“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 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. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:18-25 (NRSV)
Today’s question that accompanies the preceding verse in my study is:
“What signs of hope do you see in the world around you?”
I’m not a terribly optimistic person by nature. I think that what I do for a living might have something to do with that. For years I dealt with what happens when cars break down- procuring parts, scheduling and arranging service and maintenance. I was trained to identify and correct failures- to embark on the ultimately futile task of counteracting entropy.
For those not familiar with the meaning of entropy (it has its origin in the study of thermodynamics) here is a partial definition:
2 a: the degradation of the matter and energy in the universe to an ultimate state of inert uniformity
b: a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder
3: chaos, disorganization, randomness (from the Merriam Webster online dictionary)
I tend to think of entropy as the scientific description of what’s been happening to creation after the Fall. We see evidence of it everywhere- people age and deteriorate as well as do the things people create. The natural world is worn down by erosion and pollution. I see it every day in created things that fail and break. The reality of entropy and the impact of suffering contradict the logical argument for hope. The fact that evil things happen in this world every day contradicts any logical argument for hope.
Paul understood entropy. Paul understood suffering. But Paul still had hope.
Hope is not logical. Hope is a gift of the Spirit, that by the grace of God we would dare to envision something other than the world’s readily observable fallen condition of entropy and suffering.
Creation itself was an act of God creating order out of chaos. Is it not too far out of the realm of possibility that God, who created the world to begin with, will also restore His creation?
When Christians pray the Lord’s Prayer, we say, “Thy (God’s) will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” I don’t pretend to understand God’s will, and suffering, decay and ruin are far beyond my ability to understand, but we are, in this prayer opening the door to hope that what Paul hoped for is true- that creation will someday be set free from entropy and that it will be restored.
I admit I really struggle to see signs of hope in this world. I’m really good at seeing what’s not working or what’s broken (because I’ve been conditioned to look for those things, both by profession and by nature) but not so good at seeing and acknowledging what’s going right.
There are small snippets of hope that we can observe right here, right now from time to time. I see it as a sign of hope when people come together to genuinely help other people in need. I see it as a sign of hope when we can encourage each other and give each other strength for the journey. I see it as a sign of hope when someone recovers from an injury or disease. Sometimes we get to observe (and participate in) God’s kingdom here on earth, and sometimes we get to slow the process of entropy and decay down just a little.
Lord, I am both a skeptic and a sinner, who desperately needs your gifts of faith and of hope, so that I can believe when it’s hard (or impossible) to see.