Have you ever felt a tension between the promises of God and the pain of life? Maybe it was a marriage that started out strong, but turned sour. Maybe it was a health issue that ended with suffering rather than healing. Maybe an untimely death or a traumatic experience still lingers. There is a tension between the present “now” and the future “not yet” within the Kingdom of God. Yet Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is present and draws near. How do we resolve this tension?
If we are being honest, we cannot fully resolve the tension. Paul’s words in Romans 8 do comfort though. Paul writes, “In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weaknesses, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings (Romans 8:26).” Sometimes the pain of the present reality can be overwhelming, even to the point we do not know how to pray. Yet the Holy Spirit prays for us and with us. Not only that, but the Holy Spirit groans for us. When life gets overwhelming what often fails us first is our ability to use language effectively. God understands that, and groans for us.
Not only does God groan for us, God comes to us. At the end of the Gospel of Luke, Cleopas and his friend were discussing the troubling events of Jesus’ crucifixion. As they were trying to process what happened, Jesus came to them. He listened to them. Then Jesus reoriented their story and broke bread with them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened. Jesus comes near to us, and can reorient our world, even the world full of pain. There is a tension between the now and the not yet, the pain of life and the promises of God. Until the not yet happens, God groans in the now, and Jesus draws near to reorient our world.