Groaning (Advent Thoughts)

Birth

I didn’t really know much about labour and childbirth when I first went to visit my friend who’d just given birth. We were in the car park outside an NHS hospital, the sun was shining and the windows of the hospital were open. As I strolled towards the door, carrying flowers for the new Mum, I heard a cow mooing very loudly. I stopped, a little puzzled. There were no fields around, and the only other sound was the cars from the busy road.

 

The sound came again. A deep, powerful, almost comic sound, like when you squeeze an accordion and it runs out of air.

 

“I guess we’re outside the labour ward,” Jon said.
“No!” I replied, “No way is that a woman making that sound?”

 

We both stopped and listened again to adjudicate on the origin of the sound. Regrettably, there were no cows to be seen. From the context, it must have been a woman in labour.

 

But it was the most unhuman sound I had ever heard a human make. I couldn’t quite fathom the depth of pain that someone must be feeling to utter that noise. I walked a little more quickly to the hospital and tried to concentrate on the fluffy teddies and cute babies I was about to see.

 

*****

 

We don’t often think of Mary in labour when we consider the nativity, do we? I have never yet seen a child’s nativity play, even the ones with real donkeys and hay that has Mary saying, ‘Aaaargh! Make it stop!”

 

Groans preceded Christ’s coming. He was born in pain into a world of pain. And as we wait, groans precede His second coming.

 

*****

 

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. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 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. (Romans 8:22-26 NIV)

 

Creation Groans

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

 

This world is creaking. There is so much that is good and beautiful in this world that it is sometimes possible to tune it out. But I hear of women attacked in Afghanistan, children bombed in Gaza, and earthquakes and hurricanes that destroy all in their path, and I can no longer drown out that deep and hoarse sound. The whole creation – people, animals, earth, air – is groaning with the pain of imperfection. The world is not as it should be, nor as it will be. In the meantime, it groans.

 

We Groan

“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. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

 

Does being a Christian make you immune from the pain of the world? Does it act as an epidural somehow? The Bible says no – we groan all the more, waiting eagerly for it to be over when Christ returns. We groan inwardly. We yearn for heaven. We hope for what we do not yet have.

 

God Groans

 

“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.”

 

And where is God in this painful world? God is the doctor, yes, and the medicine – but God is also groaning along with us. When we look around and we don’t know the words to pray because it is all just too much – God the Spirit is groaning with us, interceding for us.

 
And this is the hope of Christmas: the reminder of Immanuel, God with us. Immanuel, God the Father, who heard the groans of His people in exile; Immanuel, God the Son, born into our pain; Immanuel, God the Spirit groaning with us as we wait.

 

Over to you:

  • When are the times that you find yourself groaning? To what extent does it help to know that God is groaning too?

 

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25 Responses to Groaning (Advent Thoughts)

  1. Charity Erickson 19th December, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    Just finding this post now — how prophetic, that you were writing about ‘groaning’ just a week ago.
    Though I half hoped you would say in the 5th paragraph, “I couldn’t quite fathom the depth of pain that someone must be feeling to “UDDER” that noise.” Heehee.

  2. Ahna 16th December, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

    Groaning from pain (whether from childbirth, or disease, or internal anguish) is, let’s face it, a pretty undignified state: the guttural sounds, the physical contortion, the — as you notice here — animal-like rawness. There is no way to dress up, for the public’s comfort, this level of intensity of pain, suffering, and longing. That the King of kings stoops to bear our suffering with us in this humble manner is entirely mind-boggling and magnificent. Thank you for this timely and hope-full reminder.

    • Tanya 17th December, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

      I like that you connected with the undignified-ness of it – that God was willing to be so undignified, even when we sometimes are not. Thanks so much for your comment.

  3. Ashley @ Draw Near 14th December, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    Dear Tanya, how I loved this post. The way you mixed the comedic with the tragic, the pain of this world and how our God groans with and for us. I especially connected with the experience of a woman in childbirth. To think of Mary and God together groaning for this Christ coming to the world…how poignant.

    And this: “The whole creation – people, animals, earth, air – is groaning with the pain of imperfection. The world is not as it should be, nor as it will be.” This really summarizes the ways I find myself groaning. For those in trauma, for lost innocence, for those walking in darkness. Come, O Come Emanuel!

    • Tanya 17th December, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

      I always find your comments so encouraging – thank you, Ashley! Come, O Come Emmanuel indeed – this is my groaning prayer at the moment too.

  4. suzannah | the smitten word 14th December, 2012 at 6:50 am #

    this is so good, tanya. i do love the image of the Spirit interceding with groans. a picture for us, perhaps, for those times when we don’t have words for another’s pain.

    • Tanya 17th December, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

      thank you so much for stopping by, Suzannah. It means a lot. This particular reflection has kept me going over the weekend while thinking about the awful Connecticut shooting.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Arrival (Advent Thoughts) | Thorns and Gold - 19th December, 2012

    […] between Christ’s first coming and His second coming: the waiting, the homelessness, the groaning. But it has all been building up to this: the arrival. […]

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