“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Romans 8:26-30)
It’s funny how when you memorize something, or read something in the full context, you notice things you previously overlooked. For me, it was the word “groanings”. My mind immediately went to the last section of Romans 8 (see last blog post). It had used the word groan or groans to describe creations longing for freedom from the futility and brokenness of this world (vs. 22), as well as the children of God groaning with longing to see the fullness of our redemption (vs. 23). In verse 26, it speaks of the Holy Spirit groaning, on our behalf. I had to look up the Greek, and although none of them are the exact same word, the word “groan” describing us in verse 23 is very similar to the word “groanings” describing the Spirit of God in verse 26. Both correlate groaning with great pressure. But verse 23 almost seems like it’s a groaning that is the source of the pressure (like wailing) and verse 26 seems to be in response to the pressure. Almost like we groan because we feel out of control, and God groans because He feels compassion for us for the intense pressure we are experiencing on this planet.
This is marvelous to me! So often, when the heat is turned up in our lives, we think God has forsaken us. In actuality, He is groaning on our behalf. Wailing, if you will, to bring liberation to His people.
Many will read what I just wrote and take it the exact opposite of the way the Apostle Paul teaches us to think, in this very passage. They will complain that God is either a) not sovereign, or b) not good. That this groaning makes God seem… anemic. Incompetent. Let’s look at it again.
God helps us in our weakness, by crying out on our behalf, because we don’t even know what to pray for. But His answer isn’t always to alleviate us from the pressure that is causing us to groan. Often it is to cause ALL things to work together for our good (even the pressure), by conforming us, who are foreknown and predestined (by His benevolence) into the Image of His Son. Through Christ, He calls us and justifies us, and also glorifies us. Part of our glorification is that we look more like Jesus because of the struggles we endure.
We groan against the pressures of this world, to see our suffering turn to Glory. And God groans against our weakness and the sinfulness of this world that tangles us up. He groans against the pressures of this world, in order to turn our suffering into glorification.
There are two kingdoms at play here. One is the earthly kingdom, where all we care about is what we can see, and getting things to turn out the way we want them to. The other kingdom is the unseen realm. If we live like we belong to that kingdom, like we’ve been adopted into God’s family, then our circumstances don’t define our joy, but our identity as God’s beloved keeps us buoyant through any and all circumstances, because we are longing for a different country and know that these circumstances are just an opportunity to point others to Him. .
Romans 8:28 is one of the most outstanding promises in all of Scripture. God causing ALL things to work together for good for His kids. This is not a band-aid slapped onto cancer. This is a cure for the ache in our souls from the roots up. We often want Him to give us the treasures of this world, or at least to make us comfortable in this life, when He is offering us abundantly more.
We aren’t made to be too content down here. The pressure ought to send us clamoring to Him. There is beauty in the groaning.
Another one of the greatest promises in the Bible is found two verses before… “the Spirit also helps our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us…” When we really begin to grasp the fact that God Almighty is praying on our behalf, and that He always gets His triumph, then it ought to make us realize even our hard circumstances are meant for our good. They are producing our glorification. This should lead us to gratitude for His nearness and compassion for us in the struggle, joy in His perfect and sovereign will, and surrender to whatever He wants, confident that He is wiser than we are and will surely work it all out for good.
Thank God He won’t stop praying for us, because we really do tend to pray for all the wrong things, all the selfish things… but God is far wiser, and loves us far more than we could even love ourselves! He groans for us, against the intense pressure of this world, and in so doing is bringing about character transformation that is far more beneficial than anything we would tend to pray for ourselves. Hallelujah!