It was a beautiful English late summer’s afternoon. Dappled sunlight gently warmed the skin. A delicate breeze made the nearby leaves sway. Birds twittered their song. The smell of the freshly mown grass lingered. And a group of people gathered.
We gathered to bury a baby. Four weeks old.
The parents shared memories of her short life. The grandparents prayed. Scripture was read. Tears were shed. And we sung. Amazing Grace. Unaccompanied. Just our voices—sounding hauntingly beautiful.
I watched as the father carried the tiny coffin and placed it in the freshly dug hole. ‘No father should have to do that’ I thought.
Together we committed her body to God. As we did, the words of Romans 8:22 came to my mind.
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”
I watched tears fall…I watched people groan. The deepest places of our inmost being crying out…aching…groaning.
When we face death, tears are right. Groaning is good. Because, you see, death isn’t right. It was never part of God’s good creation. Death was never meant to be. But since that first rebellion against God…that first rejection of the God of life…all of creation has been in ‘bondage to decay’ (Romans 8:21). We might not understand it, but our experience surely testifies to it. The world does not function as it should do. Things are not as they should be. As we groan we affirm that death is not right.
But as Christians, our groans point to something else too. They point forward. Our groans express our yearning…our yearning for things to be put right…for sin to be dealt with…for decay to be gone…for death to be vanquished.
Just as the groans of childbirth, wrote Paul, point to the certain arrival of a baby, so too our groans look ahead to the sure hope of a new creation…to Christ coming again to usher in His Kingdom. Of that time when “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed way.” (Revelation 21:4)
Our groans give voice to our yearning for Jesus.
For the parents and family gathered around that grave, that was their hope. Sure and certain. Ask them why and they’d tell you.
“But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20)
Their hope was because of the resurrection. Because Jesus has conquered death. Defeated sin. Risen victorious from the tomb.
The resurrection. A foretaste of all that is to come. The certainty of what lays ahead for all who are “in Christ.” Like a bulb pushing its shoots through the soil, promising that fullness of new life is on its way, the resurrection crashes through the old order, announcing the arrival of a new order, and promising that it will most definitely come in all its splendour.
For the believer in Christ, the resurrection is so sweet.
“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.” (1 Corinthians 15:22-23)
Yes, we live in a world marked by decay. Yes, we are still confronted by death. Yes, we still experience sadness and grief. But like my friends gathered around the grave, if your hope is in Christ then you too can boldly proclaim 1 Corinthians 15:55,
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
This Easter, whatever you might be facing, however you might be groaning, know for sure that the resurrection changes things. The resurrection is our sure and certain guarantee of God’s future promises. So together let’s pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20)