18 I believe that the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed to us. 19 The whole creation waits breathless with anticipation for the revelation of God’s sons and daughters. 20 Creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice—it was the choice of the one who subjected it—but in the hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from slavery to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of God’s children. 22 We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now. 23 And it’s not only the creation. We ourselves who have the Spirit as the first crop of the harvest also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free. 24 We were saved in hope. If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see? 25 But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience.
Suffering was almost constant in Paul’s life as an apostle (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:23-29). We might think a life like that would embitter him, leaving him defeated and hopeless. Today’s reading showed that wasn’t the case—and it explained why. The apostle came to understand that “the essential quality of hope is that it is oriented to something in the future that one expects but does not yet possess (Rom 8:24–25).”* He knew that real hope grew, not from human resolve or strength, but from the sustaining presence of God’s Holy Spirit.
- Paul also knew he was not the only one who suffered. (Creation suffers, he said. He may have recalled Elijah’s claim when facing Jezebel’s hatred—"I’m the only one left”—and God’s reply: “I have preserved those who remain in Israel, totaling seven thousand.” Cf. 1 Kings 19:9-18) Have you ever felt that life (or God) had singled you out to suffer? It in no way plays down your pain at hard times to remember that you are not alone, that this broken world’s reality is that “creation suffers.” We live in hope that God’s eternal kingdom will end all suffering, but we do not yet possess that.
- When Paul wrote that “We were saved in hope,” his choice of words was in no way glib. “Paul is not expressing a… superficial optimism that everything tends to everybody’s good in the end. No, if the ‘good’ which is God’s objective is our completed salvation, then its beneficiaries are his people who are described as those who love him.”** How do you ground your hope, not in vague optimism, but in the faithfulness of the Savior you’ve learned to love?
Lord Jesus, I don’t like the hard times of physical or emotional suffering—I’m not supposed to. But I’m awfully thankful that even at those times, maybe especially at those times, you are with me every moment. Amen.
* Article “Hope” in Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit and Tremper Longman III, general editors, Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998, p. 399.
** John Stott, The Message of Romans. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994, p. 248.
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Janelle Gregory serves on the Resurrection staff as a Human Resources Specialist. Janelle finds that her heart is constantly wrestling with the truth that she needs a Savior, and the times when she's at her very best are when she's just too tired to put up a fight.