The following is a contribution I made to City Church's Lent Devotional. The text is Romans 8:22-25, which reads:
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
I used to think the trees creaked because the wind blew. It’s a sound easy to miss; drowned by the cacophony of modern life. But if you listen you will hear an all-too-familiar groan: that deep, guttural longing.
I used to look up at the stars and wish they could tell me what they have seen. I’ve heard rumors of a heavenly choir whose song never ends (Ps 19:1-6). Recently Nasa released recordings of sounds captured in space. Now we know the stars hum a haunting song; hopeful and heartbroken. “All creation has been groaning together,” Paul says (Romans 8:22a). She sighs in hope and agony; “in the pains of childbirth” (8:22b). In both pain and longing creation is groaning because new life is coming.
The song of the stars and groaning of the trees is one we all know. Paul tells us that it’s not only creation, “but we ourselves…groan inwardly” (8:23). Maybe the days are good, but night always comes. Your days may be filled with every kind of fruitful and fulfilling activity. Then night falls. And everything that has scuffed, chipped, gouged, and cracked your heart begins to creep out from the shadows. Every lie you have believed, every hateful word you have spoken, every wrong you have committed, every good you have left undone. They visit us in the night. And we groan.
We groan because we’re caught between two worlds. The world-as-it-is pulls us one direction and the world-as-it-will-be pulls in another. Part of us wants to run one direction. The rest, in the other. We’re caught between “the sufferings of this present time” (8:18) and our eager, hopeful longing "for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (8:23). Alongside the trees and the stars we stand on our toes hoping to catch a glimpse of what’s to come. We hold our breathe in hope the day is closer than we thought.
I used to think the trees creaked because the wind blew. Now I know that they creak because they’re straining to get a glimpse of resurrection.