The Groanings of Redemption
All of our children were born by C-section. The first two were born before Dr.’s allowed fathers to be present for the birth. While I was allowed in the room for our third son, I got sick and had to be ushered out before he arrived.
I’m really not that big of a wimp. It was an emergency situation at 4:00 in the morning on a very cold day in February. When I got to the hospital they immediately rushed me into the operating room – I wasn’t even allowed to remove my coat. I put on the gown, gloves, hair net, mask and shoe covers and took my position at the head of the bed under the very bright (and warm) lights. After just a few moments a nurse looked at me and said, with urgency: “he’s turning green” (I’m not sure how she could tell) and they led me to a room where I was told to wait. For the next 30 minutes I sipped orange juice, moaning and praying that it would stay where it went.
It’s usually the mother that endures the suffering during childbirth. Please understand; I’m not minimizing my wife’s contribution, but when our third son was born I can honestly say that I was the one who did all of the groaning.
To “groan,” according to Webster is: “to make a deep sound because of pain or some strong emotion (such as grief or disappointment).” Dictionary.com notes that the sound is often “inarticulate.” It usually signifies a sense of extreme hopelessness and is often, especially for believers, accompanied by a prayer for God’s deliverance.
Groaning, however, doesn’t always have to mean the situation is hopeless. John 11:33 says that Jesus “groaned in his spirit, and was troubled” when He saw Mary weeping over the death of her brother, Lazarus. But He was groaning over Mary’s sadness, not because the situation was in any way hopeless. He would soon raise Lazarus from the dead, turning her sadness into exuberant joy.
Neither does the process of birth signify hopelessness, even though the mother groans and travails in pain until the deliverance is finally accomplished. The arrival of a newborn baby is always a happy occasion.
In Romans eight, Paul uses those exact terms – travail, pain and deliverance – when describing our anticipation of redemption, and we are certainly not without hope.
God’s Creation Groans in Pain – (V.22). When Adam and Eve sinned, all creation fell under the curse. The earth and all of its inhabitants endure the consequences of sin, groaning under the weight and distress of its evils. We can only begin to imagine the glory of God’s creation without the blight of sin hindering our sight.
God’s Children Groan in Anticipation – (V. 23). Believers join in the watchful vigil, only our expectations are much more personal. Though we are redeemed, we are trapped in sinful, earthen vessels (2 Co. 4:7). Paul declared his distress in agonizing clarity when he cried in Romans 7:24: “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” He was groaning, “waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption” of his body.
God’s Spirit Groans in Intercession – (V.26-27). We are not alone in our travail. God’s Spirit “helpeth our infirmities.” He is “making intercession” on our behalf with inarticulate groanings. While we patiently endure our trials on this earth, eagerly anticipating our final redemption, we groan with limited understanding because “now we see through a glass darkly” (1 Co. 13:12). Consequently, we often pray selfishly, seeking only those things that will decrease our suffering during our human pilgrimage. The Spirit, however, has no such hindrance, and His prayers on our behalf are always offered specifically for our good, and always “according to the will of God.”
It is essential for us as strangers and pilgrims on this earth (He. 11:13 & 1 Pe. 2:11) to remember that our final redemption will soon be accomplished. Until then, we will, along with all creation, groan and travail in anticipation of that wonderful event. When our deliverance finally arrives our pain will be over, our travail will vanish and our groanings will be replaced with unrestrained joy.
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Ps. 30:5).