Community Group Study “Romans 8:18-30 Hope in Difficult Circumstances”
Read Romans 8:18-30
In our study of Romans 8 we’ve learned that God has worked in Christ to free his people from sin so they can walk in the Spirit towards life and peace (Romans 8:1-13). Likewise, we’ve seen that God has brought his people into a family through “adoption”. We can cry out to God and call him father because of the Holy Spirit’s work to bring us into a family (Romans 8:14-17). Paul now shifts to address the problems we face in a sin-soaked world and he shows us his desire is to give the people of God confidence to help them see their future hope.
The tension between reality (the circumstances we experience) and hope (what we can look to and long for) is all over this text. Look at Romans 8:18, Paul starts off this section by addressing present suffering to a future glory that will be revealed. He puts circumstances side by side with a future hope for us to compare. Notice, he does not dismiss the sufferings in this world and the hardships we face because of sin’s presence and the corruption of what is good; yet, Paul constantly points us forward to what we can hope for in Christ and how God is at work in the nitty gritty of life in this world through the Holy Spirit and God’s providence.
You may be a person who struggles to look beyond the present hardships; this passage would invite you to consider where your hope truly is. On the other side, it could be that you have a naive optimism and dismiss the challenges that are part of life in this world; this passage would invite you to be real about the suffering and circumstances in this world, but look to the resources God gives you in the Holy Spirit.
Let’s first look at the challenges Paul presents about living in this world.
First, all creations groaning (Romans 8:20-22).
Paul uses the image of the suffering of childbirth for what the created universe is experiencing. Creation looks forward to God’s ongoing plan of salvation, because it will one day be set free from the impact of sin. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God the creation experienced separation and distance from God as well. Romans 8:21 talks about this as corruption and bondage. Christian faith sees evil as an invader into God’s good world and we struggle to understand and explain evil because it is something completely foreign to what we were designed to experience. This passage gives us a hint at why we experience things in this world like earthquakes, hurricanes and viruses. The creation is corrupted and groaning and it is looking forward to being set free from sin’s effects.
Second, you’re groaning (Romans 8:23).
This passage tells us that we groan inwardly meaning that we feel the impact of sin personally whether we realize it or not. You experience this in many ways like your body aging, injuries that linger, sickness persisting and even our feelings betray us and we battle depression, anxiety, anger and grief. These are all warning lights to us that this is not how things ought to be. If you are indeed in Christ your inner person has been renewed and you’ve been given a redeemed spirit (Ephesians 1:16), but you still lack one thing… you wait for what Romans 8:23 calls the redemption of our bodies. You await a day when you will run and not grow weary, walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31). Christ came and made a pathway forward for us to be spiritually restored in relationship with God and he will come again to set the creation free from bondage to sin and to redeem our bodies along with the physical world.
Third, this forces you to a place of hope and patience (Romans 8:24-25).
Hope is a confidence in what God has promised based on his past, present and future goodness. This hope requires faith because we cannot see it and it puts us in a place of waiting with patience. This is a great place to be because it helps us experience the helplessness of our situation and forces us towards God. However, many of us can be unsettled and frustrated in these times.
What about our future hope? Paul tells us that we are not alone in this suffering and that God is doing something in the middle of all this to help us to cling to that hope.
God first promises that it will not always be this way.
Romans 8:20 tells us that the creation was subjected “in hope” and that it will be set free from its bondage. Likewise, God promises that our bodies will one day be redeemed and no longer under the impact of sin. We are waiting, in hope, for a day when things will no longer be like this. God promises a New Creation where sin, sickness and death will be no more for those who trust in him. This means that the joy you experience now is a foretaste of a better joy that awaits you and that ultimately sin does not win the day.
Next, God has given you a resource to help you in our weakness.
The creation groans and you groan inwardly… but notice someone else groans in Romans 8:26. When we are weak and brought to the end of ourselves and hit that point where we do not even know what to pray for the Holy Spirit groans and prays for us. This is a tremendous comfort for our difficult circumstances. This groaning means that God himself is sharing in our suffering in an ongoing way and he is constantly interceding for his people to pray for us when we don’t know what to pray for. Romans 8:27 gives us even more hope too because the Holy Spirit will always pray for us in accordance with God’s will and will pray for what we would pray for if we really knew the mind of God. Friends, this is another invitation to lean into the helplessness you feel when you suffer and experience the corruption of what happened to this good world. Confess to God that you do not know what to pray for, but you desire his help.
Finally, we can trust in God’s providence.
Providence is God’s ongoing care for his people and his world. Romans 8:28-29 tells us that behind all this we can trust God will work it our for the good of those who loves and has called. Many of us can read this as a promise of God to bring us comforts in this world or quickly deliver us from suffering, but God has a better good in mind for us all. Notice in verse 29 that God’s goal is to conform us into the image of Jesus. The hope for us in this verse is that our suffering has a purpose, to form Christ in us. His providence means that nothing we experience is wasted and that when we look back on the circumstances of living in a sin soaked world we will see his good hand guiding us to become more like Jesus.
At the moment, we’re living in trying times for many of us. We know that things like this are part of being human and living in a world that is “subjected to futility” and is corrupted (Romans 8:20-21). Yet there is hope that this suffering is not worth comparing to the glory to be revealed to us and that we can have a true and real hope because God is in it with us and working through it.
Main idea: The present circumstances of living in a sin soaked world are not comparable to the hope we have in Christ. God is working to help us to stay faithful and grow in being more like Jesus as we suffer and he does this by giving us a future hope, the Holy Spirit and in his providence.
Read and Observe:
Take 10-15 minutes and write down observations you have from the passage.
We all struggle to try and explain the presence of evil and suffering in this world. How does this passage help us understand why stuff like that exists?
This study guide mentioned 3 things that can draw our attention to our hopes in Christ which one is the most important truth for you to hold onto now and why?
Have you been stuck in a season of hardship and not really know what to pray for? How does God help you in that season? Look at Romans 8:26-27.
Explain what it means for “God to work all things together for good” based on this passage, the study guide and the sermon (Romans 8:28-29). Do you have any examples in your life of difficulty and hardship that God brought you through and worked for good?
Questions for Elementary Age Kids:
We all go through difficult times in our life, even if we follow Jesus. One reason is that sin not only creates distance between us and God, it also changed the world. As a family read Genesis 2:5-8. What was the world like when God first made it?
Read together Romans 8:20-22. This passage talks about the world being “corrupted” by sin. To corrupt something is to take something good and ruin it. Think of spending time building something or painting something and then someone comes by and knocks down what you made or spills something on your painting. It would look similar to what you made, but be ruined. This part of the Bible helps us understand why bad things happen in the world. God is still in control, but we see that the world is not as it ought to be.
Read Romans 8:26-30 together. Pick out 2 or 3 ways that God helps people who follow Jesus when they face difficult situations.
Paul wants us to know in this passage that even though life in this world can be difficult at times we are not alone if we follow Jesus and that we can have hope. Hope is being confident of God’s goodness. Spend a few moments and pray that God would help you to have hope in him.
Question for Jr High and High School Students:
When was the last time you felt weak and in need? How did you respond to that situation?
Read Romans 8:18-25. How does Paul describe the impact of sin on the world? How does this help you understand why things like evil and suffering exist in the world?
Read Romans 8:26-30. What does God do to help us navigate the sufferings and challenges of living in this world?
What do you think the Holy Spirit would pray for you in this moment? Base your answer on this passage, what you know about God and the circumstances in your life right now.