I still feel the ache of that sad Sunday morning. As I walked into the building, the cool early spring air and overwhelming grief threatened to crush my chest for good. I had just found out that the baby in my womb was no longer living. For nine weeks I prayed for this life, grew connected to this life, and longed to meet this precious one. But that hope all came to a swift end when I heard the ultrasound tech say, “The baby never fully developed.” Now I was left to walk around in a sort of “already but not yet” state of pregnancy, waiting for nature to take its course.
As I sat in the service what I really wanted to do was curl up in a ball and cry myself to sleep. I could barely choke out the words to sing. It hurt too much. The music started, and I felt a deep pounding in my chest as my breath left my lungs and struggled to return. Everything in me wanted to scream out in agony. I just want my baby! As my body rid itself of every lasting evidence that I was ever pregnant, my soul ached. This is not how it was supposed to be, I screamed in my head. Life should come forth from me, not death. Babies should live, not die before they ever see the light of day or the tenderness in their mother’s eyes.
This must be my groaning for redemption, I thought. In the overwhelming grief of our loss, I felt acutely that all is not well. I felt desperation for what was lost to be restored. Like every decaying creature around me, I was groaning for new life (Rom. 8:22).
It doesn’t take long for us to look around and realize that in many ways everything in this world is screaming for redemption. It seems nearly every day there is some type of shooting that makes us wonder, Will my city be next? Just a few months ago, an EF-4 tornado ripped through two towns less than 45 minutes from where I live. Many lost their lives, and many more lost every earthly possession they had. I know of a guy from high school whose daughter is finally in remission from cancer. She’s barely 1 year old. By all accounts, this earth and its inhabitants are living on borrowed time and longing for a better life.
Groaning for Redemption
It’s easy to see that creation specifically is groaning for redemption. I live in the South, where spring is hot and summer even hotter. I see the grass die mid-July and not return until the following spring. The creation’s longing for redemption is something we can wrap our minds around. We watch agriculture live and die with each passing season. But everything else is decaying, too. I know of a woman who is facing her second complicated pregnancy that will certainly end in death for her unborn baby. This is her groaning. A cancer diagnosis for a parent is a bitter groaning for life to come out of death.
As we watch loved ones reject Christ and make a wreck of their lives, we grieve and groan for God to make things right. Every pain-filled cry from our created bodies screams that this is not how it was supposed to be. Every bitter burial of a loved one is a groan for the dirt in the ground that swallows us up to push forth new life in the new creation. Every wrinkle, loose skin, gray hair, and aching back reminds us that this old body needs complete restoration. We are all longing for Christ’s final consummation of all things with every feeble breath we take.
Promise of Resurrection
But our groaning is not the final word. The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead will one day raise our ailing parents, gone-too-soon children, and cancer-ridden spouses, friends, and family members (Rom. 8:11). Through our suffering we are made like him and assured that we are his children. The Spirit will give life to our mortal bodies on that last day (Rom. 8:16-17).
On that particular Sunday, when my soul was wasting away with grief, I couldn’t even think, let alone hope in the promise of the resurrection. I know the promises, but my heart struggled to believe them. On that Sunday morning, when I was on the verge of a tear-filled breakdown, God met me even without me having the words to ask for his help (Rom. 8:26-27). He knew my need, and he came to my defense. In my groaning, he groaned, too.
Living in a world that is groaning for redemption is hardly easy. It requires more than we have to give at times. The very Spirit who brought Christ from the cold, dark grave will do the same for us. And when we don’t have eyes of faith to see as clearly as we ought, he intercedes on our behalf. So while we live in this broken world we have hope. Not that it will be easy. Not that we will always feel able to endure. But that this Christ, who will make all things right one day, is sustaining us and making us like him in every gut-wrenching sorrow.