Paul, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, is suggesting here that Creation, which shares in the corruption that was and still is brought about as the result of sin, will also share in the benefits of redemption along with God’s people.
This is one of the most beautiful and powerful images in all of Paul’s writing. He likens the whole of creation, and our own selves, to be groaning with the pains of childbirth. Paul, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, is suggesting here that Creation, which shares in the corruption that was and still is brought about as the result of sin, will also share in the benefits of redemption along with God’s people.
As a man, I cannot know the physical pains, or the psychological experiences a woman goes through during childbirth. But I have watched my wife, and now my two daughters, go through the discomforts, and the joys and the anticipation that accompany the experience of a child growing in their womb. I have witnessed their struggles in the throws of their labors, and I have been humbled by their strength, the immense physical and emotional determination and effort to bring those children into the world. Paul is using this powerful image to describe our own struggles in faith to enter into the new life that has been promised, and won for us by Jesus Christ.
The seed of Christ’s glory was planted in us by his death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. Each one of us are now in the midst of our labor pains as we struggle through our lives to grow in our faith and in our capacity to love as Jesus loves. We are groaning with the desire to be born into the promised eternal life that our souls have been yearning for ever since we began to know Jesus personally. The labor pains a mother goes through to bring her child into the world are difficult, full of both fear and joyful anticipation. So, too, are the labor pains of our growing faith. Yet, like a mother, we know that it is a new life that we are struggling for, a life we have only been able to imagine in faith, but that will one day be more real and more beautiful than we could ever imagine. We, and all of God’s creation, are groaning toward our birth into the fullness of eternal life, that is, that life that is our final liberation from the influence of our rebellious old selves.
But we do not do this alone. As Paul tells us, we have been given the first fruits of the Spirit. Our groaning is rooted in our faith that God is God, that his love for us is unconditional, and that his mercy is both generous and freely given. It is in this faith knowledge that we groan toward our new birth in him by becoming holy, by serving others, by learning how to be patient, how to forgive, how to love as Jesus loved. This is the hard work of our labor toward new life. We are in the middle of our labor pains. But God is with us. He is standing by us, supporting us with his grace. He will not let us struggle alone. Thanks be to our living God!
Lord, we groan in the heavy pains of our labor toward you. Give us the strength to continue. Give us courage in the struggle. Help us to keep our focus always on you. We pray this in your name, Jesus. Amen!
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