There’s absolutely no comparison, Paul says, between any present suffering and the glory we will have with God. Even creation (nature), which he personifies as a woman groaning with labor pains, “...waits with eager longing...” "But," he writes, “...we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23)
When we long for something, nothing else really matters, and we can hardly wait! Our minds are set, our thoughts are focused, and we pray to God that He grant us what we want. When we're experiencing pain and suffering, however, our focus is on stopping the pain, especially when that which causes our “present suffering” is overwhelming, and we beg God to take it away.
Paul isn’t trivializing pain and suffering. Rather, he is truly speaking from the heart. Paul is focused on God. His faith and hope are rock solid. If Paul knows anything at all, it is that when he finally dies and leaves his body, he will be with God in glorious life everlasting, and nothing else will have mattered at all -- even pain and suffering. He can hardly wait! And he is telling the Romans (and us), to keep our faith and hope alive no matter how difficult our pain, no matter how intense our sorrow.
It was easy for me to relate to his metaphor of "labor pains" in this passage. It’s been over 10 years now since I last experienced labor pains. The words “sharp” and “intense” immediately come to mind. Nevertheless, were I of younger years, I’d go through it again in a heart beat, for I also remember the indescribable joy I felt when I first held each of my children. There is absolutely no comparison between the labor pains (or morning sickness!) and the joy of my children. Yes, they sometimes do things (or don't do things) which challenge my joy in them, but joy wins every time!
None of us can imagine the joy, the glory of life everlasting with God, but I pray that our faith and hope may be as solid as Paul's, especially when we face great pain and suffering, physical or otherwise.
Dear God, may the fruits of the Holy Spirit continue to fill us, this day and always, as we long, as we yearn, as we groan in anticipation of life everlasting with You. Amen.