I would think, or at least hope that in the past few weeks American pulpits have been filled with preachers lamenting the responses to the Syrian refugee crisis, the rash of terrorist attacks across the globe, and the growing anti-Islam rhetoric and accompanying acts of hatred. Lament passages are scattered throughout the Scriptures, the most well-known being found in the Psalter.
If I had a pulpit I would choose a passage that has been running through my mind on a regular basis. That passage is Paul’s lament in Romans 8:18-27. Perhaps the least known part of Romans 8 compared to the often quoted 8:28 and the famous “more than conquerors” conclusion to the chapter which serves as a fitting conclusion to the lament that precedes it. Lament Psalms normally end in praise.
Romans 8:18-27 is the “groaning” section. The immediate context makes the bold claim that our present suffering does not compare to the glory to be revealed in us. However, in the present creation groans awaiting redemption. We also groan awaiting our redemption, the hope to which the faithful cling. Finally, the Spirit also groans on our behalf when life reduces us to nothing but agonizing, frustrating, hurt-filled, speechlessness.
These past few weeks I have struggled with anger, frustration, and feelings of extreme discouragement when I see what is happening in our world and in my “backyard.” It has reminded me that all the groaning in Romans 8 is really nothing more than a longing for the Kingdom of God in all its fullness, a longing for the world to be redeemed, to be made right and God’s true justice to rule.
However until that time creation, we, and the Spirit must groan.