A Shared Experience With Different Outcomes
You’re all sat together, crammed into a bus, a plane or a car. Different people, all from different backgrounds but all having the same shared experience. To share experiences in this way is quite a normal concept. However, sometimes the outcomes are so vastly different that it is hard to believe that the experience was the same.
A few years ago I stood in Jordan in the place where Jesus, supposedly, stood and cast out the demoniac in Mark chapter 5. My experience, as I stood there and read the Bible passage to our group who were visiting the area, was very different from the Muslim traders selling their goods nearby. The same experience, different outcomes.
A world that is groaning
As a human race, we all journey through the same experience of life. Yes, there are many differences, but generally speaking there is at least one thing that is common. We all live in a Romans 8 world, that is a world that is groaning. We live in a world that is crying out to be made new. Seas roar, trees creak, animals howl and the earth shakes because it all knows that something is wrong. We see wars raging, evil people committing atrocities for personal gain and a world that is crumbling as sin has taken root. Like dry rot in a wooden barn, we hear the creaks, we feel the instability and at times it’s scary.
Yet, not only does the earth have that shared experience, we also do as human beings. We feel the sting of death. We feel the tears well up as the grave is filled over and the earth swallows yet another loved one. We feel the pain of broken bodies that yearn for the day they will be made new. We feel the heartache of that doctor’s appointment, that relationship breakdown and that financial blow. We long for the day where sin no longer impacts our day to day lives and hurts our relationships, our loved ones, our world and ourselves.
We have the feeling deep in our stomach that something isn’t right. We feel disgusted at injustice and angry at death. We feel wronged when the ‘bad guys’ win and the ‘good guys’ lose. We have the same common experience of living in a world and in bodies that groan. We long to be made new, to be recreated and to be reunited with God in perfect harmony as we were created to be!
Groaning points to Jesus
Although our common experience is groaning, the destination is not the same. Some try to fill their groaning with all sorts of distractions, always on the lookout for that new thing to scratch the itch, but the groaning always comes back. No amount of money, worldly possessions, relationships or earthly desires is able to fix a spiritual problem. The reason we feel the groaning is because, whether we believe it ourselves or not, the world is corrupted by sin and needs to be redeemed, made right with its Creator. To try and ‘fix’ that relationship with earthly things is like closing up open heart surgery with a waterproof plaster from the pound shop, it just won’t work!
There are others who realise that the groaning is not pointless or meaningless, but that it points us to a glory that far outweighs the pain and problems we face in this life. No amount of stuff will solve our problems or our groanings. No amount of pleasures will heal our pain. No amount of stuff will fix our sin. The solution is not found within us but in him!
The solution to our groaning is Jesus, not because he takes us out of our mess and into a perfect life of bliss and constant happiness. Jesus doesn’t say, ‘Come to me and I’ll give you prosperity and happiness.’ Jesus says, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest’ (Matt. 11:28). That rest is partly felt in this life, but it ultimately points to the eternal rest and peace that we will have with God in the New Creation. The groanings of life are pointing towards that glorious day.
How is that even possible? How can a sin-stained broken world be reconciled with God and offered rest? It’s because Jesus took on our groaning so that he could give us glory. He took our separation from God and in its place gave us the gift of a new family. He died so that we can live.
From groaning to glory
Though our experiences in one sense are shared and though we’re bound together in this groaning, the outcome is different. For some the groanings push them towards the solution in Jesus, yet others are pushed deeper into their rebellion and self-gratification.
Each day you groan, every moment you live and every breath that you breathe is an invitation to come to the only one who can turn your groaning to glory. It’s a call to come to the one who takes your cross and gives you a crown. It’s a call to see the shared experience but also to see the beauty of a relationship with the Creator, the relationship that you were created to enjoy.
Christians have a shared experience and a shared message; come to Jesus and find rest for your weary, groaning soul and be at everlasting peace and rest. A peace and rest that will never fade or fail because it is secure and it is built on Jesus Christ.
A previous version of this article first appeared on www.achalmersblog.com