by Joe Leavell
The hours are dragging on, the work is hard, and you know that when you get home, the weekend will have begun. You will get to rest, enjoy your family, eat a nice dinner together, and relax in the comfort of your own home and enjoy not thinking about work for the rest of the weekend. But that clock won’t budge and the hours drag on; customers and employees alike are in a bad mood, and it looks like you will never get home. So, you groan inwardly and long for home. When you are finally released from the day that would never end, you jump in your car and race down the freeway only to find traffic is a complete parking lot. After a seeming eternity of bumper to bumper traffic, you suddenly get that call from your spouse saying that you are out of milk and need some eggs. So, you stop by the store, grab the items in record time and rush to the checkout. Of course the lines are long and you are forced to sit, wait, and groan for home. There is only one person in the line next to you who seems to be almost done, so, you make the quick switch to the shorter line. You quickly realize that the person is an expert coupon shopper, and is also price matching practically every item in their cart. So, while you watch that line that you abandoned quickly move and the people behind you, who just got there moments ago, get called to a newly opened line, you are stuck and inwardly continue to groan. Will you ever really get home?
The Pain is Real
People are groaning. At BCA, we hear their stories on a regular basis. These are deeply hurting people who have endured more than their fair share of sorrow and struggles through their lives. Some have decades of heartache that they have not been able to process. Others are still very young, but have begun to see the hurts of this world for the first time, and are taken aback by the evil and the heartache that they see and have experienced. Inside, many of them well up deep pools of sorrow as they reflect on the madness they have had to endure in their time here on earth.
Looking for a Home
Whatever the circumstances, all people know in their hearts that this world is not as it should be. That angst inside of us, when we see or experience real suffering and evil, says, “This is wrong!”and we usually react by doing whatever we can to change our circumstances and make the pain go away. In a culture that looks away and ignores pain and suffering, some react as if there is something wrong with them for feeling pain and sorrow at difficulties in the first place.
Rather than looking to God who gives hope, many look endlessly elsewhere to ease their groaning. They look to their spouse, children, friends, sports, politics, sex, drugs, fame, careers, education, and anything else they can grasp onto in order to find freedom from their sense of painful groaning. These solutions always fall short, because they only mask the pain of being cut off from an eternal home with God. In a very heartbreaking way, unbelievers are groaning for home and yet they remain homeless.
This is no small matter. For some, this sense of pain from their experiences and hurts become so powerful that when their solutions to mask or dull the pain fail, they are left with no hope for freedom from their groaning. They often take their own life in suicide.
Longing for Home
Scripture helps us make sense of this pain that we feel and gives us complete permission to feel that pain rather than pretend it doesn’t exist. Ultimately, it points us to Christ, our eternal hope. Scripture describes this angst within us an unrealized longing to leave this world of pain and sorrow, and to enter into God’s rest and peace in the eternal presence of Jesus. Romans 8:18-26 describes a world where the entire created world knows that it has been cursed because of mankind’s sin, and is groaning for the day when Jesus returns as King releasing creation from the curse. Believers also inwardly groan, longing for the promises of God for our adoption as sons to be realized. We rightly have understood that our groaning is for the same Jesus who came to redeem us from our sins to return in power and majesty, to make every wrong right, and to make the crooked straight. He will make all things new, will wipe every tear, and will give us our eternal inheritance. It is a deep angst to be free from the presence of sin, from the wearing out of our bodies in death, from all suffering and wrongdoing, and to finally be in the presence of our Savior where we will worship Him in His presence for eternity. We long and groan for that day! In this way, that groaning is a very good thing because it is a reflection of Jesus’ prayer to the Father, “Your Kingdom Come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Christ’s Kingdom is coming to earth, but is not yet physically realized. The days of waiting are long. The pains of life are real. And so we groan, not in sorrow without any hope, but in understanding and eager anticipation of home. Frankly, because the truth of Christ brings freedom, believers are free to cease from striving after false sources of hope to dull the pain and find fulfillment. As we mature in Christ, and our anticipation for His presence grows, our groaning actually is free to deepen, to be more earnest with anticipation, and not less. We are patiently longing for the day when we will shed these worn out bodies and that our mortality will be swallowed up in life that comes from Christ (2 Corinthians 5:4). Groaning for our Savior, like a bride longs for her groom on her wedding day, is not a bad thing or sinful. It is longing for home.
To be sure, there is a difference between groaning for God and grumbling against God. We groan, but do so with patient trust in God’s perfect timing and goodness. We do not demand that God answer to us. We will look into the difference between groaning and complaining in our next blog post.