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Our Help in Time of Need

July 20th 2014 by VicarCalvin Kapels

Living in the pain and suffering that this sinful world creates can leave us at times feeling hopeless. Our hope, our strength, our joy is found in Jesus who is always with us throughout the good times and the bad.

Proper 11A-“Jesus our Hope”-Romans 8:18-27 -July 20, 2014

Pain and suffering…We all experience different types of pain and suffering whether emotional, physical, or spiritual, but there are two types of pain and suffering that I thank God that I will never have to endure. We’ll talk about the second one later, but the first one is the pain and suffering that goes into childbirth. Three times now I have seen the pain and suffering that my wife has gone through in giving birth and I thank God that I don’t have to go through that.

Melissa and I were talking about our delivery room experiences and being the amazing woman that she is, she said it would be okay to share one of those experiences just to remind everyone how painful labor pains are.

It was our first time in the delivery room and with each contraction, Melissa would be in great pain, yelling, “no,no,no” and “I can’t do this” “I’m never doing this again”. Then came that one huge contraction where the pain was too much and that’s when my beautiful, sweet, loving wife who always seems is so full of energy and happiness, gives me this look and yells, “you did this to me!” To which I really couldn’t help but smile and laugh and say “yeah”.

But every parent knows, especially mothers, that after hours of pain and suffering, the moment that baby is placed in their arms, nothing else matters. The pain the suffering, none of that matters compared to the new bundle of joy, the new life that has been created.

In our Epistle reading for today, Paul uses pain and suffering of childbirth to relate to the pain and suffering that all of creation endures because of sin. “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.”

I think most of us would agree that this world is full of pain and suffering. Just watch the nightly news; it’s full of stories on pain and suffering, from shootings and murders, to robberies, to corruption, to natural disasters.

Last month the town of Pilger Nebraska was destroyed by a tornado. Those people had their homes destroyed, their lives ripped apart. Yet they aren’t the only ones going through pain and suffering.

Some people may feel like their homes are being torn apart as relationships are suffering, some might feel the pain in their lives as bodies are getting older and it’s getting harder to just get out of bed.

All of creation is groaning in pain and suffering. A two year old child shouldn’t be suffering from leukemia. A sixty year old shouldn’t have to go through the pain of radiation and chemo. We shouldn’t feel the pain and suffering of losing a loved one. Death goes against God’s designs for creation.

The worst part is that all of this pain and suffering is our fault. Our sin, our original sin we inherited from Adam and Eve has caused ourselves and creation to groan, to cry out for deliverance. When Adam and Eve went against God’s will and choose to eat of the fruit from the forbidden tree, all of creation since then to now has been groaning in sin-animals devour other animals, weeds infest our gardens, the earth is ravaged by floods and droughts, tornadoes and hurricanes, and earthquakes and volcanoes rock the foundations of the earth.

Not only that but our lives are tossed to and fro-addictions, broken relationships, financial difficulties, sickness, disease, and death!

And all this often leaves us feeling hopeless. How often do you feel hopeless when pain and suffering overtakes you? How often do you ask “How long must I suffer?” “How much pain can I endure?” How often in our hopelessness do we turn to the things of this world to find healing, comfort, or hope? How often does the hope in things in this world let us down, causing even more pain and suffering?

And through all of this pain and suffering, how often do question God and begin to doubt His promises? How often do we cry out in the midst of our groaning, “Where are you Lord?” How often do we feel forsaken and deserted? Like all of creation, we at times, groan.

But in our groaning Paul gives hope. He tells us that there is something to wait for, to look forward to, to anticipate eagerly; our adoption-our redemption.

Earlier I mentioned that there are two types of pain and suffering that thank God that I don’t have to endure. The first one was childbirth, the second one is an eternal separation from God, eternal death, eternal damnation.

Because of Jesus, those who faithfully follow Him will not have the full wrath of God carried out on us like we deserve; we don’t have to deal with that sort of pain and suffering.

Jesus took that place for us. He took the full wrath of God upon Himself. His body groaned out as He endured the pain and suffering of rejection, betrayal, and mockery. His body groaned out as He was whipped and beaten, as He was crucified. Hanging on the cross, Jesus groaned out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” Jesus endured all that pain and suffering to bring new life for us.

Through Christ we have redemption, we have been bought back. His death, His blood has paid the price to give His faithful followers new and eternal life. By His resurrection, we with all of creation, have hope.

Our hope begins in our baptism, where we receive adoption as a child of God, an heir to the kingdom of heaven. Our baptism works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God. We live in the hope of our baptismal promise even though creation, and at times you and I still groan.

This is the same hope that Paul had and it is his confidence in which he boldly proclaims in the beginning of our reading, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

That glory is when our bodies are resurrected and we are placed in our heavenly Father’s arms forever. All the pain, all the suffering that we faithfully endure will no longer be remembered and will no longer matter. We get a glimpse of that glory of being with Jesus forever in Revelation 21 “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

That is the glory that is coming, that is the new life that is coming for all of Jesus’ faithful followers. But we also have hope, comfort, and strength that gives reason to rejoice in our pain and suffering.

Paul even tells us a few chapters earlier in Romans 5, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

Paul also tells us in our reading today, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

We are never alone in our pain and suffering. The Holy Spirit is our helper in weakness. He knows the groanings of our hearts, He knows the innermost pain and suffering of our being. Through that pain and suffering the Holy Spirit is working in our hearts to bring us closer to God.

We are drawn closer to God as we spend time in prayer with the Holy Spirit interceding on our behalf. We are drawn closer to God through reading God’s Word where our faith is strengthened. We are drawn closer to God as we ask for and receive forgiveness so we are not put to shame by the pain and suffering of this world.
We are drawn closer to God as we daily remember our baptism as being made a child of God and being washed clean from our sin. We are drawn closer to God when we come here to Church to thank and praise Him. We are drawn closer to God when we come to the Lord’s Table and eat and drink Jesus’ true body and blood for the forgiveness of sins and the strength to live a new life.

All of these gifts that God gives us are designed to bring us closer to Him and reminds us that He will never leave us or forsake us, which gives us hope during our times of pain and suffering.

Because we are His-because we belong ot Him-He promises in our text today”

“We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

For us here, who have the gift of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, who have been baptized and received adoption into God’s family, who have been redeemed by Christ, whose character and hope is based in faithfully following Christ, for us who love God, we know that things aren’t always going to be “good” as we live in this sinful world. But we know that our Savior will never leave us or forsake us no matter how bad things are.

As we live through the pain and suffering of this world in the assurance and hope of the life we have now in Christ and of the eternal life that is our through Him, it reminds me of a poem.

It is a very common poem called “Footprints in the Sand”. It tells of a man who was walking along the beach with Jesus as scenes from the man’s life are flashing in the sky. He began to realize that these scenes from his life matched up with the footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, Jesus’ and his, and sometimes there was only one set. This man also noticed that it was at the lowest times in his life, when he was suffering and in pain, that there was only one set of footprints. The man became upset realizing this so he asked Jesus, “Why would you leave me at the hardest times in my life?” “Where were you, what were you doing?”

To which Jesus told him, “My dear child. I love you and would never leave you! During your times of pain and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you!”

Jesus is watching over us, walking with us and carrying us through all the ups and downs of living in this world. We live in that hope and comfort now, and the hope and joy of living with Him forever. Amen.

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