“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 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. For in this hope we were saved” (Rom. 8:22-24).
No Scripture better encapsulates for me the ailments sin brings than the picture painted by Romans 8. Groaning is both a physical and emotional response to pain, suffering and imperfection. It is a necessary component to lament and to sorrow. And, I would argue, it is a reaction each of us knows too well as 2018 comes to a close.
Together we groan inwardly at the political climate we find ourselves in - one of discord and distrust for those on the other side of the aisle. We groan inwardly at injustices large and small as the 24-hr news cycle keeps constant tabs on heartache happening around the globe. We cry out as we experience disease and sickness and watch our loved one’s do the same. We mumble and shout from conflict with our neighbors, family members and even from conflict with the soil, air and earth around us. Together, all of creation knows this groan: the guttural announcement of our longing for something more, and our hope that another reality exists, a hope for literal rebirth.
Together, all of creation knows this groan: the guttural announcement of our longing for something more, and our hope that another reality exists.
How is this rebirth made possible? Is it made possible through healthier choices, a stronger environmental conscience, or social justice? Are we capable of rebirthing, or remaking ourselves? Lord knows hope for affirmative answers to these types of questions are on our minds as we enter a new year. Yet we who groan know recreation of the imperfect is only partially possible through our frail and feeble selves.
We may patch a wound in one place, but shouts of pain still exist somewhere else (perhaps they even increase). Use less plastic, get out and vote, make sure your children don’t turn out failures, honor your body, take care of the orphan and widow, reaffirm a social cause on social media: there is so much we must do to find a solution to the world’s suffering and so little time. If everyone did their part, we’re told, the world would be better, and this is no doubt true. Nihilism is certainly not the answer for the here and now. But how close can our efforts actually get us to the core cause of suffering? Can we ever solve the problem of dying completely
Without an answer to creation’s ultimate demise, true nihilism will certainly rear its head. We can find temporary hope only in short term, quick fixes. If this is our fate, groaning will only follow more groaning. Death can only lead to more death.
Yet Paul tells us our cries for something else are not eternal. Instead, they are like those of childbirth, and what follows them is like the ecstatic joy of a new mother as life is brought into this world. It’s in this very groaning that Christ, the Savior, came to dwell among us. In doing so, He ushered in the new creation that is ours through His word of promise. Our hope in Him engenders our hope for the redemption of our bodies and for all of creation.
Our hope in Him engenders our hope for the redemption of our bodies and for all of creation
A child, born in anguish like those before and after Him, has promised that on account of His righteousness, no one will take our joy from us (John 16:22). He promises "the dead shall live, their bodies shall rise” (Is. 26:19). This resurrection of the body is not a resurrection to a formless void, but a resurrection from earth to a new earth, where feasting and drinking never cease (Is. 25:6), where all dwell in the new Jerusalem and where peace is established among all creatures, big and small.
As we continue to await the second return of this child king, we cling to His spoken promises of forgiveness, salvation, and resurrection, and in doing so, we hope in the adoption and redemption that is already ours.