Week of Monday, September 13 ­– Saturday, September 18
 Providential Perspective – Man as an Instructor
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. — Romans 8:18 ESV
We just marked the anniversary of 9/11 this past week. Everyone alive when it happened likely has a “High Definition” memory of it. It is literally burned into the hearts and minds of every American old enough to remember it. No doubt you can instantly recall exactly where you were and what you were doing that day when you heard or saw the news of it. Islamo-fascist terrorists from the al-Qaeda network, ultimately answering to Osama Bin Laden, took over four passenger planes and flew them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and due to the heroic efforts of passengers on United Flight 93, failed to reach the U.S. Capitol building, instead crashing in a field outside of Pittsburgh. 
The human suffering was horrific: 2,977 deaths and over 6,000 injured. That makes 9/11 the deadliest attack in history on American soil. The tragic events of 9/11 are a reminder that there is very real suffering in this world. Even two decades later, we grieve and feel the pain of loss. It is certainly right to remember. It is right to mourn. And as believers, it is also right to know and share the hope of eternity beyond the suffering.
Men, we have been called by God to instruct, to pass on history and heritage—even the hard parts—from a providential perspective. The way we do that matters. The perspective we take will affect the lesson others learn from us about suffering. We have to remember that God in His providence is doing something bigger than any one moment in time, as painful as it is in the present. So, when we can’t see the bigger picture—when suffering, anxiety, and grief cause us to lose hope—we need to ask Him to help us see it. We need to ask Him to help us help other people see it, too. We must consider whatever suffering we face today or any day in light of eternity. God is bigger and better than our sufferings, and He stands sovereign and exalted over them. Indeed, He is ultimately working all things together for our good and His glory as Paul points out later in this same chapter (Rom. 8:28).
That’s why Paul said our sufferings now are not worth comparing to the glory God will reveal to us and in us later. Now don’t misunderstand. It’s certainly not that our suffering doesn’t matter; it does! Paul was well acquainted with suffering, and he knew God cared about it. But he had learned to see the bigger picture, and in writing his letter to the Romans, sought to continue fulfilling his God-given role as instructor. Paul wanted the Roman Christians (and us today) to know that, as we walk with God, He wants to broaden our view of suffering. It may seem strange that Paul was placing emphasis on suffering as a Christian, but it shouldn’t. John tells us in 16:33 that Jesus assured us that “In this world you will have trouble.” But in the next sentence He reminds us to “Take heart, for I have overcome the world.” One way God shows us His care in our suffering and helps us bear it is by teaching us to see beyond it. He helps us look up and see that the promise of eternal glory with Christ is fixed on the horizon.
There is much suffering in this world and there is more to come, but that’s not the end of the story. Jesus has secured for us an eternity free from suffering, where we will dwell forever in the presence of God (see Rev. 21). Life on earth is a journey, but like all good journeys, it has a destination. For those who trust in Christ for salvation, that destination is the presence of God’s glory forever. So, when you are called on or feel compelled to comment on some tragedy or someone’s suffering, offer a providential perspective.
  • As you survey what is happening in the news or in your lives that deserves comment, how can you add a providential perspective to what you say by way of instruction? Maybe it is as simple as sharing a Scripture that lines up with the circumstances. 
  • What needs to change so that what your life teaches about suffering better aligns with Romans 8:18?
  • Thank God for His continued faithfulness. Pray that no matter what you face this week, you would be able to cling to His promises and trust in His love for you—even in suffering. Ask Him to help you live in such a way that you instruct others to do the same.