The Land of Groaning

I often use The Valley of Vision to help me pray in the mornings. One of the prayers that I have been praying this week is titled “Joy.” It is such a good compliment to the wonderful sermon I sat under this week, by guest preacher Paul Wolfe. The sermon text was Romans 8:18-25, you know, the groaning section. In it, we are encouraged by the glory to come. But meditation on the renewal of the world and the resurrection of the body lead both the creation and us to groan. Paul Wolfe explained to us that “The gospel makes us recognize the size of the gulf between the way things are and the way they are supposed to be.” He defines groaning as “the sound at the intersection between pain and hope.” We learn from these passages that creation “eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God” (8:19). Wow. That is so powerful to think about. Creation “will be delivered from the bondage into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (8:21). It groans for that day. And Rev. Wolfe reminded us that “we won’t be fully unveiled as the children of God until we are given a home worthy.” Our hope is for a new heaven and a new earth. But that’s not all: “You’re experience as a child of God won’t be complete until you’re dressed like one…Our hope doesn’t stop at dying, body in the ground, and our soul with Jesus.” No! We await the resurrection! But most of all, I also believe this groaning by creation and ourselves for this future hope is because God himself will dwell there. Oh what joy that we hope for!
And I’ve been praying about that joy, with this Valley of Vision prayer that ends:
There is no joy like the joy of heaven,
for in that state are no sad divisions,
unchristian quarrels,
contentions, evil designs,
weariness, hunger, cold,
sadness, sin, suffering,
persecutions, toils of duty.
O healthful place where none are sick!
O happy land where all are kings!
O holy assembly where all are priests!
How free a state where none are servants except to thee!
Bring me speedily to the land of joy.
And yet, as that prayer lifts my soul, it also makes it groan. My sermon told me why. Groaning is the effect of the knowledge of this hope. “The gospel sensitizes us to pain.” We do not see this land of joy; we hear it announced to us in the gospel. We long for it with great expectation. “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it in perseverance” (Rom. 8:24-25). Rev. Wolfe encouraged us not to be ashamed to groan because that is what the gospel does to us now. And Jesus led the way for us in the land of groaning: “Jesus groaned but he never grumbled. Jesus wept but he never whined. Jesus sweat great drops of blood, but never shook his fist at heaven.” Not only that, Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father interceding on our behalf. He hears our groans and he brings them to the Father. “Likewise, the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom. 8:26-27). Our hope is real. And so as we are sanctified, we mourn even more over sin and corruption in this land, in these bodies. But our pastor boldly announced, “The day is coming when the groaning will be nothing but singing.” So I will encourage you: “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)   *Paul Wolfe has written two great books: I was also privileged to interview him on The Mortification of Spin.