God’s gift of groaning
We live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7
Peter M. Prange
“Don’t get too comfortable.” I offer that guidance to my children when we’ve got someplace to go. Don’t take off your shoes. Don’t even remove your jackets. Be prepared when it’s time to head out the door. Simply put, don’t get too comfortable.
We like comfortable, though, don’t we? It appeals to us. But bodily comfort can be damaging to the human soul. It can so easily serve as a tranquilizer to Christian faith, lulling us to spiritual sleep. Bodily comfort can be dangerous, even deadly.
That’s why Jesus responded the way he did to the rich man who thought he had everything he needed stored up for many years. Jesus scolded him. “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (Luke 12:20). That wretched fool had put his hope in the comfortable things of this world—a deadly decision. It’s why our Lutheran forefathers taught their people to pray for the Lord Jesus to rescue them from luxury, because luxury can be so poisonous.
Who in their right mind would offer such a prayer? Only someone who lives by faith and not by sight. Someone like St. Paul.
The apostle had learned from experience that Jesus uses groaning to serve our ultimate good. Ironically, groaning is a gift from God. It’s as if Jesus has put us up in tents in this world, and “while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened.” But our gracious Savior has his reasons. It’s no mistake. Indeed, he “fashioned us for this very purpose.”
And what is his purpose? He doesn’t want us to get too comfortable. Instead, he wants us to be prepared for that remarkable moment when all our dying and groaning is “swallowed up by life” once and for all. Then we will trade in our quickly-expiring earthly existence for “our heavenly dwelling” that is truly imperishable (2 Corinthians 5:4,5).
Jesus’ main life lesson is this: We are called to “live by faith, not by sight,” so we shouldn’t get too comfortable here. Our Savior has far greater things in store for us, and those divine gifts will last forever. Then the groaning stops, and true, wholesome, and eternal comfort begins in Christ.
Embracing our cross
It’s the central scriptural truth that a young friar named Martin Luther discovered in the monastery and then proclaimed to his dying day. He called it “our theology,” the theology of the cross. In April 1518—five hundred years ago this month—Brother Martin presented the cross-centered theology he found in Holy Scripture to a group of monks and scholars gathered in the German city of Heidelberg. His words caused a stir, and the reason was simple. They ran so counter to our broken and backward worldly thinking. Young Luther was imploring his listeners to heed the urgings of St. Paul to “live by faith, not by sight.”
But we sinners prefer comfortable. The sooner, the better. Even St. Paul had to admit that about himself, because he was a sinner too. But Jesus opens our spiritual eyes to see the divine purpose behind our groaning, behind our suffering, behind our lack of comfort in this world. It’s no accident. It’s no divine oversight. It has a godly purpose, and that purpose is good.
Our groaning compels us to live by faith, not by sight, and the comfort of that blessed faith is eternal.
Contributing editor Peter Prange is pastor at Bethany, Kenosha, Wisconsin.
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Author: Peter M. Prange
Volume 105, Number 4
Issue: April 2018
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