Sufferings and Groanings
Rom. 8:18 ¶ I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.
Rom. 8:19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God;
Rom. 8:20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope
Rom. 8:21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
Rom. 8:22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now;
Rom. 8:23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
Rom. 8:24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?
Rom. 8:25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Rom. 8:26 ¶ Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
Rom. 8:27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ was never meant to be easy, nor was it meant to be without suffering. Paul knew suffering and he was eye-witness to the pain of others who had chosen the path of Jesus.
The corruption that resulted because of the entrance of sin became all encompassing. It was not just something that affected Adam and Eve, it began a trajectory of decay for all of creation.
Creation itself groans under the strain of the decay. All that we see in the world is continually being drawn down, as if by a heavy weight, from its intended path. The result is not a perfected creation but, at times, a destructive creation — one that results in natural disasters and disease. Paul sees a future in which the groaning of creation will give way to glory as creation is set-free from the bondage of sin and is allowed to once-again rise to her original perfect state. In the meantime we listen and experience the groanings of a creation that is unable to fulfill the purpose for which she was created.
Humanity groans while we continue to live in these corrupted bodies, awaiting complete and total adoption. Jesus was the first-fruit of those who would be resurrected, completely and totally. When Jesus rose from the dead he had conquered death — and the corruption of the human body and when we are resurrected, we too will be completely adopted into the new body of Christ. Until that day we continue to suffer and to groan. We groan because have already been adopted, but we are living in the “already-not yet” of the kingdom of God. We already are on that trajectory of transformation, but we have not yet fully attained it and just as creation groans under the weight of corruption pulling her down, so we groan as we continue the upward climb, continually raising us up out of the death and decay which surrounds us.
The Spirit groans, interceding for us “with signs too deep for words.” This struggle, these times of suffering, they are not to be endured alone. Instead the very Spirit of God joins with us in these times and groans and sighs as a woman in childbirth — crying out for you and for me and lifting us up to the Father. We are not alone. Victory is in sight as we put our trust in the One who gives us hope.
We have begun the season of advent — a time of anticipation and hope.
Yet, in the midst of it all there are so many difficulties in the world.
A terrible typhoon has destroyed much of the Philippines. Thousands of people have suffered and died as a result. Many more are left homeless. Churches have been wiped out and destroyed. How in the world can we have hope?
The country of Ukraine is erupting into violence as the people and the government clash over their future and the rights of individuals. People are being beaten, buildings burned and the cries of many — silenced. How in the world can we have hope?
A dear, beautiful woman who had so much to offer life has suffered for nearly four years with cancer. This terrible disease slowly ate away at her quality of life making it nearly unbearable. She was a follower of Jesus Christ. She wrote about him — she loved him and yet she suffered. How in the world can we have hope?
We experience suffering and yet, we will continue to groan and to press forward. Creation will groan, because, eventually creation will be righted. Humanity will groan for we will suffer under this corruption but we will eventually be set free. The Spirit will continue to groan and intercede for you and for me because God will never give up until all is again right.
And in the meantime, we enter into this season of Advent with a sense of hope and anticipation of a future — a future promised by the coming of a baby named Jesus. It is his arrival that became the turning point and provided the treatment plan that would bring life to death. We have our hope in him and while we may be groaning, we rejoice that the Spirit intercedes for us with power and strength and in ways we cannot imagine. We are already victorious because we can anticipate the day when all groaning and suffering will cease. Until then, we look forward and continue the upward climb, drawing closer to the one we love, reflecting the glory of him who has brought light to the darkened corners of a world struggling to be set free.
Lord, lead us into this season of anticipation. Amen.