Is it right for Christians to groan?
At times – yes. Jesus did.
Read carefully our text, Romans 8:23. Now, here is the way the Weymouth translation puts it, “And more than that, we ourselves, though we possess the Spirit as a foretaste of bliss, yet we ourselves inwardly moan as we wait for full sonship in the redemption of our bodies.”
This moan, or groan, is a part of the life even of the true believer. We who have God’s down payment on glory to come, viz. the Holy Spirit, are often groaning.
Why is this?
I. BECAUSE OF NATURAL HARDSHIPS
Look at verse 22 of Romans 8. The entire creation is groaning. With a rending groan and crash, the rotted tree yields to the wind storm. With a shriek the animal dies. The falling star perishes in darkness. The lily yellows, droops and dies.
Nor, is the Christian immune to physical assaults against him. Many a time he languishes in sickness or material reverses. Calamities come to him, too. He toils for bread – maybe long hours. In a storm his roof might leak. Perhaps there is blowout at high speed….
Thankfully, he is able to look above and beyond and claim the familiar golden text of providence, verse 28. For God’s beloved child, who is in the Lord’s will, all these happenings work together for good. Still, there will be the groan. Then going to God we rest ourselves.
II. BECAUSE OF SPIRITUAL TESTINGS
Turn now to verses 16-18. The Christian’s very spiritual relationship with God will mean sufferings – and many a groan.
This is not disastrous. It is good. Only let not our groans become grumbles!
God tells us to bear one another’s burdens. This cannot be done without feeling some pressure. If you would serve much, you will surely groan some.
Another cause for the Christian’s distress of heart is the ravages of sin evident around him. Who could walk the streets of London during World War II and stand amid the rubble of great Cathedrals without a sorrowful sigh? Neither can an earnest Christian read today’s newspaper without deepening distress. The signs of sin are bound to pain the sensitive heart. Thus, we groan to God for His judgment.
Then, of course, there is continuing conflict for the Christian – actual opposition – which arises from those who do not believe. Though we weep, even agonize, the child of God cannot be cut off from his Father’s love, 35-39.
The Bible expresses appreciative understanding for our pain when we are chastened by God. “ No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful,” says Hebrews 12:11. Still, we ought to take heart, give thanks and go on – though the best of us will groan as we go.
One other primary source for inner conflict and pain is the Christian’s struggle against personal sins. He is called on to endure a virtual crucifixion, Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:5. This coming out into God’s way of things and abstaining from “sinful desires, which wage war against your soul,” I Peter 2:11 is often easier said than done.
Goodbyes are always painful. Certainly it is not surprising that we hurt a bit while trying to bid farewell to our former world of things in preparation for a world to come, Matthew 6:33 and I Peter 1:13-16.
On no! The true Christian life is no simple, sunny picnic. Joy bells are not always tinkling. Fine Christian boys and girls are groaning inwardly in individual struggle. Men and women may not say so, but they groan inwardly, too. How we ought to be sympathetically kind to one another! Romans 8:23 surely helps our perspective!
Look again at the text verse 23. See the word “first-fruits.” That is our advance payment from God. Already we have the Spirit indwelling. And, listen, the Holy Spirit’s presence is worth more than any false ease from struggle. Despite our groans, the Christian way is a way of true joy and peace.
Then, one Great Day we shall know relief, release, reward. The very word “first-fruit” implies that. This blessed presence of the Spirit is only the beginning!