Lament and The Labor-Pains of New Creation
Lament is an important part of the Christian life. Scripture testifies to the importance of lament in books like Lamentations and the Psalms. But while there are no lament songs or explicit poems in the New Testament, the New Testament authors infuse lament throughout their depictions of suffering.
We find one example of this kind of lament in Romans 8:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of him who subjected it—in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage to decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. Not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits—we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. Now in this hope we were saved, but hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? Now if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience.
– Romans 8:18-25 (CSB)
In this passage, Paul describes creation as “subjected to futility” and “groaning together with labor pains.” We too “groan within ourselves” alongside creation. Lament is a passionate expression of sorrow, and Paul’s description of creation’s current state certainly fits that description. But Biblical lament fuses suffering and cries for help with hope. Psalm 130 shows us that:
Out of the depths I call to you, LORD!
Lord, listen to my voice;
let your ears be attentive
to my cry for help.
LORD, if you kept an account of iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that you may be revered.
I wait for the LORD; I wait
and put my hope in his word.
– Psalms 130:1-5 (CSB)
Psalm 130 describes a person who feels as though he is in the depths (a symbol of the grave, chaos, or death) and cries for the Lord. But in verse 4 the person turns around in hope because of what he knows about God. This is what Paul does in Romans 8 as well.
21 in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage to decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children
Creation may be in bondage and crying out for relief, but in the style of Biblical lament, creation is not hopeless. This personified creation has hope in what it knows about God: that the salvation God has accomplished for humanity will result in the entire creation made new. Paul describes the current state of creation as being in birth (Romans 8:22). Pain, suffering, and lament may exist now, but just like labor is temporary, so is the current state of the world. And just like the joy of new birth, so will the joy of new creation wipe every memory of suffering from our minds.
Christianity Is True ✝️
Extraordinary Claims Do Not Require Extraordinary Evidence (Featuring Dr. Tim McGrew) | Testify with Erik Manning 📽 →
Erik Manning’s YouTube channel Testify is full of entertaining and informative Christian apologetics videos. In this one, Manning responds to the common atheist claim that “extraordinary claims (such as that Jesus rose from the dead) requires extraordinary evidence.” Since we do not have an extraordinary kind of evidence that Jesus rose again, we can dismiss the claim out of hand.
Manning draws on Christian analytic philosopher Tim McGrew to respond to this claim. McGrew specializes in reasoning about evidence and determining how much confidence we can have in our conclusions. He doesn’t believe that we need an extraordinary kind of evidence to believe, but he does believe that we can have confidence that Jesus rose from the dead. Tune in to find out why.
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Christian mathematician and philosopher John Lennox and astrophysicist Paul Davies discuss the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe. They talk about the marks of design in the universe and in biology, as well as what extraterrestrial life would mean for Christians. It’s an interesting and entertaining discussion between two great minds.
Read and Reflect 📖
This is not an article to defend the resurrection as a historical fact (mostly). This article by Tim Keller instead shows us that the resurrection of Jesus gives us “hope for the future of society, of the human race—hope for a good direction to history.”
Keller argues for four points: (1) Christian hope is reasonable, (2) Christian hope is full, (3) Christian hope is realistic, and (4) Christian hope is effective. Together, this doesn’t just mean that our individual lives have hope (though it means that too), but that God has secured the hope of humanity. Furthermore, our hope isn’t “anxiously holding on but always ‘renewing [our] strength’ and even ‘soaring.’” Hope in God isn’t just something to cling to when we feel weak, it’s something to cling to that has the power to make us strong through our weakness.
Living This Christian Life 🤴👸
I’ve spent much of the last two years reading to my daughter. There’s something about the spoken word in a good story or poem (or Dr. Seuss rhyme) that is superior to reading it silently. Not every book should be read aloud, but it gives a new flavor to a book one has not heard aloud. There’s a reason that audiobooks have become so popular, after all.
