As I write this blog the day after New Year’s from our retreat house in Northern Minnesota, I sense what Paul describes in Romans 8 as the whole creation in “groaning.” “The difficult times of pain,” says Paul, “throughout the world are simply birth pangs” ( Romans 8:22). The moral and spiritual drift in our culture is producing “birth pangs” in many men, because of what might be coming in the days to come. But Paul wants us to know that these deep spiritual groaning are normal. The present sufferings are, says Paul, “not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Something better is coming, even though we can’t see it. He reminds us that the pain we feel is real. “But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs.” (Rom 8:22) Did you get that – “birth pangs.” Men need to get in touch with their “birth pangs.” Birth pangs come before the birth. God is up to something, in the midst our feeling pain. God is bringing about something new.
The prophet Isaiah expressed something of this groaning when he said, “Through the night my soul longs for you. Deep from within me my spirit reaches out to you. When your decisions are on public display everyone learns how to live right. If the wicked are shown grace, they don’t seem to get it. In the land of right living, they persist in wrong living, blind to the splendor of God” (Isaiah 26:9-10 – The Message). Isaiah describes a deep crying out to God in the midst of a culture that does not “seem to get it.” He assumes that when God’s “decisions are on public display everyone learns how to live right.” But when the wicked are shown grace, they, “persist in wrong living.” This is why he longs for God. Isn’t this the condition of our culture. God’s grace has been expressed abundantly in our culture, but we continue to persist in wrong living, “blind to the splendor of God.”
But take heart, men. There is a new day coming. God is birthing something new. “Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens” (Romans 8:21). Something glorious, that we can not visualize, is about to be birthed by God. We are to live in “joyful anticipation.” “That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy (Rom. 8:24-25). Enduring our present conditions only makes us strong, giving us a greater expectation of what God will do
So men if you feel pregnant with groaning and pain due to the moral and spiritual condition of our culture, accept this condition as normal. This means that you are spiritual awake. Allow yourself to actually “grieve.” Don’t deny what you feel, don’t minimize the inner angst that you have, nor try to rationalize your condition. As a man, sensitive to the Spirit of God, allow yourself the opportunity to grieve concerning the moral and spiritual condition of our culture. But also know this – the Spirit helps us in our condition. “He (Holy Spirit) does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good” (Rom. 8:27-28 – The Message.”
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