Greetings in the name of God who “is for us” and “works toward something good…”!
This week as the dark clouds kept threatening to bring wind and storm, the blue sky and warm sun kept poking through. This act of nature becomes a parable that points us to God who give us hope!
Over the last few weeks the dark cloud of this pandemic is threatening to take us deep into a “second wave” that some are claiming could be worse than the first. As the debate and discernment continues as to what further guidelines, restrictions, or return to former ones, are needed to contain this virus, the internal waves of our own emotions and feelings may be churning. We have been praying for this Covid-19 crisis to pass but like a slow moving, or stalled weather system, it lingers. Some of us continue to cry out with the Psalmist, “How Long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1). Some of us are watching our children and grandchildren head off to school. We are happy for them but also carry some apprehension and concern around their safety. Some of us have chosen to keep our children at home. It feels like the right choice for our family but we desire for our children, and for us, more life giving interaction with peers. These months of restrictions and figuring out new ways of being at home, at work, with family, friends and church community has not been easy. Mental Health is often a challenge in the midst of “normal” time, it certainly is a challenge in this crisis, and constantly changing, “new normal” of our lives.
The dark cloud of this pandemic lingers, but as people of faith we are not without hope!
Romans 8, many times in my life and ministry, has become for me the blue sky and warm sun that keeps poking through the darkness and struggle, declaring hope! It radiates hope through the whole chapter. Although I will only highlight a portion of the chapter I invite you to take time and allow the whole chapter to brighten and warm your whole being with hope.
18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 for we have been saved in this hope and for this future…. 26We are weak and do not know how to pray, so the Spirit steps in and articulates prayers for us with groaning too profound for words…. 28 We know that all things work together for goodfor those who love God, who are called according to his purpose…. 31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
These few selected verses offer powerful reminders that suffering and pain that comes in whatever form and for whatever reason, does not have the final and last word. Challenges and trials are real, we all know that first hand, but there is a “glory about to be revealed to us.” Creation groans, and we along with it, but groaning and tears that arise from pain help to give birth to new freedom and life, transformed realities and new relationships. Romans 8 reminds us that the groaning of our lives points to the deep and abiding hope that God plants within us. In fact it goes on to name this groaning as the prayers of the Spirit on our behalf.When we are weak, and the clouds get dark, and life gets hard, and this pandemic and all that it brings seems more than we can bear any longer, the Spirit prays for us! “…the Spirit steps in and articulates prayers for us with groaning too profound for words.” And as if that isn’t enough Romans 8 goes on to say that “Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (v.34)
With hope planted within us for “the glory about to be revealed”, with the Spirit groaning out prays for us, and Christ Jesus joining the prayer time no wonder the Apostle Paul asks the questions, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (v.31) and “Who [or what] will separate us from the love of Christ?” These are rhetorical questions. And although the questions get asked because the crisis’s of our lives can seem so big, the answers are obvious if we will stop and recall the whole story of God.
If God is for us who can be against us? No one!
What will separate us from the love of Christ? Nothing!
37But no matter what comes, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, [nor pandemics], nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)
The blue sky and sunlight is like that conquering victory, and confident hope that is ours. It is ours because God is for us! And God who is for us is always working for something good! As verse 28 so powerfully affirms: 28 We know that all things work together for goodfor those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28 is not saying that God wills horrible things like viruses to happen. And it is not saying all things are good and everything happens for a God planned reason. What Romans 8 affirms is that God is at work in the midst of tragic events, horrible and hurtful things, and terrible viruses. God works to transform all things for God’s purposes. God is always working toward something good and beautiful. This is our hope!
Although we may not be able to see it yet, as people of hope we should keep our eyes wide open to the good and beautiful things that God is working in this time and in this moment. If we look with hope we will be able to see! Behind every dark and stormy cloud there is blue sky and warm sunlight!
I pray that God helps us to hold onto hope. I pray that the blue skies and sunshine shine appear often through the dark clouds. I pray that we hold onto hope as we wait for the day when this virus, and eventually all the dark clouds, will be no more! But as we wait in hope may we be reminded that, “no matter what comes, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us!”