When God Groans
What do we do with the pain of the world? We enter in it and groan. That is what the Son of God did. And that is what the Spirit of God does in and through the Church.
Nobody chooses to be broken this way. No one wants that as part of his or her story. But we break because the world is broken. Creation groans, as Paul wrote (Romans 8:22). Aching, longing, waiting for redemption. Imagine it: the whole world, the cosmos, all of creation once blessed by God, feels itself under chains. The world God called good is subject to slavery. It has become less than itself, unable to flourish. It has lost its shalom. It is no longer whole, and so it groans.
And when the fracturing of the world touches us, when the shifting plates of the ground beneath us split apart our soul within, the brokenness is no longer out there. It’s in here. It’s real.
It isn’t just creation that groans. It’s we who groan. The gasping, grasping, out-of-breath aching; the sad, sighing, sorrowful crying— When will it end? How long, O Lord? Will You forget us forever?
But God has not forgotten us. He has not forgotten the world He made and blessed. That which God blesses is never abandoned. Brokenness is not abandonment.
The Israelites never believed in a distant God. Unlike the cultures around them, they always knew their covenant God was attentive to them and responsive to them. Their relationship was dynamic, not static. It was not a one-way thing. What He said and did moved them, and what they said and did moved Him.
So it should not have been surprising when God came even nearer. He came nearer than anyone dared hope. The second Person of the Trinity became flesh and was born of a virgin.
In a messy, smelly place surrounded by animals, Jesus came. As a helpless, crying baby, Jesus came. Messy. Helpless. Crying. These are not the usual words we use to describe Jesus. Even our Christmas carols try to sanitize the scene: sweet little Jesus, “no crying He makes.” Those words may make a better song, but they rob us of the richness of what God did. God came into our mess, into this blessed and broken world. And He cried. Like a baby. Jesus is God groaning with us.
In John 11, after Lazarus has died, Jesus wept. But Jesus also groaned, right before and shortly after He wept (John 11:33, 38, NKJV). In fact, the word in these verses suggests a grunt, an inarticulate moaning or sighing, like the sound an animal might make. And even more striking is what caused Jesus to groan. It was the sight of people grieving. Think of it: when God sees us groaning under the weight of the brokenness of this world, He Himself enters the groaning of creation and groans with us.
I wonder if Jesus may have been thinking of his friends Mary and Martha when He later sat at a table with friends, took bread, and said, “This is my body which is broken for you” (1 Corinthians 11:24, NKJV). His very life was an offering, for the sinner and the sufferer. As that bread was broken, He knew it would sop up all our weeping, tears, and groans and would one day make all things whole again.
Maybe if Mary and Martha had been there at the Passover table, they would have understood more deeply Jesus’s words, “I am the resurrection and the life.” They would’ve glimpsed how Jesus would be broken for all of us. They may have had a foretaste of how Jesus not only walked in our broken world but also shouldered all our brokenness. Even in the brokenness of death, we are not alone. The psalmist prayed with hope, saying that God is “near to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18). Jesus took that prayer and embodied it. In Jesus, God came near to all of us. No, more than that: in Jesus, God became the broken.
“This is my body which is broken for you.”
Adapted excerpt from “Blessed Broken Given”, Chapter 6: “Suffering and Pain”