Theology of Groaning

Dear Grace,


I have this book called “Jesus Driven Ministry” by Ajith Fernando (a contemporary of Ravi Zacharias), in it the author says churches ought to develop a “Theology of Groaning.”  We evangelicals often focus on growth, worship, and the power of God, but we rarely focus on another side of the Christian life à groaning and lamentation.


Look at what it says about groaning in Romans 8:23 – “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.”


About this verse and the reality of life Ajith Fernando says, “Our thirst coming from the foretaste of heaven will clash with the reality of living in a fallen world, and the result is that we will groan sometimes.”(Jesus Driven Ministry, P. 141).  We face sickness, death, pain, rejection, and all the problems of living in this fallen world, and yet we have the hope of Jesus pointing us to what is to come.  But often times we focus so much on the positives of the Christian life we don’t allow for the pain of reality to be spoken between Christians in church or church settings.  Ajith points us to being biblically balanced by developing a theology of lamentation and groaning.


A description of a biblical lament goes something like this, “God, I am hurting; and, God, everyone else is laughing.  And, God, You are not helping very much either; and how long is it going to go on?” (OT scholar Christ Wright)


As Fernando puts it, “Those who have a theology of lament will have a place for emphasizing honest expressions of struggle.  And that place can exist alongside an emphasis on growth, power, and praise.  I think that sometimes we are so eager for growth that we have become like advertisers who give only the positive side of the product and avoid talking about its drawbacks.  I find that nowadays advertisers are required to read out the negative aspects of products.  And they usually do it softly and fast.  I think many churches have not caught on to that practice yet! They know that people will be attracted to the church if the message presented shows all the wonderful things that God can do.  For marketing reasons the problems Christians face are neglected.  And that has happened for so long that many people do not have a place for groaning in their understanding of the Christian life.” 


“When some talk about their problems in this environment, the other Christians don’t know what to do.  Sometimes those who share honestly face rejection and blame for not being good Christians.  Therefore, they learn to live without talking about their problem, unless it is the type that could become a prayer concern and be exposed through prayer to God’s wonder-working power.  So they will ask for prayer for healing and guidance and provision of a job or funds, but not for overcoming a hot temper, a bad habit, or discouragement.” 


“In a sense this situation gives evidence of a defective understanding of grace.  The biblical understanding is that grace is so great that Christians do not need to fear facing up to their sin.  Indeed sin is never justified in the Bible and therefore must always be condemned.  But grace is greater than sin, and grace cannot be applied unless we admit that we have sinned.  Therefore, if we desire the fullness of God’s grace in our lives, we will be eager to confess our sins so as to open the door to a rich experience of grace.” (Jesus Driven Ministry, p. 142)


Need I say more?








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