Life is hard. I don’t have to tell you that. Every life comes with a healthy dose of suffering. It’s universal, one of the few things you can count on in an uncertain world.
When life is hard, we try to escape.
Who wants to suffer? No one. We try to control every aspect of our lives to escape suffering.
Philosopher and theologian Howard Thurman describes our efforts to escape suffering this way:
[People] have tried to build all kinds of immunities against it. Much of the meaning of human striving is to be found in the desperate effort of the spirit of man to build effective windbreaks against the storm of pain that sweeps across the human path.
The image of a storm is a good one. Despite all our efforts, we won’t escape suffering. It’s just part of life. But God’s Spirit bears witness to our suffering and gives us hope that we can get through it.
Life is hard. But there is hope.
Romans 8:12-27 has always been an inspiring passage for me. Paul acknowledges our suffering, but reminds us that God’s Spirit is at work, even in our suffering.
First, Paul tells us that there is hope.
Although the sufferings of this life are real, they pale in comparison to what comes next (v. 18). There will come a day when suffering will end, when the sons and daughters of Eden will return to the garden and unashamedly celebrate their freedom. A day of peace, a day of joy, a day we await with patience and with hope.
Second, Paul reminds us that in the midst of our suffering, we are not alone.
Along with the community of the faithful, the Spirit of God walks beside us in our suffering (v.26), interceding for us when we lack the words or ability to articulate our pain. Full of mystery and awe, the Spirit searches hearts and penetrates life’s suffering interceding on our behalf “with sighs too deep for words.”
Life is hard. But we’re not alone.
This imagery of the Spirit breathing life into our pain is a beautiful vision of God’s comfort and care. Despite our strivings and short-sightedness, the Spirit of God envelops us in wordless prayers, drawing us deeper into God’s will and closer to God’s heart.
Life is hard. But we can allow the Spirit to breathe silently into our darkness, drawing us deeper into the mystery of Christ, reminding us that there will always be hope and that we will never ever be alone.