Groaning in Hope

One of the reasons why I love memorizing Scripture is that in reviewing a passage, God many times graciously reveals more truth. The Spirit gives more light. This morning I was on the treadmill reviewing Romans 8. This is a passage many Christians are familiar with. Allow me to share my reflections on Romans 8:19-27.

“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.”

Have you ever considered that the creation itself is longing for something? Of course, the creation isn’t a person. But in this passage the creation is waiting. The creation is longing with an eager anticipation. For what? For the revealing of the sons of God.

“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

The creation encompasses not just natural things – mountains, trees, oceans – but everything in creation. The natural state of things is brokenness and decay, chaos and disorder. The struggle we all face every day is to put things back in order again. Cars break, children disobey, earthquakes occur and wars break out. This passage is emphasizing the desire of the whole creation to be set free from its corruption. Sin didn’t just infect and pollute the human heart.

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”

Do you know this? Do you know that throughout the entirety of human history the creation has been groaning like a woman in the pains of childbirth? What does that look like? Any woman knows that labor pains come in waves, they intensify and then dissipate. This is why it’s so important to know history. The graph of history isn’t linear, it’s more cyclical, with each cycle gaining intensity like a woman’s contractions.

“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

Just like the creation, we groan as well. No one denies this. We are all burdened with the troubles and sufferings of this world. But don’t miss this! This is what God showed me this morning and caused my face to light up as I ran on the treadmill. There is a glorious flip side to our groaning – we groan in hope! If this world was all we had to look forward to, we would be in a sad state, but focus on this – we have the firstfruits of the Spirit – and that causes us to wait eagerly for something glorious as we groan.

What are firstfruits? In an agrarian society, they are the first indication of a future harvest. We have the firstfruits of the Spirit, a down payment that guarantees a future reality and a future glory, a freedom from the corruption of sin that affects the creation and our earthly bodies.

Are we only focused on the groaning? Is our experience of the daily decay of this corrupt world the only thing we’re focusing on? Beloved, don’t let that be your experience. Remember the glorious flip side to our groaning. We groan in hope of future glory. This is what sets us apart from the unbelieving world. Let us be honest about the hardships but just as sure of the promised future glory.

But there’s more. The Holy Spirit himself helps us.

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

Are you only familiar with these verses in relation to prayer? This has been my experience too, but do you see how the broader context makes such a difference in our understanding? The key word is this – likewise. That connects these verses about the Holy Spirit to our groaning and waiting. We are weak, we are burdened and groaning. Sometimes we just don’t know what to pray. But the Holy Spirit comes alongside us! He intercedes for us. He groans with us. That is grace. And in that gracious intercession we can be confident, because he always intercedes for us according to the will of God.

We are all groaning, but as believers, we alone can groan in eager expectation of that future glory, confident that the Spirit himself is closer than we know, praying along with us and for us.

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