There are many reasons why we might groan in life. Some are minor things like the aches of our aging bodies. Others are more severe like chronic illnesses or challenging circumstances. This week we are thinking about how we can enjoy communion with God in the midst of our groaning.
This week’s material is based on the words of Paul in Romans 8. He explains that the Spirit of God enables us to share the experience of sonship that God the Son experiences. But we’re not spared the sufferings and frustrations of life. We will share the Son’s experience of glory, but we also share his experience of suffering. We’ll work through Romans 8 to find out what happens when we groan.
First Paul says that all creation groans with us. The world feels the curse of sin and groans in frustration. But creation has been subjected to frustration “in hope”. A day is coming when all creation will be freed from sin. Creation groans, but it groans in eager expectation.
We groan with longing
This is also our experience, we also groan in expectation. We have been adopted as sons and daughter of God, but our bodies are not yet redeemed. So we also feel the brokenness of the world, often in our own bodies, and we groan. We are broken people living in a broken world.
But here’s the difference the Spirit makes. For most people when they groan, it’s a backward look and remembrance that things are not as they used to be. But for Christians groaning it is also a forwards look. We know that things are not the way they will be. And this forward looking is the Spirit’s work. The Spirit makes us long for the new creation when we will be brought into our new, adopted home.
Paul explains that the Spirit does this in two ways. Firstly, he gives us an experience of new creation – he’s described as the “firstfruits”. He’s the taster or trial sample, giving us a longing for more.
We groan as children
Secondly, the Spirit makes us long for the new creation because he makes us think of it as home. When the Spirit testifies to us that God is our Father, our home changes. Home for us is no longer this passing world; now home is God’s coming world and our new family is in heaven.
The Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. But the experience of adoption will not be completed until we reach heaven. In the meantime, our experience of sonship, through the Spirit, makes us long for more. So, when we are going through pain, sin and loss we can have hope that know that there are better things to come.
Paul goes on to explain that by the Spirit, “we cry, ‘Abba, Father’”. Here cry is being translated as a desperate cry for help that would make a father come running. In the Bible, Jesus uses it when he is in the garden of Gethsemane before his arrest. Jesus was about to bear the brokenness of the world and cries out “Abba, Father”. When we feel the brokenness in our own lives, the Spirit prompts us to also cry out, “Abba, Father”. Every groan becomes an invitation to cry out to God our Father.
The Spirit Groans
People often assume experiencing the Spirit equates to spine-tingling moments of ecstasy. And that can be the case. But Paul makes it clear that, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness”. The Spirit will help us through hard times and through our times of doubt.
Paul then goes one step further, the Spirit himself “groans”. Creation groans because it’s subject to frustration. We groan because we feel the brokenness of the world in our lives, often in our own bodies. God is not frustrated, nor is he broken; but through the Spirit, he feels our pain with us. Every groan we utter is echoed by the Spirit.
And when the pain seems too much and our words run out, the Spirit continues on our behalf: “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans”.
God will answer the Spirit’s prayer because by this point we’re in a wonderfully circular process. The Spirit’s groans may be wordless, but the Father knows what the Spirit has in mind, and what the Spirit has in mind perfectly matches the will of the Father – that we become like his Son.
Put another way, the Spirit transforms and transfigures our groans so they become part of the means by which God achieves his purposes in our lives. And God’s great purpose is to make us like his glorious, beautiful Son
- Last week we ended with a challenge to take a risk for God. How have you got on?
- When do you find yourself groaning – audibly or inwardly?
- Think of a recent time when you groaned. How was your groan a reminder that this world is not what it will be? How will the reason for your groan be transformed in the new creation?
- Think about a difficult time in your life. Think about the ways in which the Holy Spirit helped you through.
- When did you last think about eternal life with Jesus in the new creation? What difference did it make to your attitude at the time?
Each day this week spend time thinking about eternal life in the new creation.