18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
It doesn’t take long to realise that the description in Romans 8 of the creation (and us) groaning is incredibly accurate. It certainly resonates with me. Among my family and friends, there are those struggling with marriage difficulties, the death of loved ones, mental health issues, the stress of parenting, looking after ageing parents, the stress of finding permanent work and, for many who have work, workplace pressures. And that’s just off the top of my head and without looking further afield around the world.
Not a cheerful way to start the day, you might think! So it’s interesting to notice that this passage in Romans that talks about groaning, sufferings, frustration, decay, and weakness also uses the word “hope” no less than five times. This isn’t an unusual pattern in the Bible, and is also seen clearly in the Psalms, which are bluntly realistic about the challenges of life, but also encourage us as we hear the psalmist repeatedly putting his hope in the Lord (eg Psalm 42). Paul says here in Romans that we ‘ … groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.’ (8:23-24)
Christian hope doesn’t mean a blind denial of our struggles, but rather a recognition that Christ is our Saviour and that we can confidently put our hope in him despite our circumstances. The reason for our confidence is God’s track record in keeping his promises. The greatest of these was Jesus’ promise that he would die and then be raised to life again after three days – a promise kept spectacularly in his resurrection.
The promise that we’re reminded of here is that our bodies will one day be redeemed as we experience the fullness of being children of God.
Reflection: What difference does it make to you to know that we have been given ‘new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ (1 Peter 1:3). Thank God for our hope and lift up your challenges and struggles to him.
Nat Rosner grew up in Sydney, lives in Melbourne and loves both cities! A former lawyer, she’s now a Minister at St Hilary's in Victoria and is passionate about sunshine, summer, sport, reading and local church ministry.
This reflection was originally posted as part of a series at St Hilary's, Kew
(photo courtesy of Elizabeth Hung, our Feature Artist for April, 2017)