“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth
right up to the present time,” (Rom. 8:22).
Have you ever looked at creation that way? That it’s actually “groaning”? Have you ever heard the sporadic outbursts of thunder, or watched the clouds cry out the rain, or listened to the groaning of the trees in the wind and thought, “You’re hurting too, aren’t you?”
We are not alone in our longings.
In the book of Romans, Paul presents us with this understanding of creation—where creation itself is longing, waiting, and eagerly anticipating the day when it will be liberated from its bondage.
In other words, creation is aching for God to complete His work, to bring this age to a close, to lift His children up and to bring the New Kingdom down.
The way that Paul depicts creation—it’s like a soon-to-be mother, nine months pregnant and overdue, stretched out on a hospital bed, nurses frantically running around, waiting for this little child that started out the size of a mustard seed to come into the world. Patience is of the utmost necessity in this situation, and yet the patience is also excruciatingly difficult.
Creation is groaning as in the pains of childbirth.
See, it’s not only human beings who were subjected to the effects of sin. God didn’t allow just one piece of His creation to be impacted by this—rather, we’re all in it together. Just as we are awaiting a resurrection and a new creation reality, the creation itself waits too, knowing that it will join in that glory with us.
And to be clear, Paul is not trying to ‘spiritualize’ the creation, as if it has a personality of its own or is some sort of demi-god. Rather, I think he recognizes that all of creation is infused by God’s very presence, that creation also has God’s Spirit giving it life—just as He gives us life.
So in personifying creation this way, I think Paul is seeing Creation as also a part of God’s purposes. Every living thing that God has created is subjected to the effects of sin and brokenness, and it feels the brokenness just as much as we do and groans for new birth.
And interestingly, Paul continues in this chapter to highlight the Holy Spirit as groaning in the same way, in verse 26: “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit itself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
The Spirit does it too. Wordless groans—aches and pains like a mother in childbirth, waiting eagerly for the process to be complete, for the waiting to be over, for the new creation to be born.
We’re not alone in this. All of creation is groaning for the world to be made right, for the children of God to be revealed, for the whole of creation of be restored and made new—where there is no fear or angst or disease or illness or death.
There is only new creation. New birth.
As one song puts it:
Is all creation groaning? It is.
Is a new creation coming? It is.
Is the glory of the Lord to be the light within our midst? It is.
Is it good that we remind ourselves of this? It is.
So that ache in your gut in the midst of all this Covid-19 fiasco? That ache is what tells you that something is not yet right. Our King is still coming. His Kingdom is still being formed. All of creation is crying out with us, joining us in eager anticipation, waiting patiently for the ordinary to be made glorious, for the normal to be new.
So in this unprecedented and unpredictable season, as you continue to wait, to long, and to groan, may this Celtic blessing bring you a comforting sense of camaraderie with creation.
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
the rains fall soft upon your fields;
and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.