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 through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God (Romans 8:26-27, NIV).
One of the things I have been learning is that God gives us kids, not so we can teach them, but so God can teach us through them. A humbling thought I know, but if you have kids or spend any serious time around them, give that idea a little thought and you will see that this is true. For all of you who don’t have kids and don’t spend any time with kids, you’ll just have to take my word for it.
You see, I believe that just as Jesus used ordinary everyday experiences, things, and events as the springboards for lessons on living life as His followers in real life.
For example, when Jesus’ disciples saw Him talking with a Samaritan woman in John 4:27-38, that led to lessons on missions. In Mark 10:35-45, when a fight broke out among the disciples because James and John wanted to have the highest places of honor in Jesus’ kingdom, Jesus turned that quarrel into an object lesson about leadership. When the disciples called attention to the beauty of the Temple buildings in Matthew 24, Jesus used that as an opportunity to teach them about the end times. When Jesus passed through a vineyard on the way to Gethsemane, He used the grapevines as an illustration of how we are connected to Him and how we bear His fruit (John 15:1-17).
It is my contention that Jesus has not changed His methods, and that through the Holy Spirit, He is doing the same for us; giving us what I call special graces in common places, lessons that He wants us learning to help us work out the grace that He is constantly working into us (Philippians 2:12-13).
One of these lessons came about when my wife and I were trying to comfort our daughter Anna who (as many of you who are familiar with my blog know) struggles with clinical depression and anxiety stemming from NVLD (Non Verbal Learning Disorder, which in the new DSM V is lumped in with Autism) and Bi-polar disorder. When she cycles into depression, it can be very daunting. One of the most frustrating aspects of it in her case is that logical thinking is just not possible at times. You can’t reason through it, you just have to ride it with her.
On one of these latest episodes she was in tears about her life. It went something like this: School sucks. Her life sucks. She sucks. Nothing ever goes right. Hope is crap. God never answers her prayers. Why would He make her suffer so much? God doesn’t love me or care for me. He isn’t even real. “I just want to die.” She cried, “I want to slit my wrists and cut my throat and just die. I can’t take it anymore. Just give up on me. It’s hopeless. I’m hopeless.”
What to do. What could we do? All we could do was hold her and pray. We prayed for Jesus to protect her, to heal her, to lead her through this Dark. We prayed for discernment for what to say and what to do for her.
While in that moment, she had given up on herself, we had not given up on her. We had not let go of her or given in to her despair. She did not know how to pray or what to pray for or even know how to pray in that moment, but we prayed for her.
When I came across these verses (Romans 8:26-27), God brought that event back to my mind. It became a very powerful picture of what exactly these two verses mean. We do not need to ask for the Spirit to pray for us. He is. He always is. And when we find ourselves in places where our faith is strained, or even broken, and we question the reality of our faith, Jesus and the Spirit are there in the midst of our groaning and crying, praying for us in groans too deep for words to express, but in ways that are completely aligned with the Father’s will for us. We might let go of His hand, but He does not let go of ours. That is the wonder of grace. We may think we fall too deep or run too far or get too lost to get back to God anytime soon. But then we realize that it is not complicated at all. Because He is still right there, holding on to us.