Paul said, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
2 questions strike me from this verse: (1) what are the “present sufferings,” and (2) what is “the glory that will be revealed in us”?
First, identifying the “present sufferings” is quite easy from the context. First of all, the word for “sufferings” does not denote any particular kind of suffering, but rather suffering in general. Later in Romans 8, Paul asks whether hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword can separate us from Christ’s love for us. “Present sufferings” includes anything endured as a Christian in this life–spiritual, emotional, or physical trials. Everyone suffers, in different areas and in different degrees. The “present” nature of the sufferings is probably related to Paul’s view of God’s kingdom as an already-inaugurated-but-not-yet-consummated reality. Though the victory of Christ impacts believers in this world, the “present age” is still one of suffering. Christians get sick, get hurt, and die.
Second, the “glory that will be revealed in us” has a particular location “in us.” So whatever this future glory is, it has to do with us. But I think the coming “glory” is identified later in Romans 8. In 8:19-22, Paul talks about the groanings of creation itself for redemption, as creation waits for the sons of God “to be revealed” (8:19). That is more “revealed” language. How will the sons of God be revealed to creation? “We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (8:23). What believers wait for is what creation is waiting for. For, when believers are raised, the transformation of all creation follows.
In Romans 8:17, Paul previously connected “suffering” and “glory”: “if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” The “glory” of Christ in which believers share is glorification, the transformation of our bodies and the conformance of our character to the likeness of Jesus. Also, “Those he justified, he also glorified” (Rom 8:30c). Our future glorification is certain. A parallel text is Philippians 3:10-11: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Paul connects “suffering” with the “resurrection from the dead.” Paul gladly suffers in the present, in view of the future “glory” of the bodily resurrection.
Let’s put all this together. Believers endure “present sufferings” in the body right now. Physical and emotional frustrations and trials dominate the realm of “this present age.” BUT! There is coming a day when the effects of sin are abolished and eradicated. At the resurrection, Christians will “share” in the “glory” of Christ when they are raised and glorified.
In the meantime, any sufferings Christian face are worth it. Every broken bone, every loss of vision, every amputated limb, every crippled leg, every crooked back, every deformed hand, every arthritic disease, every loss of blood, every cut, every bruise, every clotted artery, every weak heart, every failed organ…When you weigh all the “present sufferings” on a scale with the “glory that will be revealed in us” (the resurrected body), every suffering is worth it. That’s how gloriously bright and amazingly hopeful the believer’s future is. And that perspective gives us sufficient hope for this day’s trouble.