Romans 8:22–26 (ESV): 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. 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.

This Scripture sits in what is arguably one of the richest and most encouraging chapters in all of the Bible. Romans 8 is the greatest chapter in what I believe is the greatest letter ever written. This section contains scores of wisdom, spiritual insight, and profoundly awesome promises concerning the gospel, our hope, our future, and our security in Jesus Christ.

Did you notice the word “likewise” in verse 26? This rendering is a pretty accurate translation of the small Greek phrase in the original text—Ὡσαύτως δὲ καὶ. That phrase may literally be translated as “and in the same way also.” In verse 26, Paul is relaying something about the Holy Spirit that is very similar to what he’d just said beforehand.

In the preceding verses, Paul is talking about the depth of the human struggle on earth. The creation has been subjected to futility. A curse presides over the land. Paul describes our physical life in terms of suffering. The creation is in bondage to corruption. Things don’t work as they should. Things we work hard on break. Healthy persons get diseases. Animals hunt one another down, often violently. Trees rot, stars explode, and the good die young. It is a hard struggle.

So, what is Paul getting at when he relates the Holy Spirit to these kinds of issues? Well, look at the text and ask yourself, how does the creation feel about the curse? What is its disposition? What emotion does Paul use of it, anthropomorphically? Pause here before reading on, and look at the text. Really, pause and look at verse 22. How does the creation feel?

Now, look at verse 23. After he addresses the creation, whose experience does he describe next? Look at verse 23. Read it, and then answer the following question: what emotion describes the human experience? Did you notice how he employs the same term to describe creation, generally, and mankind, specifically? The creation groans. And we groan. The nature of a cursed world produces suffering and groaning.

Now, here’s the kicker. Oftentimes, we cry out to God about our struggles, and we find it hard to relay the depth of our sorrows, discouragements, pains and hurts. In a weak moment, a Christian might feel like God just couldn’t understand—that he’s too far away, too far removed from whatever struggle he/she might be experiencing.

But verse 26 teaches us something profound. Not only does the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us, help us in our weakness, be he intercedes before God in a very particular way. Go look at verse 26, and ask this question: when the creation is groaning, and when we are groaning, how does the Holy Spirit feel? He also groans! He feels what we feel, and he articulates it before the Throne of Thrones in a way that we never could—for it is “too deep for words.”

Three times between verses 22-26, Paul employs a variant of the same Greek word, στενάζω, meaning to moan, sigh, or groan. It conveys a deep suffering that is felt to one’s core. And Paul says the Spirit feels it, too.

This kind of intimacy and bond with the Creator of the universe is unlike most religious conceptions of the divine. Whereas deities are often depicted as passive, distant, stoic figures, who couldn’t care less about the struggles of human beings, our Creator has placed his own Spirit within us, and he groans with us.

If God ever feels far away, the Christian may know that due to the Spirit, God is much closer than a brother, closer than a spouse, closer than the closest friend. And what’s more, he understands us beyond what we could even describe. What an awesome and loving God we serve. While we groan together, the Spirit groans with us. And yet, with great hope, we look forward to the redemption of our bodies and the renewal of God’s creation. Until then, let us find comfort in this shared struggle. For the creation, every human, and the Spirit Himself is groaning together.

Daniel Mayfield
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"Daniel serves as a preacher and teacher at the Oldham Lane Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas. He does this work with the invaluable aid, wisdom, and encouragement of his wife, Miranda. They have two young sons, Judah and Zion, and one beautiful daughter, Eden. Daniel had served in Oklahoma for nearly five years, before which time he and Miranda served as missionaries in the Caribbean. Daniel is a graduate of both Bear Valley and Oklahoma Christian University. His greatest passion is to preach the gospel of Jesus to anyone who will listen."