In the same way…Romans 8:26 (a) CEB
Davis Saunders taught me that every word in the bible mattered, reading with this in mind, the first words in these two verses were “in the same way”. In order to have context for the verses my eyes were straining to read for understanding, I had to go back and figure out how these verses were related to the preceding ones, because after all, Paul just started a paragraph with “in the same way”…there’s got to be a connection. It didn’t take me long to find one.
I believe that the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed to us. The whole creation waits breathless with anticipation for the revelation of God’s sons and daughters. Creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice—it was the choice of the one who subjected it—but in the hope that the creation itself will be set free from slavery to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of God’s children. We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now. 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. We were saved in hope. If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see? But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:18-25 CEB
Evidently, suffering is part of creation. It is NOT a sign (necessarily) that something is wrong or someone is bad: suffering happens. And evidently it is NOTHING COMPARED TO some future something that has not yet been but will one day be revealed. Well that helps, I remember thinking. Because that means that me not knowing stuff is also par for the course. It’s not that I am less intelligent or more out of the loop of faith than everyone else. We are all, the whole of creation, waiting for the revelation. And it isn’t just about being part of the human experience, ALL OF CREATION is frustrated. Not because it is somehow wrong or bad, but because this is all part of a necessary and thoughtful journey God ordained. For a long time, I had heard people talk about “us” [believers] and ”them” [people who don’t believe what we believe]. I had the distinct impression that if I could figure out how to be an “us” then life would be great; but if I got stuck in the “them” category, bad stuff was headed my way. Reading this verse, I didn’t think that sounded on target. The verses do not suggest that the faithful are NOT frustrated since they are big believers and all; it says that “we ourselves who have the Spirit as the first crop of the harvest ALSO GROAN” as we wait. Normal. Normal. Normal. It is normal to be frustrated and groan and wait…but there’s more! Once we understand this condition of suffering as normal, we are granted the insight of hope.
There are some gifts that come through frustration and groaning and waiting for revelation that can only be received as a result of frustrated groaning and waiting. It is this insight that is necessary before pressing on with the text. How have you judged yourself and others for suffering?