Hope in Adversity: Groans and Glory (Romans 8.18-27)

– Bishop Stephen Hale

I titled this series ‘Hope in Adversity’. Even when I was planning this I didn’t expect to be where we are now! It’s been amazingly applicable and so is this wonderful passage. It puts things into perspective but also offers great hope for today.

Compared to our future glory, our present sufferings can’t be compared. Things are tough at present and we’re all being impacted in a variety of ways. Paul puts all of this into a bigger perspective. As believers we await a glorious future which has no end. We await a day when the creation and the children of God will be liberated from sin and struggle and we will enter into what Paul here describes, as the glorious freedom of the children of God. That which we currently know by faith, we will see by sight. That which we hope and long for will become a visible, tangible reality. All of our battles and tensions will cease. Even Covid-19 will pass!

In the meantime, we groan and our world groans. There are many trials and many struggles. These struggles and these tensions are all too obvious – the virus, the impact of the shut-down, the environment and climate change, the disparity between rich and poor, family violence, lack of recognition for our first nation brothers and sisters and many other issues. As well as that we all groan personally – family tensions, illness, lack of contact with loved ones, employment challenges, financial pressures, depression and many other matters. We also groan because we long to fully inherit what we know by faith. We know that things could be so much better and they will be so much better.

Some of you reading this may be contemplating your own mortality. You groan and long to be set free. As it says, ‘If we have hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.’ (v. 25) God knows our groans and it is good to speak to him and others of them and it is also good to contemplate and long for our future glory.

Just imagine living in our groaning world, without this hope? Sadly, many have bought into the idea, that when you die you die. That’s it. They have no hope. Classically they believe that you only have one life and you need to make the most of it today. I suspect that one of the reasons for the rapid rise of people presenting with mental health challenges is because of this lack of hope. I fully acknowledge that this area is complex and there are many factors.

But hope makes a difference. You know that there is a better future and that today’s challenges won’t go on forever. In fact, our struggles today make our hope an even greater comfort and help.

As well as that, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts and amazingly ‘the Spirit helps us in our weakness.’ (v. 26) Even more than that the Spirit ‘intercedes for us through wordless groans.’ (v.27) If you don’t know what to pray or are too overwhelmed to pray, it is amazingly reassuring to know the Holy Spirit is praying on your behalf, in accordance with God’s will.

So, cry out to God, groan before him and seek his help. He offers to help you, especially in your weakness!