A Holy Groaning / A Taste of Glory
22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. 23 Not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits—we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. — Romans 8:22-23 (CSB)
As a man, I dare not pretend I know anything about the pains of childbirth. Even though I have sat in the room for the birth of my three children, that does not qualify me in any way to understand labor pain. Suffice it to say, I have had a glimpse of the agony, but I have also felt the relief of completing the process and the joy of seeing my wife hold a newborn in her arms.
A Holy Groaning
Our passage today speaks of two types of groaning. In the first, Paul uses the metaphor of childbirth to speak of all creation groaning together awaiting a birth—or perhaps it’s better to say a rebirth. The second groaning is experienced by us, the people of God, “eagerly awaiting our adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” Earlier in this chapter, Paul said we are already God’s children, already adopted into His family (see Romans 8:14-17). But here he says we eagerly await our ultimate adoption as His children. How do we make sense of this?
Jesus came to establish His Kingdom, but we are currently living in a time often described as the “already, but not yet.” We might say we are already God’s children, but we are awaiting our final adoption. We have been saved from our sins. We have been reconciled to God. We have received God’s Spirit who indwells us and empowers us.
But…we still live in a fallen world where we see sin and brokenness all around us and even within us. Sin has affected all of creation, so that we see death and decay in nature. Therefore, all creation groans waiting for its rebirth, to be transformed into a new creation. We too, as God’s children, groan inwardly as we await our ultimate adoption and our final redemption. We can even say this groaning is holy, because it looks to God for its salvation.
A Taste of Glory
Saint Augustine famously said: “Thou has made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” Indeed, we are people of restless hearts, but when we come home to Christ, we experience a taste of glory. This passage in Romans says we are given the Holy Spirit as a type of firstfruits. In today’s world, it might be easier to think of this as a down payment. The Holy Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing what is to come.
But experiencing a taste of beauty and salvation can make the holy ache more pronounced. This is not how the world is supposed to be. We long for another world. C. S. Lewis once said, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
We have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, but our soul hungers for the final banquet for which we still must wait. Until then, we inwardly groan with a holy groaning.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- Can you relate to the idea of a holy groaning or a holy ache? How do you experience this in your life?
- The rest of this passage in Romans talks about hope. Why is hope so necessary for the Christian as we await our final redemption when Christ returns?
- What are ways we might stifle this holy groaning? Do we medicate our pain by turning to certain sins or addictions? Do we try to make heaven here on earth by attempting to satisfy our longings with the things of this world?
- How might we live with a holy groaning and still experience great joy and hope?