“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven . . .” (2 Corinthians 5:1,2).
CREATED FOR FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD BUT LIVING IN A WORLD THAT IS BROKEN BY SIN, WE FREQUENTLY FIND OURSELVES CRYING OUT FOR RELIEF. We earnestly desire, as Paul put it, “to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven.” And most of us have observed that “groaning” is not too strong a word for what we do when the troubles of this world press down upon us.
We need to be reminded that groaning is not wrong. Rather than the act of a weak person, it’s often that of a strong person whose eyes are open to what has gone wrong in the world. Isn’t Jesus the most notable example of how a strong person can sorrow? As He approached the tomb of His friend Lazarus, He “wept” (John 11:35). Then the account says that He arrived at the tomb “groaning in Himself” (v.38). We need to dispense with the idea that spiritually mature people never hurt and never cry.
Not only is groaning not inconsistent with godliness, but here is another amazing thing: groaning is not inconsistent with joy! The most joyous of God’s people are those who deeply, and even sorrowfully, cry out for His redemption. Indeed, it’s often the bitterness of groaning that makes our hope so sweet. The godly life fits the definition of “bittersweet,” and it’s quite appropriately compared to childbirth, an ordeal full of groaning, surely, but not without the joy that comes from hope: “The whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now” (Romans 8:22).
The Psalmist sang that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). “In this we groan,” said Paul, speaking of our fleshly bodies. But if we’re faithful in our walk with God, our groaning is helping us get to our goal more fervently. Groaning and earnestly desiring are simply two sides of the same coin. The gospel, after all, is good news, but only to those who’ve sorrowed over their separation from God. Having obeyed the good news, they’re now yearning for a final homecoming with Him, reaching forward to that day with every ache of their hearts.
“Life is a bridge of groans across a stream of tears” (Philip James Bailey).