Let’s talk about the first groaning. The creation is groaning in pain over the ravages of sin and decay. Do we see it or recognize this?
Suffering and pain is something we don’t like and we avoid. We see a video of a child starving in Africa and it makes us feel uncomfortable so we turn the channel. We move away from the inner city into our suburban homes because we don’t want to be around human sufffering.
But pain and suffering is actually one of those God-given things without which we would not know that this life is broken. It’s a good thing — without pain, our bodies would not know when we are sick or need to be treated.
There is a condition called Congenital Insensitivity to Pain, or CIP, it’s a rare condition in which a person cannot feel pain. Because these God-given pain sensations are not felt, people who have CIP don’t experience pain, and therefore, they are in constant danger.
There is a story about a girl named Gabby that I read about who suffered from CIP. Like a derailed train, the nerves that carry pain signals from the surface of her body to her brain never arrive. Gabby never feels pain.
Gabby’s dad Steven says, “When we first found out she doesn’t feel pain it was like, ‘What a relief.'” However, that pain is necessary, Gabby’s mom, Trish, says. “People always think of pain. ‘Oh, if I could get rid of the pain.’ I’m thinking, ‘You do not even know how lucky you are that you can feel it.”
When she was just a baby, Gabby started chewing her own hand while she was teething. “She had bitten down through her skin,” Trish says. “She would have bitten down to the bone had I let her. It was just chewed up. It looked mangled and nasty, like raw hamburger on her hand.” It got to the point where Steven and Trish decided to have Gabby’s teeth pulled out to save her hands and tongue, which she chewed on “like bubblegum.”
After literally poking her own eye out, Gabby now wears protective goggles to try and spare the sight in her one remaining eye.
In another instance Gabby suffered second-degree burns on her hand after grabbing a hot lightbulb. “She just grabbed a hold of the lightbulb like she was grabbing a baseball,” Steven says. “On a normal person, that would be very painful.”
The point of this story is to illustrate how the pain and suffering we see in our creation should point us to the fact that we have a serious sin problem. Things are not right with us. Sin is not like a paper cut, it’s there, it’s annoying, but it’s no big deal. No, we are in grave danger because of sin.
People sometimes have issues trusting in God because of the pain and suffering they see around them that happens to innocent people. But this pain and suffering is like a pointer to a far more serious problem and how much we are sick and need to be treated. Without the groanings of creation around us, we might not have any proper sense of problem — the ravages of sin we read in the newspaper every day, the starvation and disease, those dying in poverty and sickness — these are all signs of creation groaning over the sin of humanity and the bondage to decay.
These should open our eyes to the reality we are in. If we are comfortable and sheltered from what is going on in our world and the suffering around us, if we ourselves don’t experience much suffering, we could have spiritual CIP. No ability to feel pain so without knowing, we end up destroying ourselves.
The role of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of sin. And if the Spirit of God is living in you and you are filled with the Spirit, you will have a heightened sensitivity to sin. You see the sin in your own life and you won’t just brush it under a rug. Your sins will cause you to groan.
Groaning over sin. It starts with having a sense of problem.
This kind of suffering over sin is completely foreign for those in the realm of the flesh.
That’s why psalmist in Psalm 73 confesses, referring to non-believers:
4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. 5 They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills.
In our moments of weakness, we look at the movie stars and the celebrities and the CEOs and all we see is their beauty and their wealth and their power and fame and their lives seem so great. And as believers, we may even agree with the Psalmist that it appears that these people have no struggles, their bodies are healthy and strong.
13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence.
While the wicked prosper, the believer may falter and confess that perhaps his struggle to keep his heart pure was in vain.
Yet the Psalmist comes to his senses and he continues on in v16-17 —
16 When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply 17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.
He came to his senses when he entered God’s presence and he considered their final destiny.
Present suffering only makes sense in light of this final destiny. If this life is all there is and our final destiny is to lie in a grave somewhere, then sure, it makes sense to minimize suffering and maximize pleasure.
I just came back from a funeral of my brother’s fiance’s grandmother. This was my third funeral this year.
And I am reminded why I struggle and have a sense of problem with sin. Because we all reach the same final destiny. We are all going to have to give an account for our lives. Did we go with the flow or did we groan over sin? Did you have a sense of problem with life, with the world that we are living in?