(Editor’s Note: This is a follow-up column to a previous one written by Mike Patrick, “Where Is God When We Suffer?”)
By MIKE PATRICK
One of my favorite verses is Romans 8:26 (NIV) – “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 with groans that words cannot express.”
The Spirit helps us, but how? I have heard all kinds of explanations of how God helps, but let me share examples from the two ends of the spectrum. Some of my friends say that God gives us a mind and we can do something about our issue. True. However, I wonder sometimes if those friends simply do what they want in the first place. At the other end of the spectrum, friends say that we should turn things over to God. I agree that we must trust him with all things. However, some of those friends seem to use that as an excuse never to do anything. Their premise has God magically taking care of our concerns. I was never satisfied with either response.
So if the Spirit helps us, how does that happen? The Greek word in the New Testament, translated “helps” in this verse, is a compound word made up of three different words. It literally means “together, face to face, we pick it up.” Maybe this helps illustrate—One weekend while in middle school, I helped a friend bale hay on his parent’s farm. We loaded the bales onto a wagon. The hay bales weighed about ninety pounds so I could stack them only about three high. As a solution, we got on opposite ends of the bale (together, face to face) and we picked it up. Likewise, God doesn’t sit back and simply watch us struggle; nor does God magically stack the hay for us. We still suffer, but he participates with us. In fact, the last part of the verse says that the Spirit prays for us with groans that words cannot express.
As a teenager, I helped our family move into a new house in the suburbs of Chicago. My Dad and I had trouble moving a large upright freezer into the half basement (it was only halfway below ground). The freezer was too big to go down the outside stairs, so we had to line it up with the door frame and go over the ledge and down through the doorway. We groaned under the freezer’s weight. Sometimes the weight of our suffering is so heavy that even the Holy Spirit groans with us in prayer.
Mike Patrick retired as Chaplain and Ministry Education Coordinator after 27 years at Hendrick Medical Center.