We are dust.
We know the weaknesses of our broken lives.
We express our deepest hurts through painful sighs and tears.
This is the human condition in the creation that seems so empty, futile, and useless. Our present lives are an enigma, and they are often absurd. Sometimes there are no words, and often there are not enough tears. And it rarely makes any “sense.”
The creation groans. Embroiled in a process of decay and enslaved to futility, the earth is burdened with weakness.
We groan. Engulfed in suffering, ranging from famines and nakedness to violence and persecution, the present offers little evidence that hope is near. We know our weaknesses; we know how little strength, power, and endurance we have.
So, groanings fill the cosmos….and those groans enter the heavenlies, too!
The creation groans. We groan. And the Holy Spirit groans.
The Spirit, Paul says, “helps us in our weaknesses,” especially in the moment when our own groans reach their limit. When we have no words, the Spirit uses words that are unutterable. The Spirits says what we cannot. The Spirit steps into our brokenness, sympathizes with our pain, and intercedes—speaks—for us in ways that are beyond our capacity.
The intimacy of the Father and the Spirit—their mutual indwelling of each other—means that the Father knows the Spirit’s groans in their deepest sense and meaning. What we are incapable of knowing about ourselves, the indwelling Spirit knows. What we are incapable of communicating, the Spirit shares with the Father.
The Spirit does not simply know our suffering in some mere cognitive sense. Rather, the Spirit is present within us and experiences our suffering as a sympathetic friend, and thus the Spirit groans as well. The Spirit groans with us and for us, and this groaning becomes part of the experience of the Triune God. God is for us not only in the intercession of the Son, but also in the intercession of the Spirit.
Our groaning—yes, even the groaning of the whole creation—becomes part of the life of God as the Spirit groans with us. God experiences our groaning, and God is able to transform our groaning into hope.
Through the presence of the Spirit, our groaning returns to us as hope. We wait, enduring the present sufferings, for the redemption that will liberate us (and the creation itself!) from our weaknesses and fully adopt us into God’s new creation, the new heaven and new earth.
Hope changes everything. Hope empowers waiting. Hope strengthens our endurance. Hope saves us. Hope turns mourning into dancing.
We groan, and as a result the Spirit sympathetically experiences our struggles and shares its depth with the Father and the Son.
The Spirit bathes us in comfort and imparts peace, and consequently we hope.
We groan over the weaknesses, but we hope in the future God has for the creation.
We groan, but we hope.
So, we wait.
Lord, come quickly!
Texts for meditation: Psalm 103:13-18; Ecclesiastes 2:18-23; 3:18-20; Romans 8:18-27; 15:13.