Tuesday, April 02, 2024

Sighing and Groaning

“Put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed.”

Our brothers in Christ over in the Reformed camp are haggling back and forth about Christian Nationalism a great deal these days. But any differences of opinion within the ranks of the fastest growing faction in evangelicalism are not concerning the question of whether a political movement to bring the nations of the world under the government of Christ is a good idea. They decided that issue long ago. Their eschatology and theology both demand it.

From the Reformed perspective, it’s not about whether we should fight, but about how we do it.

Coherent Dispensationalism

Meanwhile, coherent dispensationalists — those of us who are convinced only the personal return of Christ to this world in power and glory can ever mend its ills — sigh and groan, much like the godly in Judah during the days leading up to the sacking of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans. Or, if we do not sigh and groan, at very least we ought to aspire to it.

Perhaps that sounds to you like our view of our world’s future leading up to the return of Christ is bleakly pessimistic or defeatist. I would argue that is not the case. We are simply doing what the godly have done throughout history: waiting for our Deliverer, and longing for the delivery only he can provide.

In defense of our pessimism, defeatism and apathy about political activism — and let me stress that these are only apparent — consider the following:

1/ Sighing and Groaning is Realistic

I would argue that mourning the fallen state of this world in general and the cesspool the West has become in the last century is a far more realistic outlook than rallying the troops to overthrow the system, subvert it, or vote your way out of this mess we are in. God has not called you to overthrow it, subversion is the last resort of anyone with a truly Christian worldview, and voting only works when you have the numbers to impose your will on the minority and no shenanigans exist within the electoral system. Those who anticipate changing the system by changing the minds of men and women within the system through the preaching of the gospel need to stop and ask themselves how that has worked out for us historically: even the West over the last 2,000 years has been one step forward and three steps back. Are we working on a 10,000 year plan now? And, if so, what are we going to do differently than in the past?

Sighing and groaning recognizes our feeble state and our utter dependence on the hand of God. That is not a bad place to be.

2/ Sighing and Groaning has Biblical Precedent

Not only were there men and women sighing and groaning over the moral conditions in Judah during the time of Ezekiel, sighing and groaning went on among the faithful throughout the days of Ahab. How that expressed itself differed from person to person. Elijah proclaimed God’s judgment, then ran, hid and subsisted. That was not a fun time. 7,000 men quietly refused to bow the knee to Baal, but their political influence was nonexistent. I’m sure many of them ground their teeth at their enforced passivity. Some died at the hand of Jezebel. Likewise, undesirable. Some hid in caves and ate bread and water, and some worked within the system to subvert it because the alternative of certain death or compliance with godless authority was worse than deception.

Do I need to go on about how much fun that sort of life would have been, looking over your shoulder all the time? I guarantee you all these men and women sighed and groaned, and God was working among them. They were not failures or defeatists. They didn’t need to sit and pick their own brains for a better strategic approach. They were God’s people doing his work as best they could in a really, really bad time. Sighing and groaning in sympathy with the heart of God was the best they could offer him.

3/ Sighing and Groaning has its Reward

God loves people who sigh and groan over the sin around them. He marks them out for us in scripture. “As that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard.” What did God do for righteous Lot, with all his failings? He delivered him from Sodom. “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked.” What did God do for the groaning godly in the days of Malachi? He held them up as examples to the world, he commemorated their contemplations and he promised them deliverance. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” These were not God’s shock troops to conquer the world. They were barely hanging on. Yet in no instance does God require it of them that they marshal their energies or intellects to produce their own deliverance.

The fact is that sighing and groaning in times of wickedness gives God pleasure. He loves it when we feel the way he does about sin. If that’s all you’ve got, it’s more than enough for him.

Doing Waiting Right

Christians in the West are a small minority. Christians in the West who serve the living and true God and are waiting for his Son from heaven are in an even smaller minority. The truth is that we are not here to recreate the Father’s house on earth in order to invite Christ down to be impressed with all our hard work. He is there preparing a place for us, not the other way round. But while we are waiting for the call, let’s be sure we are doing waiting right:

  • Sighing and groaning is not mocking and despising. Yes, we are called to hate sin and distance ourselves from it. Strong language has its place in rebuking evildoers, but schoolboy mockery of the Left by Christians serves no useful purpose. Yes, the Left’s worldview is foolish and incoherent, but it has transformed Western civilization in record time and thoroughly exposed the pointlessness of imposing Christian standards of behavior on those who have no living relationship with Christ. That’s a serious problem, and we need to address it with appropriate seriousness.
  • Sighing and groaning is not passivity. Waiting for the return of Christ is not a passive exercise. The two epistles to the Thessalonians are the antidote to that idea. First of all, we need to get our eschatology straight. The Day of the Lord had not been realized in its finality when Paul wrote those letters, and it has not come today. That settled, we need to get working. Paul toiled and labored night and day in view of the Lord’s return, and we should do the same. Even if we have to do the modern equivalent of hiding in a cave, we can encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, admonish the idle and pray without ceasing. There is plenty to do in the name of the living and true God as we wait for the exaltation of his Son. None of that need be overtly political.
  • Sighing and groaning is not despair. What is our “blessed hope”? Paul says it’s “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ”. Now ask yourself what “blessed” means. In a word, it means happy. It is appropriate to sigh and groan as we consider the state of the world. To do anything else is to misunderstand the mind of God toward injustice, oppression, delusion and idolatry. But the prospect of Christ’s return is a source of ceaseless joy and energy. As we wait for his Son from heaven, let us be a happy people, knowing that each day we wait brings us one day closer to his return.


  1. Tom, I needed this article. Thank you.

  2. Somebody in my neighborhood is posting stickers that say, "Jesus is coming soon. Repent!" I don't know if they work, but I can't help but feel a thrill when I see them. He really is. Thanks for the encouragement.