“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:19–23, NIV)
Have you ever noticed there are different kinds of waiting? Some waiting is joyful, filled with anticipation. Some is painful, filled with “inward groans.” Waiting for the waiter to bring your order at your favorite restaurant versus waiting at the DMV.
I love Advent because normally it’s that first kind of waiting for me; a time of excitement because of all the good things that are coming. I like Christmas Eve better than Christmas Day for the same reason. We’re beginning to enter into the celebration, but there’s still another day to look forward to. The anticipation of what’s coming heightens the enjoyment of the now.
But this year I’m waiting on God and not finding much joy in it. I’m being “subjected to frustration” as the NIV says. My body, specifically my gut, has not been functioning how it should (talk about inward groans) and I feel like God has given me a promise of healing…but not yet. I need to wait, and I’d rather not.
In the meantime, God is growing my sympathy for the Israelites. I don’t know that I’ve ever empathized before with how frustrated they may have felt, waiting through decade after decade of silence, suffering under oppressive rulers, and wondering when the Messiah would finally show up. You promised. Why are we still being subjected to frustration? How long, O Lord?
Yet after all that time there were still people like Simeon, “waiting for the consolation of Israel,” (Luke 2:25) clinging to the promise. My waiting has been a matter of months, not centuries, but God’s words to me have felt sparse this week, related to things other than the questions that feel most pressing, and my frustration is mounting. Is it really possible to be “groaning inwardly” and “waiting eagerly” at the same time?
According to Romans, it seems that the key is hope: “…if we hope…we wait for it with patience.” (8:25). So I’ll keep asking for healing and start asking for hope.
In the hope that Jesus’ final Advent will be a perfect blend of both the relief of frustrations ending and the joy of longings fulfilled,
“…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 8:23-25, ESV)
In what ways are you waiting for Jesus right now? Would you describe it more as “groaning inwardly” or “waiting eagerly”?
What might it look like to wait for Jesus with patient hope?