A reflection on the readings for Proper 12A: Genesis 29:15-28 and Romans 8:26-39
Jacob, grandson of Abraham, son of Isaac, brother of Esau, falls in love with a woman at a well, a typical place for love to begin in the Bible. The woman’s name is Rachel. Jacob wants to marry Rachel, but her father, Laban, insists that Jacob work for him for seven years and then he can marry Rachel. So Jacob does.
Life is hard.
After seven years Jacob prepares to marry Rachel, but Laban tricks Jacob and sends his older daughter, Leah, to the marriage bed. Rachel learns of the deceit, but rather than disgrace her older sister, she conspires with Leah to let this happen. Jacob decides to work seven more years for Rachel.
Life is hard.
Jacob works for Laban, and the years pass, but he finally gets to marry Rachel. Rachel has a difficult time with pregnancy and eventually dies in childbirth, but not before she gives birth to the child who becomes the ancestor of King David, and Jesus.
Life is so very hard.
Rachel is buried on the side of the road. It is said that her tears and prayers washed over the Jewish people on their way to exile.
Life. Is hard.
A plane disappears, thousands of miles off course, and months later, has yet to be found. A plane is shot down out of the sky, a mistake of war, killing hundreds of innocent people. Another plane goes missing over Africa.
Life is hard.
Violence escalates in lands torn apart by war, poverty, famine, prejudice, or the drug trade. Mothers and fathers send their children away, with just a glimmer of hope that they might find a better life in a strange country, assuming they survive the journey. But the children arrive in the foreign land, a place torn apart by its own struggles with politics, finances, poverty, and years of violent weather - tornados, landslides, earthquakes, wild fires, and draught. The children are caught in a tangled web of conflict.
Life is hard. Life is hard everywhere.
Illness strikes. An accident takes the life of a loved one. Innocent people are shot and killed for money or fear. A job is lost. The cost of living increases.
Life is fragile. Life is unpredictable. Life is hard.
Who among us has not suffered, has not experienced sighs too deep for words?
Paul’s letter to the Roman’s offers hope and assurance to a people who are suffering.
For into our suffering, the Spirit intercedes with sighs to deep for words.
I have leaned into this phrase countless times in my own prayer life, especially during times when I am suffocating in sadness - overwhelmed by the circumstances of my life or injustices in the world….
The Spirit interceding enables us to catch our breath and gather the strength to meet the day ahead, providing the stamina to carry on. Life is hard.
And, God does not prevent these things from happening— even Paul living in the first century knew this. God does not magically saves us from the tumult’s of life.
And yet, Paul reminds us that the “love of Christ” is working in us, whether we know it or not. Nothing can separate us from it—not “hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword.” Not oil prices, climate change, nor economic collapse. Not violence or injury or illness. Not fear or hate.
God does not abandon us, no matter what we do or what gets thrown at us. God is present. God’s love is unwavering. God’s love is like yeast - seemingly small and yet it, somehow, through the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s love rises to the occasion, working to transform random ingredients into nourishment for body and soul.
Life is hard.
Eventually, life gets better.
Even still, life is hard.
And yet, somehow, God’s love in Christ, God’s love for us prevails. Subtle, simple. But, it’s the air that softens our sighs, the hand that wipes our tears, the grace that gives us breath, the strength that gives us stamina to face the day.
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