“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
HOPE FOR THE LONG HAUL
I consider myself a seasoned bag packer when it comes to traveling. My family made yearly road trips to visit relatives in Texas each summer, and I was expected to fit all the toys I might need into one measly duffle bag squeezed into our crowded minivan. Needless to say, I made it work, and I’ve been a pro packer ever since. At the outset of a journey, we pack with the destination in mind, but somewhere in the middle, in the part that puts the ‘long’ in ‘long haul,’ what was so carefully packed on day one can be squashed, pushed aside and maybe even lost somewhere in a side-pocket. As believers, our hope is not meant to live in a side-pocket.
Now the hope Paul records in Romans 8:23 contains some unusual descriptions: it is both eager and patient, and it groans. How do we wait eagerly but patiently? Does patience…groan? In Romans 5:2-5, we see that conflict—a popular by-line on the journey—“develops passionate patience in us” and “that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next.” As believers and carriers of His Spirit, waiting is not a laid-back affair, but filled with purpose and passion. Between the gift of a promise and its fulfillment, the first and last pages, we are to walk with expectant alertness. This is hope.
But there can be misconceptions about the true nature of hope. To some, hope is the happy-clappy flag we wave as we march through life, never facing challenges or setbacks along the journey. What a flimsy hope that would be. Hope that can’t bear a little pressure or get in the trenches with us would be bound to disappoint. Let us not succumb to the deception that hope is a plastered smile! Choosing to ‘grin and bear it’ is not being sharpened by trial but rather attempting to duck beneath it. There are no requirement to have it all together before walking through the church doors or entering community; rather, Christ calls for a humble people who know there is no hope without Him.
And what hope does our Savior give us? In His perfect life and perfect death, He “counted it all joy” (James 1:2) yet groaned at the pangs of breaking the captives free, the labor of taking on the sins of this world, the new birth of a redeemed creation. And He did not just carry a cross to Calvary; long before His disciples understood why their Rabbi was talking about Roman execution, He told them to pick up their crosses daily to follow Him (Matthew16:24). Every step of His life was a step closer to that cross; before He even put on flesh to dwell amongst us, God was already faithful to carry our death for us every obedient step of the journey. In hope, He did not waver.
We have been given the lion heart of the King who broke through the gates of Hell and conquered death for us. This beauty is written in the blood of a bold and risky hope. Yes, He leads us out into the unknown, to journeys that we dare not embark on without this gift in hand—a confident anticipation, an alert expectancy and passionate patience. We have not been this way before. Be strong and very courageous!—in deed and action, in heart and hope!