‘Tis the season of freshly sharpened pencils, crisp new book bags, shiny folders…and the dreaded back-to-school doctors and dentist appointments. I love back-to-school preparations with the glaring exception of the slew of doctor’s appointments and check-ups that stack up toward the end of the summer.
“Sit like a human being, please,” I said on repeat as I watched my boys slide down the over-sized leather couch like jelly molds. This was one of those rare times when punctuality becomes a pain: three squirmy boys and I were ten minutes early for our dental appointments. A commitment to only using Minion Rush as a last ditch resort if all the wheels came off before the end of this long appointment ordeal left me exhausted after playing “I Spy” and other mom-energy-intensive games for what felt like an eternity.
Good news: we have completed our back-to-school appointments. Bad news: we are still waiting.
As I sat down this morning, the Lord led me to Romans 8:24-27, the context surrounding the often-quoted and clung-to Romans 8:28: And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
On the other side of long-waiting, long-suffering, after this long appointment of life, we will sigh deep sighs of relief at having made it, at having been carried beautifully through.
But life can so often feel like sitting for an excruciatingly long time in the waiting room. Romans 8:24-27 focuses on life in the waiting room.
And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance, we wait eagerly for it. In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes with groanings too deep for word, and He who searched the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He interceded for the saints according to the will of God.
Paul uses the Greek word “elpizo,” translated hope, five times in these verses. The Greek word connotes something much different than the word hope as we use it today (I hope Starbucks has a seat, I hope we can make it for Christmas, etc.). It means that which is entirely expected, anticipated and sure, the coming of a definite thing. Hoping, then, is the eager and active waiting for a certain thing, as one waits for guests who are on a plane flying to visit you: they will come, they are coming, we are just waiting for them to land and arrive.
Yet, as we are waiting for this sure thing, the waiting becomes excruciating labor. The word translated groan in the above verses is the Greek word “stenazo,” which literally means “to be compressed, to be constricted.” According to HELPS word studies, this is a painful tightening pressure that exerts us forward, much like labor pangs that enable the birth of a long-expected child. It is not a neat word, it is a messy word, a painful word.
In studying these verses I found great encouragement. God reminded me that He does not expect His children to sit like perfect Victorian children quietly, silently, comfortably in the long waiting room of life. He went so far as to tell us that this waiting game will be excruciating at times. He expects there to be squirming and wiggling and a mixture of giggles and tears in the waiting room. Now that is an image of waiting I can relate to, as I have vivid, living illustrations of wiggling in waiting rooms monthly.
But the greatest hope comes from the promise that there is One sitting in the waiting room with us, actively helping us, coaching us, distracting us from the pain of the torturous waiting, as I tried to do with my boys, only far better.
The Holy Spirit knows fully and completely Him who is on the other side of this waiting room. If and when we grow exhausted and restless, even hopeless as we wait, He prays for us, begs before the throne of God on our behalf. He will see us through to the Romans 8:28 side of things. And that is great hope for us as we wiggle and squirm and whine in the waiting room.