In the longing and the groaning
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
26 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. 27 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.
There have only been a couple of times in my life so far when I have experienced physical pain that makes you just groan as you wait for the pain to eventually pass. It is no fun, is it?!
Physical groaning pain is one thing. But inward groaning is another. I inwardly groan. It is the tragedy, the pain, the damage, the injustice of the world that makes me groan. Words are not enough sometimes. From ecological damage on an industrial scale to such hatred and blind lust for power by the powerful, to the abject unnecessary poverty of the powerless to children without boundaries and without love to suffering partners and friends in the grip of grief and loss – sometimes so unexpected and tragic, the groaning goes on inside.
And then there is the groaning around my own weakness, inability, struggle to be OK, struggle to live in the grace I know I have in Jesus, but so often fail to actually trust.
For my prejudices, lack of awareness of others, fickle following of Jesus, needy expectations of what God ought to be doing and what people ought to be giving me and etc, etc, etc, the groaning goes on.
I often think I am the only one groaning. Selfishness does that. It isolates you and drives you to cut yourself off from others in the misguided belief that you are all alone; that no-one is suffering like you; that no one has eve suffered like you; like no one understands your struggle…..
In that self-orientated place, it is so easy to justify your harsh words, attachment to destructive things, over-competitiveness, lack of humility and the like. The groaning grows!
What helps me? What helps you break out of these places of deep groaning for something better, something joy-filled, something hope-filled?
Friend, sense the Spirit entering your groaning today. As he did this first Pentecostal Day, he has come to your city and gathered you into his community and called you to Jesus, the joy of all our longing and struggle.
You are not alone in all your groaning.
That is what speaks to me this Pentecost Day. The Holy Spirit is not some airy-fairy being wanting to help you fly off to escape the groaning to some other heavenly space of bliss. The Holy Spirit is renewing you in this space, and this space itself; this space called ‘creation’: all of creation (v22)
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
The Holy Spirit comes to this ground and offers everything good for right in the middle of all the bad, and transforms the bad as well. He does his work in the world and in us right here.
I hear here that the Spirit of God is deeply aware in the groaning of human beings on their planet earth; our God-given home. He is aware of creation because he operates in this creation.
And of course, he operates in us – God’s resurrected and renewed but longing, struggling people:
23 ….. we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.
Even in this groaning world, we are the pick of the bunch, the perfectly formed fruit that is of highest value, who have a date with God’s destiny that will be pure and holy and immeasurably valuable!
But not fully yet. Paul, a person who knows the groaning, says that we don’t really know what to ask God for at times. Things are sometimes so complex, so overwhelming, so outside of our understanding and experience. We can’t even pray…… not with words, anyway.
When that sudden loss comes, that unknown diagnosis is spoken, that unknown future that scares us is pondered, that risky move is to be decided, that empty feeling that we don’t know which way is up or down in this thing, we are so confused or tired or hurt or shaken that we don’t know what God’s desire is, his meaning in this is, his future beyond this can be.
But hear now best news of Pentecost Day for the 3000 in the city and the fledgling little church in a vast unbelieving world, and us now ‘”…the Spirit also groans’
“… the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans”.
Our groaning and longing in the struggle for joy is shared, heard, known, and by someone who can really help!
The pain is passing. The sun is riding after the long dark night, the curtain is drawn back and light is flooding in. I am not alone. It is not all meaningless.
This God of ours does not live on some other planet or occupy some mere unseen spiritual plain that we cannot know, he occupies this plain, this valley, the shadow of death, this ground upon which we sometimes bleed.
God’s goal for our lives is not to take us to some other spirit place. His goal is to come to us who he has already given much
In your baptism and in your daily walk of faith thus far, we are all people;
“who have the firstfruits of the Spirit”.
The joy, peace, patience, kindness, understanding and love of this resurrected Jesus is already ours now – on this ground, in this place.
The Spirit knows the trees, the steams, the animals, the human body, our voice of sorrow, our longing for some joy and peace, our need to know the love and kindness of the Father and the pure grace of the Son.
That is what he brings to you today in your valley of tears, your longing for something new, your struggle to believe, to live, to pray to know, to love. He brings the deep love of the Father, the unflinching underserved forgiveness and healing of the Son and his help; his divine help; his praying for you before the Father in the name of the Son.
I hear three things for the struggle:
- You are known.
- Your places of living are known.
- You are prayed for by God who knows.
This means that you are never unloved. You are never alone. You are never the only one groaning.
Friend, hear the Spirit speaking life into you today. This Christian life is not fake. It is real. God knows the suffering and the struggle because he is in it not disconnected from you on some other far off heavenly world of pure bliss. His Spirit’s calling, gathering and enlightening work in the Word never leaves you abandoned.
The Son did that for you. He was abandoned for you, so you never have to be. He groaned in pain for you and rose in joy for you.
Between this day of struggle and the final day of complete “redemption” of this body and yours, we have all the hope we need – hope enough to care for this planet, care for each other, share the groaning with each other and this groaning community.
So much hope is ours and so much opportunity to be Jesus’ hope
17 ‘“In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
21 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2:17, 21)
Call on his name today, friend. Speak him. Dream him. In the struggle and the groaning he is here.