22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but 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. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 26In 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.
When we think of suffering, there are few words that can give us a better description than the word that St. Paul uses in verse 22: “groaning”. Groaning is a very strong word. It means an expression of pain that goes beyond mere physical pain. In the passage above, Paul associates groaning with child birth. But he uses a word that is also associated with soldiers on battlefields. Soldiers who are dying and literally see their lives ebbing out and they are crying out because they know, even though they have life left in them, they will be dead in a matter of moments. That is what the word ‘groaning’ means. It is a death pain, a death cry.
Now to our surprise St. Paul also speaks about Creation groaning and its groaning because it’s being crushed under a bondage of decay and frustration. You see the reality of our existence (Because of our total depravity) is that we are surrounded in suffering. Everything, not just our suffering but everything in this world, steadily, irreversibly and unavoidably suffers because it is all ebbing out as well. Think about our relationships. The tightest circle of friends over time and circumstance pulls people apart. Think about make-up and moisturizers and plastic surgery and exercise and diet. Why do we do all of these things? We are trying to slow the process down. Think about the human heart. Every heart has only a certain number of beats before it will also eventually give out. This is the reality of the suffering we experience in this present world. It’s all around us. But thankfully we are not left without hope.
In Romans 8:26 we are also told that God the Holy Spirit groans as well: 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.
That’s interesting. How can the Spirit of God, who is immortal and eternal and omnipotent and infinite possibly groan? How can an Omnipotent God know what it’s like to be a woman who is screaming out that she may be about to give her life to bring a new life into the world? How can an all-powerful God know the agony and groaning of a warrior on the field of battle who is mortally wounded and seeing his life literally pour out before his eyes? The answer is found in the Cross of Christ.
On the Cross, Jesus was plunged into an ocean of vulnerability. He came into this groaning world and he was subject to rejection and to weakness and to hunger and to alienation and torture and ultimately death. When Jesus cries out, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me, the Bible says this was God absorbing in Himself our penalty. He was abandoned by God the Father in his groaning so that we will never be abandoned in ours. In Christ, when we groan, God hears us in the same way that a parent hears it when a baby cries out in pain.
Do you believe that? Can you wrap your mind around that truth? If you do and to the degree that you do, you’ll be transformed in your heart and mind and you will see that your present sufferings are nothing compared to the weight of glory that is guaranteed in Jesus Christ.