I’ve been sighing deeply with respect to cancer lately. Joe Wright, a person in our congregation, is now is going through the hard battle with leukemia. We are still dealing with the stem-cell transplant for Claire and still coping with the battle of her ongoing cancer treatments. A former member who moved away several years ago is going through bladder cancer and yet another man who used to go to Faith Church fighting pancreatic cancer. A pastor I did a wedding with last fall suddenly got pancreatic cancer and died within a couple of months. And there are many more that you know of. There are times when I get angry at the way this awful disease wreaks havoc in people’s lives. And while there are times when I see God’s grace poured out in amazing ways whether there is healing or not, nevertheless I hate cancer!
Yet I know that is just one of the many effects of sin in the world. In addition to many of the other health problems that take their toll, there is ongoing enslavement and abuse of children. There is domestic violence and ongoing violence in our urban areas that seems unabated. The threat of terrorists striking innocent men, women and children at any moment is beyond rational thought to me. There are so many things wrong and going wrong in this world and in our lives and sometimes we sigh deeply. And sometimes we groan!
Have you ever been so sick or injured and in pain that you literally are groaning? I know that there have been times when I’ve battled nausea with a stomach bug and I’ve groaned wishing it would stop. I recall going salmon fishing on a friend’s boat one time on Lake Michigan in very choppy waters. It didn’t take long and I was sick as a dog and as green as the one fish I managed to catch. For those couple of hours, I was groaning and if they had pitched me overboard, I might have been grateful! We groan when we are enduring something we have trouble enduring.
God understands our groaning. In Romans 8:18-23, Paul talks about the sufferings of this world and he describes the condition of the world to be “groaning.” He writes: 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” Because of sin there will be suffering of all kinds but the good news is that the groaning we endure now will come to an end.
And there’s one more kind of groaning that Paul talks about. While we and all creation may be groaning, we aren’t groaning alone. In Romans 8:26 Paul says that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with “wordless groans.” “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 through wordless groans.”
We aren’t alone when we praying as we face cancer or other diseases. We aren’t alone when things seem to be coming apart and we are praying. God through the Holy Spirit is praying with us and even when we don’t know what to say anymore, the Holy Spirit is with us and brings our true needs to our Father in heaven. So as we groan with the world, let’s also remember we groan with the Spirit. And God, our heavenly Father, always will hear us and help us.