Broken: Good News in Tough Times, Hope
Welcome to the second week of our message series we are calling Broken: Good news in tough times. Even when times are tough, God has good news for you. When you feel broken or experience brokenness in our world, God still has good news for you. To emphasize these facts, for a few weeks, we are focus in on our second reading which is Saint Paul’s letter to the people of Rome.
Last week we heard Paul telling the people of Rome that the life of a Christian on earth is one of waiting and longing to be with God, in eternity. While we sometimes endure suffering in this life, we can also experience joy in the midst of our suffering. Paul says while on earth, we live with a kind of endless groaning which will be made whole by the redemption of our bodies.
However, when we suffer, and experience what seems like endless groanings, we are not alone. God gives his Holy Spirit to everyone who trusts in Jesus, his Son. Sometimes when things are difficult we may feel weak, we may feel like we have these endless groanings, and worries within us, and feel like we don’t know how to pray.
Today Paul explains how God receives our prayers, even when we don’t know how to pray. That is what Paul calls our groanings, our desire to pray when we don’t have words with which to pray. Paul says that when we don’t have the words, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us.
The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness by taking our too-deep-for-words groanings, and communicating them to the Father as prayers. God the Father, ever in search mode, receives those prayers directly from our hearts through the activity of the Holy Spirit. In this way, we are potentially in constant communication with God. Paul uses a beautiful description for God the Father. He calls God the Father the “one who searches hearts.” God the Father searches your heart and knows your heart.
Paul is telling us to have hope, for the Holy Spirit will guide us, especially when we feel weak or confused. The Holy Spirit will pray with us, within us, and for us. Groanings is what Paul calls our desire to pray when we do not have the words. But Paul also uses the words “inexpressible groanings” when speaking of the Holy Spirit. He says the Holy Spirit prays with inexpressible groanings.
When Paul says the Spirit prays within us, with inexpressible groanings, he is referring to the idea that when something is inexpressible, it is too strong to be conveyed in words. That means the Spirit is praying inexpressible thoughts within us, too strong to be conveyed in words, so that we will feel strengthened and know better how to pray to God. Sometimes that prayer before God might even be sitting still and listening to God. If you feel really stuck and do not know how to pray, try sitting still and repeating over and over quietly in your heart, “Holy Spirit, pray within me as you want me to pray.” “Holy Spirit, pray within me as you want me to pray.” And then listen.
Be assured that through your groanings, the Holy Spirit wants to come to your aid. Where do you groan today? Where do you feel the sting of sin, or the hurt of a broken relationship? Where is the pain of an empty chair at your supper table, or the crushing defeat of loneliness? Is there the guilt of a conscience that refuses to be quieted, or the disappointment of unfaithfulness? Do you have deep anxiety over Covid-19? Do you experience discrimination? What is the “groan” or “burden” or “weakness” you face today?
For Paul it meant he felt: “afflicted . . . perplexed . . . persecuted . . . struck down.” Keep in mind Paul was not alone when he experienced being “afflicted . . . perplexed . . . persecuted . . . or struck down” because he recognized that God was at work in him. He recognized the Holy Spirit was there with him in the afflictions, perplexities, persecutions and weaknesses.
Paul reminds us praying is difficult for most of us. It takes thought, concentration and commitment. Moreover, we are not always good judges of that for which we should be praying. We ask for the wrong things. We often come to the Father asking for things that are unprofitable for us in our walk with God.
The idea of the Holy Spirit’s inexpressible groanings also refers to the fact that we can not even imagine the goal to which God is leading us. Hence, we do not know what to pray for, and we do not know what is the appropriate prayer to make. This is a sign of great hope because the Spirit, unlike us, truly knows what God intends for us, what his will is for us. We can be sure the searcher of hearts, God the Father, will recognize such prayer and not fail to respond.
We do not know what is best for us because we do not have God’s overall perspective of what he is doing, not only in our lives, but also in the lives of those around us who in one way or another are impacted by our lives. There are always those who are silently watching us and observing how we live the Christian life or don’t live the Christian life. Other people are influenced by how we handle our weaknesses, our groanings. Do they see us as instruments of God’s love?
From our human perspective, we don’t always see how God is using our situations to impact others for his good. Our perspective of our circumstances radically changes when we get eternity into the picture. That is what God does. God knows what we truly need because, when looking at our life, God always keeps the perspective of eternity in the picture.
Isn’t it wonderful to know that when you do not know how to pray, or what to do, the Holy Spirit comes to your aid? The Spirit, however, doesn’t take the entire load off your shoulders. That really wouldn’t help you in your maturation process, in your maturation as a Christian. We still have to face up to our personal responsibility in all things. The Spirit DOES help us, in working through our problems and overcoming our difficulties.
We have hope, we have hope, because when we feel broken and things are tough, when we feel lost, there is good news. There is good news in these tough times. It is this. The Holy Spirit of God will pray for us, intercede for us, speak for us.
You — are — not — alone. God does not abandon you. The Holy Spirit wants to come to the aid of your weakness. We do not know how to pray as we should for God’s will, but the Holy Spirit will teach us. The first step is to allow the Holy Spirit to teach us about hope. This will lead us into surrendering to God and give us great hope. That hope helps us follow God’s will.
Here is what we would like for you to do. Read this definition of hope every day this week and take five minutes quietly every day this week to consider how God is speaking to you through this statement about hope. The Holy Spirit will guide you. Here is the definition: “Hope is the trust that somehow, one way or another, even when things don’t seem to be working out and are very difficult, our future is in God’s hands.” You can find this definition on our website, saintmary.life, under homilies. There is a blog there with this entire homily on it. “Hope is the trust that somehow, one way or another, even when things don’t seem to be working out and are very difficult, our future is in God’s hands.”