Groaning and Hope

Life is hard. Nobody who has lived a real life for any amount of time can honestly think that this world is an easy place to live. Consider the evils that we face:

  • Natural Evil – disasters, disease, and death.
  • Spiritual Evil – the devil and his army intending to do us harm.
  • Physical Evil – Nasty folks out to hurt us and corrupt the world.
  • Personal Evil – the evil in our own hearts that we battle to defeat.

Surrounded by all sorts of pains, we see that life is hard. We see that things are not what we want. Whether it is a sickness, a divorce, or a global strife, we know that the world is not what we want it to be.

 

What does God say to Christians about the pains that we face?

 

Romans 8:18-23 – 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 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. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 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. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

 

Consider that passage in sort of a backward fashion. Creation groans. The universe, all of creation, has been subjected to futility ever since the fall of man. The very substance of the universe shakes and quakes and shows us that things are not right. From the moment that mankind first rebelled against the Lord, the universe has been tainted with the corruption of sin.

 

What was the impact of that corruption? Everything that hurts came about. Disease and natural disasters exist because the first humans turned away from the Lord. Adam and Eve brought death in all its forms to nature and to people. If Adam does not rebel, there is no such thing as a destructive tornado, a killer earthquake, a crocodile attack on  a river bank, a baby that does not breathe, or a cancer that cannot be stopped. Without Adam’s sin, no evil would have come.

 

So, even as we face the ugliness of the world around us, even as we face situations we hate, we ought to be reminded that these situations are reminders of the ugliness of sin. Hatred of the Creator has brought on us destruction. It is God giving humanity what we demanded to have from him, autonomy, that has brought on us the hardships of life. And every evil, from the biggest catastrophe to the annoyance of a sinus infection can trace its roots to a people telling God that we will not listen to him but we will have charge of ourselves.

 

  But then return to the beginning of the passage. Paul opened with hope, not pessimism. He wrote, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18). What is he saying? The ugliest of the ugly in this life does not compare with what is to come. The pain of the present cannot compare to the joy of the future. Here, and in other places in Paul’s writings (c. f. 2 Cor 4:16-18), Paul shows us that the Lord will more than make up for the sorrow and the hardships we face in the here and now. If you are a child of God, you must understand that you have awaiting you in eternity a weight of glory, a repayment of joyful kindness, a return on your sorrow that will so far outshine the hardships that you have faced as to make them look small. Remember, this is the God who made you and thus knows how to fulfill you in ways you do not even grasp. This is the God who created the universe and who knows what perfection is all about. This is the God who loves in a pure way that you have never loved or been loved. He will give us more than we have ever lost. He will fill us with joy far more deeply than we have ever sorrowed. He will grant us life and peace that will make all the death and pain we have ever seen look tiny. In eternity, the weight of God’s glory will obliterate all the pain we have ever felt as we finally see the reason we exist and we receive the reward of his holy glory.

 

In those words, I’m not at all belittling your pain or mine. We experience things in the here and now that hurt us deeply. The losses we face are gut-wrenching and significant. But the truth of Scripture is that those losses are evidence of the groaning of creation under sin. But when the curse of sin is removed, the groaning is gone. When the glory of God is fully known, our pain will no longer define us. Instead, our pain will be the shadow of a shadow of a memory that only serves to highlight for us the greatness of the joy of the love and the kindness of God that we live under for eternity because of the finished work of Christ.

 

Do you want to know a good reason to come to Jesus for salvation? There is a reason that is easily as great as to avoid the punishment we deserve for our sin. The best reason to come to Jesus is to have as an eternal hope, the promise of a forever life that will far exceed any pain that any human has ever experienced at any time in human history. We want to be on the side of those who are given peace and relief from the groaning of this age. That can only come for those who are under the grace of Christ, freely forgiven and joyfully promised eternal life.

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