Creation groans

Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. – Romans 8:20-23 (NLT)

A healthy tree with a dead and decaying branch. Life thrives but is everywhere under attack, and sometimes loses the battle.

Palo Verde tree with dead branch

Creation groans. Humanity groans. I groan. I’m groaning this morning because I rode my bike and I’m out of shape. I have a friend who just ran the Boston Marathon, so my meager 5.5 mile ride seems almost an embarrassment in comparison – but progress begins with small accomplishments, little steps.

Lately, my groaning has been more emotional than physical. More existential. More “life is hard” than “this road is steep” sort of stuff. In my experience, it’s much harder to summon up the courage or determination to live with hope in the midst of existential darkness than it is to pedal up a steep incline when my thighs are burning. Maybe it’s because on my bike, I can see the top of the hill and I know how much longer I’ll have to endure the pain to get there. But when I consider the challenges of the spirit and mind, the challenges that make life itself so daunting at times, they feel overwhelming precisely because there is no end in sight.

We can’t see the end, but we must find hope somewhere, somehow, to believe that there will be an end, and that it will be worth the struggle to get there.

Paul says we “groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory.” I believe that, but I’m not sure I often experience it. Though the Holy Spirit is whispering “hope joy peace”, I usually find that my own predisposition towards despair drowns those words out.

But I believe there will come a day when God will let us experience what it means to be his adopted children, living in the safety and comfort of his heavenly home. And I do try to focus my hope, not so much on Heaven, but on the Father of Lights who loves me, seeks me out, and strengthens me when I’m certain I can’t make it over one more hill.

In the meantime, we wait. We run, or walk, or stagger as best we can onward, encouraged by the Holy Spirit to not give up. We groan, but at times we also rejoice. We hurt, but at times the pain fades away from our consciousness. We worry, but we are invited to lay those worries on God’s shoulders.

There’s a strong wind blowing the trees and the grass and the wildflowers today. They are bending but not breaking. The sun is giving them life and they’re drinking it into their pores, even as they tremble in the wind. I am not broken. Today, I have hope.

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