December 9 Devotional

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.

Opening Prayer: To the God who pursues. Our world is groaning around me and my heart groans with it. So many tears and questions, so many stillborn children, so much cancer and divorce, so many orphans and so much poverty. Closing my eyes doesn’t make the wailing stop; doesn’t turn the grief into joy. I hear your Spirit groaning with me, taking the cry of my heart to your throne. Hear our groans. Have mercy on us. (A Heart Exposed by Steven James)

Scripture Reading for the Day: Mark 7:31-37

Reading for Reflection: It is amazing how one little word can make so much difference, if we are paying careful attention. In this passage it is the word groaned. Jesus is sitting with a man who can neither hear, nor speak. He has pulled him aside, taken him away from the crowds, realizing fully that this poor soul has felt like the center of attention long enough - and for all of the wrong reasons. Now he gently puts his healing hands on the very places that have caused this man so many years of pain - his ears and his tongue. Then he looks up to heaven and what does he do? He groans. What is that all about? And what are we to do with a God who groans?

The scriptures talk about groaning in several places. The apostle Paul tells us that all of creation groans as in the pains of childbirth (Romans 8:18-22), waiting in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. He then goes on to tell us that we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship. (Romans 8:23) He expands on this particular groaning when he writes, “Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” (2 Corinthians 5:2-4) And finally Paul tells us that God himself even groans: the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words. (Romans 8:26) God groans for us. I think this is the kind of groaning that we see here in Mark 7.

Jesus sees a man whose life is filled with an enormous amount of pain and brokenness. And deep in his heart he is saddened by the thought that this is not the way it was intended to be. It did not have to be like this. His heart is broken over the pain and suffering of one of his dearly loved creations. So he groans. It is a groan filled with sadness and frustration. It is a groan that is also, at its core, filled with love and compassion.

What do you think about a God who groans? What do you think about a God who is heartbroken over our pain and brokenness? What do you think about a God who can’t keep his hands off of us, but longs to touch us deeply in the very places that have caused us the most pain; bringing them back to wholeness and fullness (creation intent) once again? (Being with Jesus by Jim Branch)

Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Hymn for the Day

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself

J & M are in their second year of serving in Creative Access using the platform of microfinance lending. Pray today for the 20 new women who are ready to receive loans to start or enhance their small businesses.

Bridges International serves the needs of international students adjusting to living and studying at the University of Tennessee. Pray today for the international students on campus that they may understand the love of Jesus during this Christmas season.

Closing Prayer: Loving God, the earth moans, in need of your healing. Help me be a peacemaker today—one who carries your vision and takes the small actions that contribute to healing for the world. Amen. (The Uncluttered Heart by Beth A. Richardson)