We are all too aware of the increasing number of terrorist attacks and civil unrest in many countries around the world. Yet, closer to home, there has been a more subtle and insidious attack, which has been going on for decades without any large scale ‘hue and cry’! This attack has taken the lives of thousands of our unborn through abortion and ruined the lives of countless adults and young people through the undermining of our Judaeo-Christian worldview on which our society has been formed. Regarding this, I believe God is calling us afresh, to hear his heart.
Over many years God has spoken profoundly to me through Romans 8:22, 26-27“We know that the whole of creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we await eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies… In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”
There is an incredible groan going on all around us, that will only increase as we draw towards the culmination of this age – we are living in a world that is out of step with its Creator. So much of what we are experiencing here in Ireland in my lifetime is the groan of a fallen creation. Paul likens it to childbirth – any mother will tell you that before the baby is born there is a travail – a heightening of the pain, the groan.
Living in this world we are not going to be exempt from experiencing that groan. In fact, it will put us in touch with the groan within us. Even at a very basic level we are only too well aware of our inner responses to people who “rub us up the wrong way”. The imperfections in others reveal the imperfections in us!! I believe God is saying to the church in Ireland, that we are not to ignore this groan. We are being called rather to embrace it, to get in touch with it. Not only is there the possibility of healing in this process for us, but it will enable the church to be empathetically right there in the midst of the pain: the abused child, the battered wife, the alcohol and drug addict, communities torn apart by sectarianism, the depressed and suicidal, people increasingly embracing alternative forms of spirituality which only serve to increase their spiritual blindness and bondage.
The world is not looking for a perfect church, it is however looking for a real one! It will respond positively to our honesty and reality about ourselves, but it will continue to reject any hypocrisy! This includes facing the idolatry of nationalism so endemic with our churches!
In the midst of grappling with the groan, Paul was lost for words. There is a sense within my spirit that we need to get to that place more often. In fact, our inadequacy in dealing with this groan draws us into a dynamic of intercession and intimacy with the Father’s heart for His world, that is not possible in any other way. To be in the place where the Holy Spirit groans and sighs within us, is the place where the Holy Spirit intercedes in tandem with the groan of the Father’s heart and in accordance with His will. The place of travail is the place of birthing. It is also the place in which we declare that God is on the throne, that we ourselves are unable to turn our nations around and that we need a sovereign move of His Spirit.
Lord, we long for You to move in power; There’s a hunger deep within our hearts, To see healing in our nation. Send Your Spirit to revive us. Heal our nation, Heal our nation, Heal our nation, Pour out Your Spirit on this land.
(Trish Morgan, Ray Goudie, Ian Townsend, Dave Bankhead. ©1986 Kingsway Thankyou Music.)