in the end...
Paul knows that God has something incredible in store for his people for eternity. This world is not as good as it gets. We were made for something more. And for those who trust and follow Jesus and are in God's family, the end is so good that it makes everything (and I really do mean everything) worthwhile. As Relient K sang - 'The end will justify the things it took to get us there'.
Paul reminds us that it's not just us who are broken and longing for something better. Creation is too. Our world is beautiful but broken. It doesn't always work the way it should and in some places it's actually killing us. This is not how it should be and it's not how it will be in the end. This doesn't mean we give up on this place as we wait for the new one. Quite the opposite. Because God will make all things new (Revelation 21:1-5), we see his intentions for this place and we should fight as hard as we can to look after it well because it's not ours.
Me and Chrissi are adopting two little girls this year. There's a definite plan to place them with us over the next 6 months. We love them now. We're parents now. It's just that our kids aren't home yet. It's like this for God's people. They're already in God's family but they're not home yet. This is what Paul means when he talks about Christians being adopted (Romans 8:15) but not yet adopted (Romans 8:23). They're in God's family because they trust and follow Jesus but they're not home yet and they wait patiently for the day when they will see Jesus face-to-face and all sin and suffering will be gone forever.
In the meantime, Paul tells us that one of the things God the Holy Spirit does for Christians is to help them talk to God in prayer. The longing is so deep and sometimes the suffering is so hard that we often don't know how to express it to God in the right words but God knows everything already and he just wants to help us talk to him and bring ourselves, our struggles and our longings to him. If we trust and follow Jesus, then we're God's kids. He doesn't care about polished religious prayers. He just wants us to talk to him honestly and depend on him in everything.
Why do people bother to have kids? It's expensive, heartbreaking, painful, worrying and hard work. Much easier not to have kids! Why do people put themselves through it? I think the best reason is because they love each other so much that they want to share that love with a bigger family and the pain and heartache is all worth it if their kids love them back and enjoy being part of it. It's the same with God. Paul reminds us that God has only ever had good plans. He knows the end from the beginning and he wouldn't have started out unless it was going to end well and be worth everything in between. It's hard for us to imagine just how good God is and how good his plans are for those who love him. The pain and destruction and suffering that exist in our world today is the result of God offering people the freedom to choose whether or not to love him back. God decided it was worth all this suffering - and his own too - on the cross, in order that he might have a massive family of people who know him, love him and enjoy him forever.