostle Paul encourages us in Romans 8:18 that to surpass suffering, we wear glory glasses. The strongest underdogs view their sufferings through the lens of faith, that is, they look through the lens of glory to come. This is what sustains them during the most vicious of life’s storms.