In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8.26-28
A friend and I were talking the other day, about the twists and turns and difficulties and challenges in life. Quite possibly, the most common expectation of human life is that one day, preferably in the not-too-distant future, all the ducks will line up and life will be set. Only, nobody actually experiences life like that, at least not for any length of time. Jobs move or go away, marriages fail, hurricanes come, stock markets drop, war starts, parents ail, life begins, death comes, on and on. Each and every human life is lived in a constant state of flux, regardless of our best intentions. And in those moments of change, we pray. We ask for guidance or support, whatever it is we think we need.
Paul wrote of the Spirit praying for us, interceding on our behalf with groans that words cannot express. Have you ever prayed like that? Sort of, I don’t know what to pray, and it hurts so badly all I can do is groan and weep. Moments like that come in every life, and we are blessed if we know that is a sufficient prayer, especially if we know that, at exactly that moment, the Spirit is praying for us. God is intimately searching our hearts and minds, deciding how best to help us.
We seldom talk about the providence of God any more, and I am not sure why. It is, second only to the Resurrection, quite possibly the greatest promise of the Gospel. Salvation is an event, something God has already done and we either accept or reject. But providence… providence is a promise. No matter what your circumstances, no matter what happens around you, no matter what mess you make of your life, God not only loves you and is with you, but He will bring forth good, no matter what. When the pink slip is handed to you, or you look at the charred remains of your home, when you stand vigil beside the bed of your dying friend, or you post bail for your errant child – whatever the situation – in that moment, the Spirit of God is searching your soul, interceding on your behalf, and Christ is working already to bring forth good for you and in your life. And what amazes me most of all is, God is doing exactly the same thing for everyone else involved in the situation.
Providence has long been central to understanding our relationship with and to God, but in recent years, we seem to have forgotten. We think one of two things: either we assess our situation, then go to Christ and tell Him what we need, or we assume events are in our lives to punish us or teach us lessons, particularly if our situation can be tied to our own failure in any degree. But life itself is simply beyond our ability to control, and our intent to determine our own destiny misses the whole point of relating to Jesus Christ as a disciple, a follower. In those moments when there is nothing left to say, no words to express the depth of pain and sorrow, and all we can do is groan, we learn these truths, that we have no control and we cannot pick our destiny.
And in these same moments, the revelation of God’s providence begins, if we know to look. He is there. Not only is the Spirit ministering to us and praying for us, our Father is already working to bring redemption to us, to change mourning into gladness. The ability to trust that, regardless of what you see, God is working to bring forth good – specific, visible good for you and for those you know and love – can change experiences from a living nightmare to an adventure in joy. This is the fundamental difference between having faith and not.
Further along in the passage, Paul wrote, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Indeed. It takes a while to see the truth of providence. Providence is not a miracle, in that circumstances are quickly changed to what we desire. Rather, providence is something of a dance, in which the Spirit prompts and leads, swirls and pulls, and then one moment we look backward and realize that God is deeply and personally involved in our lives.
Providence – in every circumstance, every event, every failure, every situation, every sin and every wound, God is working for good for us. That is an amazing promise and an unfailing promise, from an amazing and unfailing God.
In Christ –
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