Many of us (I include myself here) may be sorely tempted, perhaps unknowingly, to a limited and limiting perspective on life. The emphasis is on surface appearances and the immediate context. In this view, present circumstances seem to constitute the sum of existence, of what we can know and expect of life. Hope may wane. Life may frustrate or even terrify.
When Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, Nero was emperor, but his pitiless cruelties against them stood nearly ten years away. Still, as we can infer from this letter, those Christians must have already known something of the struggle for authentic faith amid their fitful transformation into holy people, the swirl of competing worldviews and religions around them, and slanderous rumors about their beliefs and lifestyle. Of course, before long they would in fact face the excruciating reality of fierce and fearsome persecution against them for being followers of Jesus in the center of the Roman empire. How did they face those many challenges to their faith, including Nero’s ravages upon them?
Into our various milieus, whether first century Rome or now, the Spirit comes to God’s people, to followers of Jesus, with tenderness and compassion to plumb the depths of our lives, to encourage and strengthen the heart and will, both in the present and with eternity in view. When we cannot articulate our frustrations and fears, our disappointments and sorrows, to God or even to ourselves, the Spirit wells up from the chambers of our being and speaks to God for us. As well, the Spirit flows from the chambers of God’s being and speaks to us for God. We may not fully comprehend at any moment the Spirit’s language of dialogue, but we know on some core level the Spirit’s transaction of love.
Thus in and through the Spirit, communicating and comforting and transforming us, does God work all things for good for us, whether in the present or with eternity in view. Surface appearances and immediate context, though sometimes limited and limiting, even difficult and fearsome, take on holy depth and meaning when, in the Spirit, God’s word speaks to them and from them, when God’s love embraces us in them. Thereby, in-Spirited with divine assurance and hope, we are borne up to bear our circumstances faithfully and well, in likeness of Jesus, in this life and the next.