If you want to catch a glimpse of God’s heart for you, simply watch a mother with her newborn. The hours spent walking the floor as she tries to soothe her little one to sleep. The energy sacrificed to care for her. The joy she feels when the child grows or laughs or simply breathes. Her anguish when her child is sick or in pain.
Nothing tears me up and drives me to pray quite like seeing my daughter struggle. About two and a half years ago she accepted and eight-month coop in North Carolina. Anxious for an opportunity to venture into the adult world, she left Nebraska with hope-filled anticipation.
Her enthusiasm soon turned into a scary depression, triggered by numerous circumstances. First, she was considerably younger than all her coworkers, which made it difficult for her to form relationships. Second, she was paired with an extremely critical and domineering roommate who caused my daughter to doubt everything good about herself. Navigating a management role at the age of 19, this was her first time living so far from home, and she was lonely. She struggled to find a faith community and missed her friends and family. As time went on, her feelings of isolation grew, which only served to deepen what we later learned was undiagnosed depression.
Watching her struggle from afar, I felt powerless to help her. I often longed to catch a plane, if for no other reason than to stay close. To hold her, and in so doing, to shoulder some of her load.
When we’re hurting, like my daughter was, it helps to know we’re not alone. The truth is, if we belong to Jesus, we never are, regardless of how we feel. Scripture promises that. It tells us, throughout its pages, that God is with us, loves us fiercely, and will never leave us. What’s more, when we feel as if our heart is shredded, when the pain is so intense, it steals our words and we find ourselves unable to pray, the Holy Spirit steps in and intercedes for us.
Romans 8:26 tells us “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (NIV). Words in the original Greek often convey such richer meaning than our English translations, and that is true here.
When we suffer, and we will, the Spirit closely identifies with our suffering and comes alongside us in a deeply personal, empowering way. The late biblical commentator Matthew Poole phrased it this way: “The word” helps, or more accurately, joins to help, sunantilambanomai in the Greek, “imports such help, as when another of great strength steps in and sustains the burden that lies too heavy on our shoulders.”
But God does so much more than that. He feels our pain and prays for and with us with “groanings too deep for words” (ESV).
I’ve never understood the depth of this verse, the depth of God’s emotion conveyed by the words Paul chose, until I too prayed and “groaned” for my daughter during her struggle. If God feels even half of what I did, and I know He does, as His love is so much greater than mine, than I know, when I’m hurting, His heart breaks as well, and His heartbreak spurs Him to action.
God stays with me, offers His strength in place of my weakness, and prays with and for me. He doesn’t let up nor will He leave until He’s carried me safely to the other side. He will do the same for you.
Let’s talk about this! Did you know that God prays for you? That He’s deeply concerned for you and loves you as deeply as Romans 8:26 indicates? How does this knowledge bring comfort when you feel pain? Share your thoughts and examples with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!
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The Problem of Pain by CS Lewis
Thinking Right When Things Go Wrong by JC Hutchison
God Meant it For Good by RT Kendall
Finding Jesus in the Center of My Pain by Jessica Brodie