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“O LORD, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning.” (Psalm 5:1)

Have you heard the one about the lady who glued her lips together resulting in her inability to literally get a word in edgewise? It’s actually a true story. In 2003, a 64-year-old woman from New Zealand called the emergency services number. When the operator answered, only moans could be heard. Personnel who responded feared they were being contacted by a gagged hostage, so they rushed to her house. There they found a female who could not open her mouth. Having fumbled in the dark for some cold-sore cream in the middle of the night, the woman mistakenly picked up a tube of superglue. Rubbing on the powerful adhesive, she awaited the familiar soothing relief normally provided by the remedy. But it never came. Within minutes, she was, in fact, speechless. When she decided to use the phone to summon for help, moaning and tapping were her only ways to communicate.

Unfortunately, moaning and groaning are not uncommon expressions of the human condition. Some of us spend much of our waking hours groaning about something, while there are those who do so when they sleep. Still others moan when they move from place to place, because they experience some level of discomfort. In reality, how can one see all that is happening today and not sigh and groan at times? We hear about the condition of millions of hungry or sick people, and we feel overwhelmed. Then there’s the threat of terrorism or gun violence from just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Add to that the failure of our elected officials to bring helpful and realistic solutions to our society, and it’s rather easy to find a reason to moan. The expression is often made that rather than doing something, it’s just easier to sit back and groan about it.  It’s become so commonplace that one can even sign up as an Honorary member of the Old Boys Moaning and Groaning Society.

Surely, there are times in your life when, even though there were words to express your emotions – those words were not sufficient. In these situations, you may have simply groaned rather than voice words that could not satisfy. Scripture reminds us that groaning has forever been a way of communicating to God. The Israelites cried out in their sufferings. “God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob” (Exodus 2:24). The Psalmist groans and the LORD responds: “’Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan, I will now arise,’ says the LORD. ‘I will protect them from those who malign them’” (Psalm 12:5). Paul writes “For we know that all creation has been groaning . . . 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” (Romans 8:22-23).

Has suffering and groaning found its way into your life? Are there deep inner agonies you cannot begin to verbalize? If so – your experience is not unique. When one starts to recognize their own shortcomings and that of the world in which they live, it is then that they come to see life as it really is. God’s Word confirms that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). Romans 8:27 goes on to tell is that “He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit.” We may not always pray in accordance with the will of God, but the Spirit does. And God answers. You should not feel guilt-ridden or unspiritual over your groanings, if they are guided in the right direction. If your groanings offer you a discontent with this life and give you a hunger for heaven . . . good for you! That is the work of the Holy Spirit, producing a heart for God in you. Groaning characterizes the life of the Spirit-filled Christian. For those who walk with the Lord, groaning is not a matter of being tongue-tied but more of an affirmation that our hope has been directed heavenward to that which is not yet seen.

REFLECTION: Have you ever prayed for something so deeply that no words remained to escape from you, only groans that could not be explained nor stopped? Can you think of a time in your life as a follower of Jesus when prayer has felt pointless, yet you kept trying to pray? Or maybe a time when you wanted to pray, but circumstances in your life left you wordless? How does an increased understanding of spiritual groaning put your mind at ease that this is not weakness but increased growth and closeness toward God?


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