Hoping, Groaning, and Laboring for Peace and Justice
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” —Romans 8:18-25
War, wildfires, violence, famine, refugees, asylum seekers. Oil spills and poisoned water and seas choked by plastics. It’s no wonder the whole of creation groans for freedom from bondage, hopes for glory and restoration. It’s no wonder that we Christians too, filled with the Holy Spirit, long for full adoption into the family of God as we colabor in the redemption of all creation.
Romans 8:18-25 captures perfectly the sense of these times. As the earth literally burns around us, as people flee their homes around the world before the sometimes figurative, sometimes literal scorched earth of violence and abuse, we cannot help crying out for Christ to come again. Sometimes it feels like too much, feels that even hope is lost and that we must simply wait for the end to come.
Yet verses 24 and 25 remind us that the light of hope is seen best when the world is darkest. “Who hopes for what they already have?” Paul asks. No one, of course. Why hope for peace if peace is present? “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” What is missing is what we are waiting for, hoping for. In times when the realization of peace is farthest away, hope is deepest.
But waiting patiently is different from waiting quietly. Creation groans, and we groan. We cry out in our suffering, just as the creation in California cries out to God, dressed in ashes like Jerusalem in mourning. Refugees lament, and rightly so. Asylum seekers lament, as they should. In our groanings, God grows close to us, comforts us, hears us. Immanuel, “God with us,” arrives in times of turmoil, not peace. God did not incarnate before the fall into sin, but afterward.
Waiting patiently is also different from waiting passively. In Hebrews 6:10-12, the writer says that God “will not forget your work and the love you have shown God as you have helped God’s people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized.” Beyond our lament we are called to action, to work toward what we hope for. Through lament we learn the urgency felt by the people who are suffering. We are supposed to work diligently and urgently toward the peace, reconciliation, and restoration we hope for. We are to work to help all of God’s creation, and this is a means of displaying our love for God as well. In our labor, we should not “become lazy” but “imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised” (Heb. 6:12). We express our love for God by laboring diligently for the kind of peace and well-being we envision the kingdom of God will bring, and through this active faith wrought with patience we inherit what God has promised us.
Throughout this Advent season, let us groan with the suffering creation and all who are living through hardship. Let us hope patiently for the coming peace, restoration, and reconciliation that will finally end all suffering and injustice. And let us work faithfully, diligently, patiently, for all of God’s creation and with the love of Christ to bring about as much of that hopeful vision as we can, as soon as we can.
Prayer: Creator God, draw near to us, to creation, and to all who experience hardship and injustice. Be our source of hope in the darkest hour. Thank you for hearing our groans and cries and for weeping with us. Grant us your wisdom and diligence as we collaborate for peace, restoration, and reconciliation. During this Advent season, allow us times to hope, lament, and labor.
Paola Fuentes Gleghorn works as a communications specialist for the Office of Social Justice and for Faith Formation Ministries. Originally from Costa Rica, she immigrated to the United States several years ago. She lives with her husband, sister, and cat in Grand Rapids, Michigan.