How are you doing? Fine?
Of course the answer is “fine.” When people ask us how we’re doing, the automatic response is fine. Sometimes when discussing this sociological phenomena, people say they actually want the honest answer. I never know if I should believe them. In the past I’ve given a more honest answer and found myself in a really awkward moment realizing that I’ve just overshared. I’ve also had very real, impromptu conversations about real pain that left me feeling more connected to my friends.
I think it’s natural to want to blend in and not be noticed. It can make the pain feel worse if the other person is doing fine, or if they don’t understand what we’re going through. It takes discretion to know when to go along with the expected norms or when to break them. I think this goes beyond social norms. We need to have trusted friends because suffering is harder when we’re doing it alone.
18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. [ . . . ] 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirits intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
This passage talks about our present suffering, it talks about how things ought to be. It also tells us that one day we will be free from our suffering. Not only us but all of creation. This got me thinking about how the whole range of pain will be redeemed.
A Universal Problem
Everybody experiences suffering at some point in their life. Some of the pain we experience results in good things, like childbirth. Sometimes it makes no sense and never will until we’re looking at it from the other side of eternity. Sometimes our suffering is from our own pain and sometimes it’s over the pain experienced by those we love.
We are in a fallen world and because of that we experience the effects of sin, which also causes suffering. When Jesus ascended, God sent the Holy Spirit to be with us, to counsel us. Here we see that the Holy Spirit prays for us in our pain. God doesn’t need to ask how we’re doing. We we can be honest with God about everything that’s going on. When our pain is so great or confusing that we don’t know how to pray, the Spirit prays on our behalf in ways we don’t even understand.
Sources of Hope
This is another example in the Bible of how we can have hope. We have hope in God who loves us and who prays for us. A God who will go to any length to act out God’s love for us. We need to remember that hope comes along with a restless feeling. How long will it be until the thing we hope for is here?
Sometimes when I’m in a painful situation I ask God, “why?” Instead of seeing pain as a way in which God has let me down, this shows me a God who helps me carry it. God has entered our suffering through Jesus. These verses show us that God helps us in our suffering through the Holy Spirit. God stays with us in that honest, awkward, gritty conversation and is committed to walking with us through everything. Through the Holy Spirit God experiences everything with us, and it’s all an expression of God’s love.
Let’s be willing to receive comfort from the Holy Spirit. We can know that the Spirit has already turned to God in prayer on our behalf. When we’re able, let’s be willing to walk with each other. Let us weep with those who weep. We should desire to comfort and pray for each other. Committed to passing the comfort we’ve received on to our sisters and brothers.
All Scripture quoted taken from the NRSV translation