The first time my daughter opened her eyes was inside an ambulance racing through downtown Chicago. As I held her tight, her blue eyes looked straight into mine, and I knew she was going to be fine. We already had a special bond because I had just delivered her in the front seat of our Honda Civic. It was one of the most glorious moments of my life.
And yet, suffering personified—that is, my wife—was lying next to us on a stretcher. She embodied the pain through which such glory had come. I had witnessed firsthand glory through suffering. Every time I recall the moment, I realize that glory through suffering isn't unique to my daughter's birth. According to the gospel, it's the story of the world.
Suffering is inevitable and unavoidable. Surrounded by cancer, mental illness, infertility, depression, loss, and ultimately death, we ask how God's glory could shine through such tragic circumstances. For most of us, glory and suffering seem incompatible, just like something cannot be simultaneously hot and cold, wet and dry. But Christ's journey from the cradle to the grave reveals a pattern that is stitched throughout the fabric of Scripture. For Christ, Christians, and all creation, the way of glory is the way of the Cross.
The Story of Glory
When we look at Scripture, we might conclude that suffering and glory compose a two-step movement: Glory comes after suffering. Certainly at many points, Scripture presents suffering and glory as a linear progression (Acts 2:33–36; Phil. 2:6–9; 1 Pet. 1:10–11; Heb. 2:9–10). But it also reveals a more organic and overlapping relation between the two: glory through suffering (John 12:23–33; Rev. 5:5–6).
We see ...1