18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 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 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. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now;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. 24 For in[hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:18-25 NRSV)
– Paul uses language of parenting here: children, labor pains to talk about suffering
– We (“children of God”) also wait as in labor for redemption
– Are the children of God also subjected not of their own will? (verses 18-21)
– There seems to be a comparison or connection drawn between the creation and the children of God
I have seen the later verses of this chapter several times over the last few days on Facebook. A colleague, whom I did not now except by name and sight, died Friday under tragic circumstances. As his story has emerged the sense of loss and pain has spread even among those of us who did not know him. Today his body will be laid to rest but his family will continue to know grief and loss, as will his colleagues who knew and loved him.
These earlier words of Paul from today’s Life Journal reading weave a comparison, a connection between the groaning and suffering of creation and that of the children of God. Unlike the created order (and I would add the order of things as crafted by humans, too) , we are conscious of this suffering and this waiting for redemption. We know and see and experience this suffering. And we are able to look at it rather than simply experiencing it.
This season of life has felt… overwhelming… to me. This death of a colleague and the circumstances surrounding it add to the unease and the wondering. Today is a good day to remember Paul’s injunction that hope is born in the midst of what we do not see: the redemption that has not come, the answers that have not yet been made clear, the sufferings that continue unabated. And that hope, in our Redeemer, is enough to see us through today.
God of Hope, we wait as a woman in labor waits. We feel the pain – of the world around us, of our own hearts. The suffering is real. The questions are real. The bondage to decay is all to real. But we live today in hope! A hope that is born in the midst of such hopelessness. May we have such hope today – hope in the redemption of Christ, in the eventual birth of what is waiting to be revealed. It may not be today… but it will be. Amen.