By Nick Batzig
When I turned forty, I had several important realizations. First, I came to understand that time moves every bit as fast as others told me it would back when I was in my twenties; and second, I can do just about every physical activity I did in my twenties—but I need more time to recover.
The strength and vigor that once marked my life are now replaced with pains and groans. This unwanted experience has served to better my appreciation for the apostle Paul’s references to groaning in Romans 8:18–25. In that place, Paul sets the hope of glory against the backdrop of the groaning of this fallen world.
We live in a world that God has subjected to futility (v.20). Everything around us is groaning under the burden of the fall of man. The fall of Adam brought misery to the entire created order. The turmoil in the world is not simply limited to the turmoil between nations and peoples. There is an innate groaning among all creatures in the animal kingdom too. There is even a groaning among the trees and vegetation.
All of creation is crying out for something better.
This is one reason why the prophet Isaiah speaks of the glories of the new heavens and new earth under the symbol of the lion lying down with a calf in peace (Isaiah 11:6). It’s why the psalmist speaks of the trees clapping their hands at the prospect of the Lord coming to judge the world in righteousness (Isaiah 55:12). In a very real sense, the entire creation is like a woman in labor. This old, broken creation is eagerly anticipating the new creation that Christ secured by His death and resurrection and will deliver at His return.
There is, however, also the groaning of the people of God who have been subjected to the sufferings of this present life. This groaning is tied to the persecution believers endure at the hands of unbelievers—both in the church and in the world. There is a tremendous burden in the sufferings believers must bear as they press on to the hope of glory. But there will come a day when believers will be set free, in body and soul, from the sufferings of this present age and will be ushered into the inexpressible glory of everlasting life.
Whenever we hear or feel the groans of this life—whether in the created order around us or in our own hearts—we must remember that there will come a day of glory for creation in general and for believers in particular. All temporal groaning will end and eternal rejoicing will commence when Christ comes in glory to raise His people from the dust.