I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 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. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:18-25)
I have yet to speak with anyone who feels they were ready for the global coronavirus pandemic, and not too many who feel they know the best way to handle it. We are “all over the map” in our precautions, our responses, and our thinking about what is safe and what is not. What does seem almost universal is that we are all tired of this current upheaval and fatigued by all of the life changes it demands. We are ready for this to “be over.”
I am not sure Paul envisioned a global pandemic when he wrote to the church at Rome, but he does offer those of us today some deep wisdom, and hopefully some encouragement and comfort. What we see with our eyes, hear with our ears, and experience through our other senses is very real to us, but it is not the ultimate reality. Suffering is a part of life. Illness, compulsions, addictions, injuries, and accidents are all a part of life. Losing loved ones, facing personal challenges, dealing with job loss, broken relationships, and acts of violence are part of life. All these things are evidence of the fallen nature of our creation and the decay working its way in the world. But these things do not define God’s will for our lives.
We may be groaning inwardly and outwardly in solidarity with all creation, but we can rely on the promises of God. God offers to release us from our bondage, to liberate us from our sufferings, and to grant us rest and comfort. The major way God does this is through community – through our relationships with each other. We have been given the privilege and honor to be God’s grace, hope, and love for each other. We can ease one another’s suffering. We can give one another encouragement. We can shine the light of God’s glory and strength on those who need it most. Thanks be to God.
O Lord, it is so easy to be overwhelmed by everything that is wrong with our world. There are times we want to imitate the turtle and simply pull our heads in and wait for things to get better. Help us to remember that you are working in the world to ease suffering, offer strength, and give hope – and that you desire to do this through us. Empower us, inspire us, encourage us, and motivate us, we ask in Jesus’ Holy name. Amen.
May this devotion provide you with a moment of faithful reflection and care. You are involved in ministries of justice and witness, in ministries of standing up and standing with people working to create better systems and communities, in ministries of learning and searching and researching to become more aware and awakened, more technologically savvy and proficient, more virtually and personally present in your churches and communities and world. Each of us who serve as members of your Wisconsin Cabinet write these devotions in grateful prayer for you – for sustenance and buoyancy, for strength and courage, for safety and just actions, and for faith and love to be full and fulfilled in your daily lives. God’s grace and blessings, God’s challenge and healthy discomfort, God’s Spirit and energy be with you, in the hope Christ offers us all.