Following Phoebe

All creation is groaning...


There are so many things that are breaking my heart at the moment. So many things in this world are broken and dis-functional, too many to list.

One of the things on my mind is that at present, my home state of Tasmania is on fire. Over 133,000 hectares of forest have been burnt and now the fires are spreading to populated areas. It's a dangerous, hot and dry summer and we are desperately praying for rain as that is the only thing that is going to help firefighters get these fires under control.

There has been a devastating loss of old growth forests, trees that are thousands of years old, and areas of great beauty are now ash. And while the areas will grow back to some extent, it will never be what it was.

It has been extraordinary timing that the Bible studies I have been preparing while this has been going on have been on Romans 8. I have written some posts about this chapter before, but I am writing about it again because I am finding it to be a comfort as I watch the devastation from far away. It is a chapter of the Bible primarily about the Spirit's work in Christians, enabling them to live in this world where there is sin and suffering now that they are no longer condemned because of Jesus death and resurrection on the cross.

God's words in Romans 8 help me to live in this world and remind me that the sufferings of the present time (the sufferings we share with Jesus for his sake, but also the general suffering that we experience living in this world) are nothing compared to the glory that is coming when Jesus returns and brings the new creation.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 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. 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. - Romans 8:18-25

This passage gives me hope that as I groan, waiting for the redemption of my body and of my brothers and sisters in Christ, creation groans with me as it too is subject to futility and bondage to corruption. The beauty of the 'groaning in the pains of childbirth' imagery is that there is pain in the present but with the expectation and knowledge that something beautiful is coming. This groaning of creation and of the people in it will ultimately be brought to an end when Jesus returns and makes all things new.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” - Revelation 21:1-4

The forests will grow back, but it will take time. Houses will be rebuilt. But the effects of this disaster will be felt for years to come.

As I witness the devasation in the world all around me, I hold on to this truth only made possible by Jesus. It doesn't mean that the groaning is over yet, but I know, one day it will be.

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