By Bishop Herman Yoos
In my April 16th YouTube devotion, I asked my daughter, Kristi Kendrick, this question, “What gives you hope for the future as you anticipate bringing a new life into this world?” I thought her answer might simply be to “go back to normal,” or “safely to deliver this baby.” She did mention hoping her family will be able to surround her and the newborn child with love, but then she surprised me with a vision of hope that was much more expansive.
She said, “This time of sacrificing that we have all made to protect one another and also those most vulnerable has been a learning opportunity that can change how we see the world around us. It can help us identify more of the inequities in our world, where our world is broken and struggling. Because we have all learned so much during this time of isolation, we may be able to address these inequities in new ways that bring about growth and new life for others.”
The question I invite us to ponder at this moment in our life together is, ”What are you hoping for, or how big is your hope that God will do a new thing in our midst?” Have you ever noticed that there is a kind of patient hopefulness that most expectant mothers have? After all, they understand that something mysterious and miraculous is happening inside their bodies that can’t be rushed, but is truly worth waiting for.
No doubt this is the reason why Paul uses the image of a woman in labor to describe how all of creation is waiting for God’s redemption in the 8th chapter of Romans.
“I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth the glory about to be revealed. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now, and not only creation but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan inwardly while we wait for adoption . . .”
Notice Paul doesn’t promise us Christians a life that is free from pain and suffering. Instead we are reminded that the suffering we endure, including this COVID-19 pandemic, does not compare with the glory that is yet to come. What’s more, we are invited to see a bigger picture of hope by considering the real sufferings of this time as prolonged labor pains of creation itself.
Paul understood so well that God is not finished with creation. Creation itself is alive, ongoing and full of unexpected possibilities including the mutation of a virus we have never seen before, as well as the development of future vaccines and treatments of this virus. In this sense, science is also a part of God’s ongoing creative partnership with humanity, which means God is present and active in guiding researchers to find the treatments that are so desperately needed right now.
Have you ever noticed that when a child is born that the suffering of labor and delivery quickly fades into the background, while the joy and hopefulness of a new life becomes the present reality? Similarly, I believe God is reminding us that these labor pains of suffering and death from the Coronavirus will come to an end, even though we don’t see an end in sight.
What’s more, God is inviting us all to participate in this groaning and yearning of all creation as we wait like expectant parents for a glory that is yet to be revealed. So we wait in hope as Paul says in verse 16. “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see we wait for it in patience.”
So again I ask you, “What are you hoping for, and how big is your hope that God will do new things in our midst?” May the God of steadfast hope fill you all with patience and peace.