It’s been a groan-worthy start to the year in our household. I’ve been in a severe flare for over a month. My husband is very weary — an extra load inevitably falls on him when I’m out of action. We’re just surviving.
Day two of the new school year was eventful. At about 8:15am I was lying on the couch, resting, before school drop-off. When I tried to stand up, nothing happened… I couldn’t move my legs. This happens every now and then during a flare, but I wasn’t prepared for it to happen before school when I was home alone with both kids! I kept the TV on and sent a text message to one of my emergency backup people, requesting help with school drop-off.
It took a while for my helper to arrive, which meant the kids watched over an hour of TV in the morning (eek!), and my son was delivered to school over half-an-hour late on his second day of Year 1. So much for making a good impression on his new teacher!! Sigh… This was really hard on the ego for a high-achieving people pleaser like me!!! (I wonder which aspects of my character God’s been working on lately? 😉)
THEN, a week later, my dad had a stroke. He was in a critical state and we didn’t know if he would survive. What should I do?! I knew I needed even more rest than usual if I wanted to recover from my flare; but I wanted to be there for my dear dad…
After a day of deliberation and praying for wisdom, we made the decision: I would travel by plane (I can no longer manage long drives) to visit my dad in the hospital. My husband stayed home with the kids, so as not to disrupt their routine.
I am so glad I went. I needed to go — I couldn’t bear to think of my dad lying there, so close to death. But the trip has thrown my system even further into its downward spiral. On top of that, my husband is a step closer to burnout due to the pressure of having the kids solo for those few days when he was so weary already.
I’m sure you have your own stories to tell, of months — or even years — stolen and plans thrown into chaos by distressing events.
Groaning and new life
[If reading a childbirth story is likely to prick at your grief bubble, please feel free to skip ahead to the next section.]
Is it one of those groan-worthy seasons for you?
The sorrow and fatigue are rising; your resilience and strength are plummeting. Inside and out, your whole being is sighing… You’re battling frustration — Why is this happening?! I wish I could just click my fingers and make everything OK again…
These times are an invitation to draw near to God. Take your groaning to him! Cry out to him! Be real with him! He can take it.
Romans chapter 8 is one of my favourite Bible passages because it’s so real, and honest, and authentic. It talks about the ugliness of our broken lives without resorting to either nihilistic despair or sugar-coated denial.
Paul compares the suffering we experience here and now to the groans of a woman in labour.
For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. (Rom 8:22-23)
I remember my two labours and they sure were awful…
I was not one of those controlled women — a childbirth champion — who bears the pain silently. (I’ve seen them on TV documentaries. I guess you might be more inclined to exude calmness and stoic strength if there’s a camera crew present!)
No, I screamed so loudly that the midwife kept having to remind me, “Save your strength… Use your strength to push… Don’t scream.”
I tried to take it down a few octaves as wave after wave of contractions stretched my body beyond what would seem physically possible. My supremely calm midwife coached me through the final excruciating contractions: I had to change my high-pitched screams — prolonged, siren-like shrieks that would have caused any dogs within earshot to howl! — into low-toned groans.
So, there I was, bellowing like a bear. I was naked amongst strangers and didn’t even care. (I even asked for photos to be taken! How bizarre and other-worldly is the childbirth experience…)
I’m not sure whether the bear-bellowing helped or not. What I do know is this: before too long a precious new life was born.
Was the pain worth it? It certainly was. All that suffering and pain for a little while (28 hours with my first child, who was eventually yanked out with a pair of giant birthing tweezers called forceps!), and now two beautiful little souls are in the world.
There was an end to the pain.
There was a purpose to the pain.
After the pain came new life. And it was more beautiful than I ever could have imagined.
Romans 8 is such a wonderful reminder for us! (Rom 8:18-39) The apostle Paul didn’t have a wife, but he must have been in the neighbouring buildings of women in labour, who bear-bellowed or siren-shrieked like I did. And he would have seen the joy that followed the pain: new life.
Let’s remember this when we feel like giving up; when we feel like the pain of this life is just too much to bear. Let’s remember that God is birthing in us a new, eternal life.
Let’s allow ourselves to groan and cry out to God, because he hears every prayer. By groaning we’re releasing some of our pain. We’re drawing near to God and allowing him to walk this dark path with us.
And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. (Rom 8:26)
For some of us, our circumstances might change for the better, relieving us from our suffering. For others, our pain might not end until we meet Jesus face-to-face in Heaven.
Whether our trials are temporary or ongoing, let’s remember that one day we will be in a new creation, with our Lord, and without any more pain. Let’s remember that God has plans for us; good plans. (Jer 29:11, Rom 8:18, 21) God has a hope and a future in store that’s more beautiful than we could ever imagine.
Father, we long to be free from these aching, failing bodies of ours. We long to be free from grief and pain. It’s overwhelming, Lord. It really is too much to bear at times…
When the brokenness of this world fills our bodies and minds, we look to you, our great God. Thank you for sending Jesus. As we remember his humble life of service and his gruesome, lonely death, we see that you are not removed from this world’s brokenness… Instead, you chose to enter into it… You understand our pain. You’ve been there… Thank you that we’re not alone.
Please teach us to take our soul’s groans to you, so that we can receive your comfort. Please fill us with your Spirit, so that hope will overflow in our hearts, as we remember all that you’ve done for us and all that you have in store for us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Want to continue?
Go to Part 3 – Groaning Resources