Reading books aloud is also deeply intimate, as both the reader and listener. The words feel different as they leave my lips, words I’ve read to myself time and time again. I’m sharing an intimacy with the author, their words in my own voice. And as a listener, I can’t check my phone, I can’t let my mind wander, I’m engrossed in the story. It takes effort to listen, taking each word and sentence captive. Some of the greatest intimacies I’ve felt in relationships have been in moments of us reading aloud to one another, either our own words or an author we both love; full concentration on the words between us. How does something so small let you feel so cared for? Perhaps because it takes me back to the simplicity of childhood, my parents reading to me and the only thing expected of me was to take in the story.
I have taken to reading scripture aloud to myself. It slows my pace to notice things I otherwise wouldn’t have. It requires more of my attention that may otherwise be taken by a notification on my phone. Jesus, after all, was a storyteller. His parables were meant to be heard aloud. Jewish synagogues read scripture aloud and then discussed the text. Christian churches for millennia have read scripture aloud as part of their liturgy. Whether scripture or fiction, the discipline of reading aloud will help us to focus on the text and to read and think more deeply.
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Listen and Reflect 🎧
Famed Christian scholar and former Anglican bishop Tom Wright tackled a few tough questions on this podcast. First, is the fact that Jesus was the Word incarnated as a male human being essential or necessary? Or could Jesus have been incarnated as a woman (for example in a less patriarchal society)? Second, why doesn’t God explicitly ban polygamy in the Old or New Testaments? While I sometimes disagree with Dr. Wright on secondary issues, I think that he does a good job of digging for the underlying principles and going beyond the surface question.
Family Focus 🏡
I know that not all of my readers are married, but if you are not and want to be, this article will help you prepare for the marathon of marriage. Even if you choose singleness, the principles are general enough that they can apply to any close relationship which all humans need.
Paul Tripp gives us six commitments that we can make to have a lifestyle of reconciliation with our spouse. I love how each of his commitments involves giving, growth, or work. Lifelong marriage does not happen accidentally. It requires intentionality and commitment. One of Tripp’s commitments I found intriguing:
2. We will make growth and change our agenda.
We will pull weeds. You would tend to think that dissatisfaction is the enemy of marriage, but, in fact, the opposite is true.
Read through the article for more on each commitment Tripp recommends, and I have linked his book “Marriage” below which goes into these commitments in even greater detail.
- Marriage: 6 Gospel Commitments Every Couple Needs to Make | Paul David Tripp 📚
- What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage | Paul David Tripp 📚
- The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God | Tim Keller 📚
Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️
We [Christians] tar and feather any dissonant idea with the absolute worst ideologies we can imagine:
“Racism is still a problem.” So you’re saying we should abandon the gospel and embrace neo-Marxism.
“We need to keep the gospel first.” So you’re saying we should just shrug our shoulders at injustice.
“Black lives matter.” So you’re denying that all lives matter.
“The fact that over 70 percent of black children are born without married parents in the home should matter to us.” So you’re saying you’re a victim-blaming racist, and black people’s problems are completely their fault.
“Marriage is a complementary union between a male and a female.” So you’re saying you hate gay people.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we should shelter in place to protect the most vulnerable.” So you’re saying you’re anti-freedom and want us all to bow to tyranny.
“We should reopen the economy to help those whose livelihoods and mental health are being devastated by quarantine.” So you’re saying you want the virus to spread and more grandmas to die.
Thaddeus Williams gives us four reasons that Christians need to stop assuming the worst of others and start listening to one another. In some circles, it can even get to the point where being “right” about sociopolitical issues is more important than treating our brothers and sisters in Christ with respect and empathy.
There’s a form of arguing called “creating a straw-man” This happens when we take what the other person is saying and we twist it, whether consciously or subconsciously, to make it easier to argue against. We must make every effort not to do this. We should take what the other person is saying, help improve their argument if we can (create a steel-man), and then respond with grace and love. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are worth it.
- Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth: 12 Questions Christians Should Ask About Social Justice | Thaddeus Williams 📚
Keep Your Mind on Things Above
I will be praying for you this week.
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
—Romans 8:28 (CSB)