Hope in the Spirit is the bridge between our present circumstances of hardship and God’s promises of future glory. Such hope is God’s work in us and transforms our perspective on life, particularly on suffering.
Understanding What Is Meant
In these verses, Paul talks about the inward groaning of believers living in the present reality. He has already spoke on creation groaning with the ‘pains of childbirth’, referring to the brokenness of this fallen world and its impact on the creation itself. Now he applies the same logic to believers – yes, we have received the firstfruits of the Spirit but we still live in frail mortal bodies that are affected by the fall. We have aches and pains, illness and suffering and will decay and die.
Without hope we would be crushed by present pains and disappointments. There is a work of the Holy Spirit that lifts our heads, gives our hearts a glimpse of eternity and shifts our perspective. Being full of the Spirit causes us to abound in a supernatural hope that can process our current reality in light of the future. Suffering no longer overwhelms us but we can patiently hope by his transformative power.
Hope in the Spirit means both enjoying the gifts of God in the present and longing for the day when his presence will fill the earth and all his promises will be fulfilled. The passage talks about us waiting for our adoption as sons, in the sense we are waiting to fully come into the inheritance we have been adopted into. It also talks about the redemption of our bodies. These future realities empower us to press in to walking with the Spirit now, knowing that there is more that God has for us and the pains of todays are not the end of the story.
As we teach people to hope, it is good to emphasise the importance of:
- Groaning – The verses speak of us groaning inwardly, and in the following passage we are also told of the Spirit himself groaning. The right response to the pain and suffering of the world is not stoic indifference but prayer in the spirit that expresses painful faith-filled groans.
- God’s Promises – The reason we can have certain hope for the future is not just wishful thinking but because of what God has promised. As we remind ourselves of what God has promised in scripture (and also through prophecy), these promises are an anchor for us that fill us with hope, particularly in times of hardship and suffering.
- Praying the Psalms – Psalms is a book of the Bible full of this kind of hope – both acknowledging the present difficulties and expressing trust in God’s promises. Through the centuries Christians have found these prayers a great way to put words to our own hopes and longings.