“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” — Romans 8:22–25 (NIV84)
The word “hope” is used five times in these verses. Paul couldn’t emphasize the concept of hope more than he did here. The first thing that hit me when reading this verse is that hope is almost always attached to pain. Biblical hope is telling me, in the midst of pain and suffering, to hold on to a promise that this is not how it is going to end up. Paul told us here that creation itself was groaning in pain. It, too, was waiting for something to come and change the situation. But until that change comes, we are called to hope. Remember, this is not a wish (like when you blow out your birthday candles). Our hope is one that is certain. It is a hope that knows that this is not the way it is going to end, because God has promised a better outcome.
So, what does hope cling to first? First, that we are saved in this hope. Without this certain hope there is no salvation. Just as the saints of old had to hope in the Messiah to come, we must hope in the Messiah who is going to return and make all things new. Just as certainly as Jesus came into the world to redeem us, He will return to the world to end all pain and suffering and begin a new heaven and a new earth. When Jesus comes again there will be no need for creation or humankind to groan any longer. Our salvation is rooted in the certainty that Jesus will be true to His Word. He tells us that He has gone to Heaven to prepare a place for us and someday He will come again to take us with Him. At that moment there will be no need for hope, because our hope will be fulfilled.
We patiently hope for Jesus, who resides in the peaceful realms of Heaven, to return to us and bring us home. But until then, we groan. We groan at the brokenness of creation. We groan at our own brokenness. We groan because of the pain and suffering our sin has brought to God’s creation. We groan for a time when this pain will end. We groan, longing for a time when we will live in perfect peace. We longingly groan to be with Jesus where He is. We longingly groan in certain hope of what God is doing to bring us home with Him.