Sometimes I get so discouraged by my own sinfulness that it swirls me into a funk that is hard to get out of. I hate the fact that I think and do the things that I think and do — I hate it so much that I begin to focus on my own sinfulness to the point of worry and fear. Today, however, I was reading in Romans and the Lord graciously showed me this in 8:23:
And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
It encourages me that groaning signifies having the Spirit. Groaning indicates a taste of the final redemption into sinless eternity. Therefore, when I groan over my own sinfulness, it indicates something good, and it should assure me and encourage me that I am, in fact, a son of God. For the groaners also have these assurances:
Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. 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 (8:26).
The Spirit groans on behalf of the groaners, helping them in their weaknesses. And:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerers through him who loved us. For I am sure than neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, not things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (8:35-39).
Those who groan in anticipation of their redemption will never be separated from the love of God in Christ. Nothing can separate us. Nothing can separate me, nothing in creation. I myself am a part of the comprehensive “anything else in all creation.” I can be assured of the holding power of God on my behalf, in spite of myself.
Calvin says this about 8:23:
And he requires that there should be a feeling of two kinds in the faithful: that being burdened with the sense of their present misery, they are to groan; and that notwithstanding they are to wait patiently for their deliverance; for he would have them to be raised up with the expectation of their future blessedness, and by an elevation of mind to overcome all their present miseries, while they consider not what they are now, but what they are to be.
My problem has been being too focused on present miseries — the source of my groaning. I groan — yes — but in an anticipating way, looking toward the promise of redemption. For I will be redeemed. It is a promise made by the God whose word cannot be broken.