The Groaning Effect

cross-man-looking-up-at For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. – Romans 8:22

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. – Romans 8:23

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. – Romans 8:26-27

There are concepts of worship, preaching and theology I have never heard taught or preached but I read very clearly in scripture. One of those is “Groaning”. Romans 8 is full of theology and what the Bible calls the germ of salvation. In fact, Chapter 8 is my salvation chapter. The pastor who led me to Christ was preaching from this passage when I was saved. I guess that makes it easy to understand why something as marginal as groaning would be overlooked. However, the verses above imply a language of groaning that involves the entirety of God’s creation, redeemed mankind, and the very Spirit of God. This language is one that creation, humans and God know all too well and use regularly. To be such an integral part of who we are, one would think there would be more discussion on the subject. Certainly, there should be more teaching on who the focus of our groanings should be.

Verse 22, makes a strong case for creation (Earth, Sun, Moon and Stars) as being in some form and phase of procreation since creation and through the present times. We are not given much more descriptive information on what the exact nature of the “groaning together” means but we are told that the “whole of creation” performs this gesture and the metaphor used to describe it is “the pains of childbirth”. The temptation is to part from doctrine and speculate but I prefer to let the Holy Spirit give the interpretation and application to the reader. Even though the verse is written in the past tense, by ending with the words, “until now” suggests continuation both now and in the future.

Verse 23, by way of continuation, adopts human beings into the groaning process. The phrase “groan inwardly” due to its location in the passage implies the opposite for creation. In other words, creation groans outwardly but often unnoticed and human beings groan inwardly. Therefore, human groaning is an internal language we use to communicate with the Holy Spirit. At this point, some maybe thinking of the gift of the Spirit known as speaking in tongues. Although the least of the gifts according to Paul, the use of groaning does not apply to speaking in tongues. Both can be considered a language but the directions are different and their so are their purposes. We also learn, that our inward groaning is somehow connected to our status as adopted sons. This is interesting because adoption only applies to those who are not part of the original family. In our case, as gentiles. Our groanings then become longings for belonging as part of the redeemed family of God. Herein is an important piece of theology regarding salvation, it is both instant when prayed for and ongoing until the day of redemption. We must not stop groaning because we have prayed to receive Christ, we must continue to groan because our salvation is ongoing! I am being perfected, I am not yet perfect or sinless.

crying_out Verses 26-27, our groanings are connected by the Holy Spirit to our human weakness, prayer and intercession. Remarkably, the groanings of the Spirit are “too deep for words” but thankfully God is the great interpreter and translator. He not only created to bring forth life as a testimony to Himself but His creation was made to groan in the process, and not only creation but mankind, and not only mankind but the very Spirit of God groans. Our collective groanings prove God is real and the object of our groans is the only redeemer. I have come to believe that our collective groanings are the deepest form of worship we can offer. The reason being is there is a humility that goes with groaning and a yielding to the one true God, the Father of all creation.

Here we see the intimacy involved in worshipping God. Groaning takes worship to all new levels of interaction with God, in my opinion. It is a worthy practice, one that we would do well to designate time to practice. In fact, if you look across the spectrum of religions in the world, no other belief system encourages such practices. The closest the world comes is meditation. Let me be clear, the verses above are not advocating for meditation, they are pointing out the reality of groaning, the purpose and the extent to which it is to be practiced and by whom.

I wonder what would happen if people gathered together for a groaning service? Not a murmuring service, or grumbling service, or moaning service, or sighing service but a groaning service. Would it be a moment of silence on steroids? Would it result in humble servants of God prostrating themselves before the creator of the world? Or would it be business as usual?

crying-out1 Have you noticed yourself groaning or experimenting with what it might be like to groan as you read this?

To summarize, all of creation is groaning in anticipation of final redemption. As human beings that are both part of creation and within creation, we have a will that can be used to distract us from our own groanings and label them something else or dismiss them altogether; or, we can choose to intentionally humble ourselves and deeply speak the language God gave creation, mankind, and the Holy Spirit to communicate our most intimate desire and longing which is to live eternally with the creator. Simply put, we can choose to grumble or groan. Finally, I do not think we can truly experience worshipping our God until we focus on the art, the science, the discipline of groaning. The passages imply we all groan no matter what, but what is your intent and the object of your groaning? If we are His adopted sons and daughters, we are to focus our groanings on the one that redeemed us in the first place!

How deep are you willing to go with God?

Mijikai Mason
Disclaimer: The thoughts and views published on the Veterans to Christ blog are those of Mijikai Mason and in no way are meant to represent the United States Army or the Armed Forces.

Bio: Mijikai Mason is an Ordained Southern Baptist minister and Chaplain in the United States Army. He has been in the Army for 26 years both as an enlisted Soldier and now as an Officer. He has been stationed at various bases in the United States and in United States Army Garrison Schweinfurt, Germany. He holds an undergraduate degree in Religion from the University of Mobile, a Master of Divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in Theology and Evangelism and a Master of Arts degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Webster University. Chaplain (MAJ) Mijikai Mason was selected by the Army in 2013, to become a Family Life Chaplain and began his service in this field starting 15 May 2015. He is the Deputy ESC Chaplain and Family Life Chaplain for the 593 Expeditionary Support Command at Joint Base Lewis McCord. He has deployed four times: Desert Storm (1991), Iraq twice (2005-2006; 2007-2008), and Afghanistan (2012-2013). He has a total of 42 months deployed in combat and logistics operations. Mijikai and his wife, Ashley, have been married for 17 years this May and live near Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington with their four daughters.