I have spent a lot of time recently ruminating on several passages that I’m finding provide inspiration and comfort. Isaiah 40:31 is having a frightening irony between me and my dear friend recently, but it is Romans 8:26-39 that has sat with me for the last three months or so. See below, from NRSV, italics mine.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. F50 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I have spent most of my time thinking about the end of this passage, verse 38 and 39. A daily reminder that nothing, absolutely nothing, in the mind of Paul and many believers, can separate us from the love of God. When I was a kid, my Mom had a tape of a Christian band that had a great song called “Nothing Separates Us”. I think I played this tape into the ground in my college years and at some point, alas, lost it. But I can still hear the melody rotating through my mind as a pulsating reminder that NOTHING separates us from the LOVE of God.
But in church on Sunday, I was reminded of the earlier part of this passage about the interceding of the spirit. I am moved by the poetic language of “with sighs too deep for words”. The Holy Spirit intercedes in our weakness with a great sigh that cannot be expressed in human form. I am led to a vision of a spirit in exasperation, like a parent tying their child’s shoes for the millionth time. A spirit that will intercede for us, that will do for us as we cannot, even when we should be able to. The spirit almost saying, “don’t you get this yet” but simultaneously holding us closer than we can imagine and loving us within our weakness.
I imagine I exasperate God on a regular basis. Just as I exasperate my friends and family with my ever-present roller coaster of emotions and unresolved flaws. But, just as my dearest friends and family, God does not stop loving me, or any of us. We are loved as we were created, within God’s own plan for each of us. A heavy thought, as we spend minutes, hours, and days trying to change ourselves, fix ourselves, improve ourselves in some sort of selfish attempt to please everyone.
My sighs tend to be too deep for words lately. But I suppose they are just another thing that the spirit picks up and returns to me. A lift from above that is not asked for and does not seek reward. Such as love.