From the voices of children who are scared and don’t understand what is happening around them, the voices of people who never imagined it would happen to them, their family, their country to the faces of those who lost someone they love and the face of a soldier, an officer, or the first responder who can never unsee what they have seen in the field, on duty, and around the corner. From the feeling in the air when conflict and tension consumes the space between us and them to the feeling in your gut when you watch the news, hear the opposing sides, see the images, and can’t believe humans could do such things. From the taste of pain and anger as you spit it out or as it rolls off the tongue the person next to you to the smell of regret and revenge.
That sound. That raw feeling. That bitter taste. All of it is the groaning of all creation - all humanity.
The groaning of children robbed of innocence and trying to figure out why.
The groaning of the haves and the have nots and the gap only gets bigger.
The groaning of a broken heart and a broken mind.
The groaning of deep-seeded anger and resentment.
The groaning of buried pain, unspoken truth, and unresolved differences.
You do not have to look very far or listen too intently to see and hear the groaning of our world. Our creation. Our society. Our nation. People here and around the world. Even ourselves.
We groan because we are hurting.
We groan because we are upset.
We groan because we are overwhelmed.
We groan because we want answers.
We groan because we want truth.
We groan because we want direction.
We groan because we are disappointed.
We groan because we know we can do better yet we feel helpless and out of control.
We groan because…we are tired of groaning and don’t know what else to do.
Are we to exist in the groaning OR are we to live in hope? The Apostle Paul, in Romans chapter 8, offers the answer. Read Romans 8:18-25.
In this text, which has been called the best chapter in the bible, Paul reminds the believers that what matters most is remembering who we are and whose we are. That doesn’t mean we live a life of ease. Paul never said life as a follower of Jesus was easy. Jesus never said, follow me for an all expense paid trip to luxury . It was more like they said, life is hard, people can be hard hearted and cruel, it won’t be easy, bad things happen with no explanation other than there are mean, hurtful, greedy controlling people out there. There are times it won’t make sense and times when it won’t be fair, you might get hurt, lose someone or something you love or cherish, things won’t go like you thought, and there will be days you want to quit. BUT, all the heartache, all the grief, and all the pain you might suffer while following me, are not worth comparing to or cannot be compared to the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control that can be revealed through your commitment to me; all the trouble, confusion, and mystery is not worth the comparison in fact cannot be compared to the beauty, goodness, and truth of Christ that can be revealed through your life with me…groans, growth, and glory. Not our glory but God’s lived out in our lives.
We groan - we endure, we cry out, we throw our hands up and ask “why.” But have you ever noticed we do all that on the exhale of living. What if on the inhale, we breathe in God’s mercy, compassion, and strength giving us courage and hope to take the next step. Paul’s words do not say that only creation groans or that only we ourselves groan, but that the Holy Spirit groans with us (vs. 26ff). The very breath of our Creator; the Divine Holy. The very essence of God groans with us - in our pain, heartache, and grief both big and small; in the unknown, when we are afraid, hurting, lost and feel helpless or defeated. When violence breaks out on the other side of the world and in our own home. When threats of war become reality and we feel helpless. When our minority brothers and sisters are targeted, shut out, or silenced. When our LGBTQ brothers and sisters are threatened, held at arm's length, or treated unjustly. When a pandemic causes division and a mask becomes a political symbol. When friends get hurt, family members die, bills add up, and answers are hard to find. The Spirit of God groans with us with sighs too deep for words because God knows. God knows and is in it with us. Groans, growth and glory. Not our glory but God’s lived out in our lives.
Knowing that God’s Spirit groans with us, I find hope. I choose hope. Hope that good people are still doing good things for humanity. Hope that our children still have a future. Hope that unity is possible. Hope that love can win. Hope that kindness and compassion can reach farther than violence and hatred. Hope that a difference can be made even if it is one person, one act, one moment, one prayer at a time. Hope that we can show others and ourselves the love of Christ. Groans - growth and glory. Not our glory, but God’s lived out in our lives.
When we hear the groaning of all creation and we find ourselves asking, “What is God up to? Or Where is God in our midst?” May we all remember, God is in the ordinary. God is in the mundane of it all. God is in the daily grind and routine of life. God is in our acts of kindness, justice, and compassion. God is in the laughter of a friend and in the middle of the night when the baby stops crying. God is in the long walk, the melody of your favorite song, and the words of encouragement or affirmation received in a letter, text or email. God is in the sunrise and sunset. God is in the passing smile, gentle eyes, and friendly wave you offer or receive on any given day. God is in the ordinary miracles taking place in, through and all around us. We are a part of the ordinary miracle God is using to restore hope to the world. Groans - growth - glory. Not our glory, but God’s lived out in our lives. Thanks be to God and may it be so.
Rev. Dr. Jenothy Irvine