GETTING THE BIG PICTURE
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18
Do you remember when you were learning to drive? It was a long time ago for me but I still remember. Our car had a round hood ornament on it and it looked like the crosshairs in the scope of a rifle. I thought it was pretty smart of the manufacturer to put a sight in the middle of the hood of our car! That way I could just line up the sight with the right line of the lane and I would be sure to keep the car going straight. I couldn’t figure out why the big old Buick kept drifting to the right side of the lane and then to the left! My dad kept telling me to look up, to get the big picture. He told me to keep my eyes up and always moving back and forth from one mirror to the next. I thought, “How am I supposed to do that and still keep the car in the middle of the lane? That’s not safe!” But after I was driving for awhile I realized that the thing that wasn’t safe was having tunnel vision and using my scope to focus on the road immediately in front of me! The only way I would really be safe was if I lifted my eyes up and got the big picture of everything around me!
Children of God should not be surprised when they encounter trouble and hardship in life because we recall the suffering that Jesus experienced and he was the only begotten Son of God! But Paul wants to encourage us so that we will remain faithful to God through all the trouble and hardship we encounter. Tests and trials are difficult for us. They cause us pain and we don’t want pain. We lose our jobs and have a hard time finding another job. We suffer severe physical problems or someone very close to us does. A loved one dies. A child causes us deep heartache or a parent hurts or abuses us. A spouse leaves. These troubles cause deep pain and grief. We take our eyes off of God and begin to see only our trouble. We begin to slip away from God. As we slip away from God we begin to think our own way and we begin to have feelings about why God is letting us hurt so much. Sometimes we start looking around trying to find ways to make ourselves safe, to make ourselves feel better, and we slip farther from God.
Paul doesn’t pretend that everything is going to be peaches and cream for Christians. It’s not. Not only does the Bible say that the Christian life will be full of trouble but the history of Christianity is full of accounts of the persecution and suffering of some of the greatest of God’s people. One simple example will do. Jesus said that John the Baptist was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. He lived his life dressed in animal skins and he ate insects and wild honey. What happened to him? He got his head cut off simply because he told the truth. He didn’t get the big bank account and losing one’s head is far from healthy!
Paul knows that we are going to face big trouble in our lives and he doesn’t want us to be surprised by it. He doesn’t want us to think God has turned his back on us. He doesn’t want us to lose our footing and fall away from God. Paul encourages us so we will stand firm and even grow through our troubles.
So there is going to be suffering for us. There is no question about that. The suffering we experience will seem really harsh and difficult. Paul’s word of advice is that we need to get a bigger picture. Remember the lesson I had to learn when I first started driving? We need to step back and look at our suffering as it compares to the glory that awaits us in heaven. Instead of taking our eyes off of God and focusing on our hardships we need to keep our eyes fixed on the bigger thing. We need to focus on the big picture; on God and his glory. This is the hope that will help us stand firm in the midst of our troubles!