Each evening, I offer a short devotion to the men under my care in the dorm. This is the spot where I share them with you, and keep a record of them for myself on the off chance I ever need them again.
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:14-21)
This is one of my favorite texts in Scripture… if you only read one chapter from Paul’s letters, it ought to be this one. Let me share just a few points of reflection here:
1. St. Paul says that If you belong to Jesus you have the Spirit of God living in you, and you’re no longer a slave to your sinful nature… you are under no obligation to do the bad things you’re tempted with. Hear me on this: You can say no, and God will give you the strength resist.
2. If you belong to Jesus you are God’s child. You can’t undo that; you will always be his child and he will always love you. Some of you had distant or abusive fathers, fathers that when you were a kid you would run and hide from him when he pulled in the driveway. But Scripture says that God isn’t like that. He’s the kind of Father that when you hear him pull into the driveway you run to door and say “daddy, daddy, I’m so glad you’re home!”
3. God promises that one day he will fix this broken world and set everything right. There will be no more death, there will be no more pain there will be no injustice. We can be confident that this will happen because Jesus died and rose from the dead. But just like Jesus had to suffer before his resurrection, so we have to endure difficulty and pain in this life. God doesn’t tell us why this is–he doesn’t give us an explanation–but he does promise that he will never let us suffer in vain, and he will never let us suffer alone, but rather that he will use our suffering to refine us, and make us whole, make us holy, if we will but trust him in the midst of it. And he promises never to leave our side when we hurt… even if we can’t see it in the moment or we can’t feel his presence, we can look back in history and remember that God entered into our pain in the person of Jesus, he knows what it feels like to suffer as someone who has been rejected and abandoned by everyone he loves (if you don’t believe me, just go read about the last week of Jesus’ life in one of the gospels–Matthew, Mark, Luke or John)… with God you are never alone in your pain. But Jesus is in you–as close as your breath–through his Spirit, and he will never abandon you.