Contrary to popular opinion, there is great spiritual value in groaning. In fact, groaning is a discipline and a practice that we all should become well-versed in. There is a lot of groaning in this life. The world is not at all what it was intended to be, and that can either drive us crazy, or it can drive us to God. It can make us frustrated and angry and bitter, or it can make us open and dependent and hopeful. It can create distance from God, or it can create intimacy with him, it all depends on how we respond.
Groaning is a response to suffering and pain that holds tightly to an unshakeable confidence in God’s goodness and love. It is a spiritual practice that deepens us and grows us, and can even arouse the Spirit of God within us. Groaning can be kind of like spiritual contractions that make a way for something new and beautiful to be born in and through us.
Paul tells us that groaning is something that creation does, something that we do, and something that even the Spirit of God does. (Rom. 8:18-27) Therefore, groaning is not just something to be endured, but something to be embraced. It is an invitation into deeper union with God, as he groans with and for us. Groaning creates depth and intimacy, if we do not let it devolve into grumbling. That’s where we often get into trouble.
Groaning and grumbling are very different. While groaning is a way of communing with God in the midst of our brokenness and pain, grumbling is the complete opposite. Grumbling is an accusation against God. Grumbling originates from a place within us that, because of our circumstances, refuses to truly believe that God is good. Thus, grumbling, by its very nature, separates while groaning connects.
The reality is that we are going to do one or the other, it is up to us which. We can learn how to groan, or we can wallow around in our grumbling. We can hold fast to God’s goodness and his love, or we can be full of doubt and despair. For if we never learn how to groan, grumbling is all that’s left. And it just goes downhill from there.
So which will it be?