22 November 2014

A PRAYER FOR ENGAGING WITH GROANS AND HOPE

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 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 (Rom. 8:22-24).

Lord Jesus, a recent visit to the maternity floor of one of our hospitals made this Scripture more than relevant. But groans are groans, whether they come from a labouring mother, a weeping nation or our longing hearts. As much as we want to tune out, numb out and check out, the gospel compels us to hear and enter the painful groans all around us—even those generated in the deepest chambers of our souls.

How we praise You, Jesus, that You’re not asking us to suffer for You, but with You. You’re not a spectator of suffering, You’re the Lord of suffering—a man of sorrows, acquainted with suffering and grief (Isa. 53:3).

Though an epidural would be nice, or some kind of anaesthesia, just keep giving us Yourself and it will be enough. Keep assuring us that You are with us and for us. Because You suffered for us when we were God’s enemies, we can now suffer with You for our neighbours.

Two years ago, the already hyper-impoverished nation of Haiti was twisted and squeezed like a sponge, at the whim of a violent earthquake. The needs still seem bottomless and endless. Orphaned children, multiple diseases, economic corruption… how long, O Lord?

Jesus, You are there; just like You are on the streets of Bangkok, where little girls are sold into sexual slavery; just like You are in the waterless villages in Africa, where children go to bed hungry and thirsty. Take us with You and empower us with living hope, daily mercies and sufficient grace. One Day Haiti (and the entire earth) will be covered with the knowledge of your glory as the waters cover the sea; it will be as the Garden of Eden, flourishing with life and laughter. Give us eyes to see, hearts to care and hands to help; “for in this hope we were saved.”

But also give us ears to listen, for we have much to learn from the suffering church in Haiti (and other places). As we enter their poverty and groans, may we give them access to ours as well. The simplicity and purity of their devotion to You stands in marked contrast with the ways we compartmentalise and domesticate our relationship with you.

Their willingness to share with each other, what little they have, exposes our selfishness and possessiveness. Their contentment in crisis mocks our whining in abundance. Jesus, for your glory, help us to find much more satisfaction from being in Christ than being in control. May our groans become less about wanting relief and more about wanting changed hearts. Take us farther up and farther into the liberating and transforming power of the gospel. So very Amen we pray, in your relentless and loving name.

Scotty Smith ‘The Gospel Coalition’ www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/scottysmith