The book of Romans is a glorious book, and Romans 8:18-39 is a glorious passage. In these verses, Paul talks about the reality of suffering. I don’t think you need me to convince you that suffering is an inevitable part of life. Instinctively and experientially, we know that suffering is unavoidable, and that means we ought to listen when the Bible speaks directly about suffering.
In Romans 8:20, Paul notes that creation has been subjected to “futility.” That is, God has responded to human rebellion by pronouncing a curse on creation itself (Genesis 3:17), and all of creation is currently groaning under the weight of this curse (Romans 8:19, 22-23). Human beings know this feeling all too well, as we are among the “groaners” who experience suffering in this life. However, as we suffer and groan, Paul gives us four reasons to have hope.
First, we can have hope in the midst of suffering because the reality of our adoption into God’s family will be revealed when Christ returns (Romans 8:18-25). This adoption is accomplished and realized in the life of the Christ, but the glory of this reality will be fully revealed at Christ’s return. Paul calls this revelation “glory,” and he says, “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)
Second, we can have hope in the midst of suffering because the person of the Holy Spirit is both present with us and interceding for us (Romans 8:26-27). This is remarkable, Trinitarian truth that we dare not take for granted. Not only has God the Father sent God the Son to die our death so that we might be adopted into his family, but God the Father and God the Son have sent God the Spirit to pray for us when all we can do is groan.
Third, we can have hope in the midst of suffering because the saving purposes of God will surely be accomplished in the lives of his people (Romans 8:28-30). From eternity past, God has known and predestined a people to be conformed to the image of Jesus. These people are called to salvation, justified by the Father, and will be glorified in the next life. From eternity past to eternity future, the Triune God is committed to the salvation of his people, and even in suffering he is making us more like his Son.
Fourth, we can have hope in the midst of suffering because there is absolutely nothing in all of creation that can separate God’s people from God (Romans 8:31-39). The heavy lifting has already been done – Christ was given up for the salvation of God’s people (Romans 8:32). With that work finished (John 19:30), there is no one who is able to bring a charge of condemnation against God’s elect (Romans 8:33-34). As a result, nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39). Not even suffering.