Sunday, March 25, 2007

Groaning Pains

When I was about fifteen years old, I went with my grandparents on one of our summer road trips in the trailer to Mount St. Helens. It had been six years since it had erupted, but the land had been left as is. No clean up, per se, except for fixing roads and that sort of thing. Trees lay askew, blown down by the power of the volcanic blast. Ash remained like drifts of snow after a blizzard. Creation definitely groaned in this cataclysmic event. It was still groaning six years later as nature tried to right itself. The disaster left an imprint on me that is still felt twenty years after the fact. But what really made the impression take hold were the wild flowers that I saw. Charred wood, ash-covered ground, desolate gray everywhere you looked, and yet a glimpse of green and purple as the vegetation poked through, eager to go on. That is the hope.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Romans 8:22-25

In that one piece of vegetation, hope for an entire forest to be reborn existed. There was disaster, but there was a glimpse of the unseen. It would take patience to see the regrowth, but it was inevitable.

We groan inwardly as well. We experience personal disasters. We experience failure in our spiritual lives. But every once in a while, we experience a glimpse of hope in our peaceful response to an unsettling situation, or the supernatural ability to hold our tongue, or to act in a selfless way. Maybe I am changing. There is hope for me after all!

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

Romans 8:26-27

Have you ever been knocked down, as the trees from the volcanic spew of ash? One day everything is normal, and then with no warning--BAM! Take a lesson from the natural reforestation efforts. Don't always feel like you have to pick yourself up right away and make sure that the mountain looks like it did before the blast. In fact, sometimes that will be impossible. Let things lie. Allow the Spirit to intercede for you. Sometimes groans are all you can manage, and when that is the case, know that you are covered. I remember in one of my darkest times that I sent out a call to friends of mine to pray. They in turn spread the word to others. I don't remember praying much myself, but I was covered. As I read notes and emails reminding me that they were praying, I remember being comforted. I recall laying on my bed and groaning--not crying, not yelling, but silently inwardly groaning because I had no words to express my feelings.

In one single acorn lies the promise of a forest. Your step of faith is the acorn, the firstfruits of the Spirit. God is taking care of the rest, in good times in bad, building a virtual forest of Christian character within you as you wait expectantly for the time when there will be no sickness, no death, no pain. We must be patient. It will take a long time, but it is inevitable.

Revelation 21:3-5

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."


Joyful Days said...

Thank you, Jennifer. Beautifully written. Just what I really needed to hear today.

Kelly said...

This was such an encouragement to me-it is amazing the hope we have in Christ, even in the midst of devastating events in our lives!