What Does the Journey Look Like

Life is, of course, a journey. Romans 8 indicates it’s a journey of hope from futility to glory: “The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (vv20-21). The Christian life is, in other words, one long transition from frustration and emptiness to freedom and fullness.

Further, Paul indicates there’s a soundtrack playing as we go: “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (vv22-23). According to these verses, the soundtrack of life is not the triumph of “Pomp and Circumstance” or the celebration of “The Wedding March.” If we had ears to hear at the heart level, we would hear groaning. Sighing. The sounds of suffering, futility, pain, and decay. Can you hear it?

So what does Christian groaning sound like? Paul says “the creation was subjected to futility in hope” (v20). That these are the “pains of childbirth” (v22), anticipating something better on the other side. That we “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly” (v23). That “we were saved in hope” (v24). These descriptions don’t sound like the ghastly groans of a haunted house; they sound hopeful, expectant, even eager. Apparently, Christian groaning is something altogether different from venting and complaining. So what is it? What does Christian groaning sound like?

It sounds like the Psalms of lament. Fully 1/3 to 1/2 of the Psalms—i.e., the songbook of the Bible—are laments. Even Jesus, in His moment of deepest suffering, prayed a psalm of lament: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Ps 22:1)

As I indicated last week, biblical lament follows a consistent structure: address, complaint, request, rationale, and praise. The structure itself is significant. In fact, it’s this structure that makes a lament what it is. This is the recipe. These are the essential ingredients. Without these, you’re left with something less than a biblical lament.

Next week, I’ll begin to delve into this structure in more detail, but for now take a look at Psalm 13 and see if you can find all five components—address, complaint, request, rationale, praise.