Grieving and Groaning with God

It’s hard to feel Christ’s peace and to act with His grace when the environment you’re in is full of negativity and contention. At least it’s hard for me. I recently spent a few days in that kind of relational setting, and it left me feeling like a spiritual failure. Instead of bringing light to the darkness, as I had prayed ahead of time to do, I felt as if the darkness sucked me in. I tried to pray, but my prayers only seemed to ricochet off the ceiling. God seemed a trillion miles away.

Later, when I was able to talk with God about it, I confessed my sense of defeat. Why did You seem so far away? I asked. Why was praying so hard? Why couldn’t I stay near You so I wouldn’t get taken out?

The Holy Spirit’s answer surprised me. What I think I heard Him say was, I was quiet but I never left you. I was quiet because I was grieving, too. You weren’t the only one who felt the oppression and sadness in that place. I went there with you; I felt it all, too.

It wasn’t news to me that the Holy Spirit has emotions. As a Person, He, like the rest of the godhead, feels. I knew that He can be quenched (1 Thess. 5:19) or grieved (Eph. 4:30).  But I’d never thought about Him being grieved by the same things, at the same time, as I was grieved. Who knows? Perhaps the grief I was feeling didn’t even originate with me—maybe its source was the Spirit in me!

At any rate, I felt His consolation as I pondered this idea. There is something comforting about having someone to cry with. The Holy Spirit’s grief validated the grief I was feeling. It didn’t change circumstances, but it made me realize that feeling what I was feeling (instead of peace and joy) was appropriate in God’s eyes.

I asked the Holy Spirit how to avoid missing Him when I encounter similar challenging situations in the future. Romans 8:26 came to mind: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (ESV).

I realized that I had seemed to be missing God in that situation because I’d been looking for the wrong thing. I was thinking that somehow if I were truly in step with the Him that all would seem right with the world. But the world I was in most definitely did not seem right. What the Holy Spirit seemed to be telling me was that it was not right with Him, either. Why should I think I should be feeling perfect peace when He was grieving and groaning?

I had jumped the gun. I had been trying to be content in whatever situation I found myself in (Phil 4:11)—and bypass anything that felt yucky. But that’s not how Jesus does it (e.g. Isa. 53:3, Lk. 19:41, Jn. 11:35, Heb. 5:7). And it’s not how the Holy Spirit does it. So why should I try to do it that way?

It seems that the Holy Spirit is inviting me to groan and grieve with Him when circumstances call for it. Those groans become prayers of intercession, Him praying in me, for me, and through me in my weakness. I’d rather pray prayers of joy and thanksgiving. But sometimes nights of weeping must precede mornings of joy (Ps. 30:5).

What about you? I’d love to hear from those of you who have grieved and groaned your prayers to God in the company of the Holy Spirit. What was that kind of praying like for you?


17 thoughts on “Grieving and Groaning with God

  1. Louisa Hill says:

    Thank you so much for enlightening the eyes of my spiritual understanding. I think that popular spiritual thought leads us to think that God with us means that we’ll always be happy, content and cheerful. However, I see that the Holy Spirit desires to express Himself through us. I have a better understanding now of what it means to not quench the Spirit, grieve the Spirit and to be lead by the Spirit. Thank you so much.

  2. Doris says:

    This is a new perspective to consider, God’s silence being an expression of grieving with me.. I have known that God grieves with us and partakes in our sorrows. There have been times when I, too, felt that my prayers were just bouncing off the ceiling and I was not feeling the presence of God. There have been times when my grief could not be expressed in words, just the groaning of my spirit in pain of my sorrows. What a God we have that walks so close to us, in us, that He experiences the depth of our grief and interprets our groanings. He is the strength of my life and gives me grace to continue. Praise Him! Thank you so much for this writing.

    • cbezek says:

      I think I want to clarify something about the idea of “silence = God is grieving.” Have you ever cried with someone? I have. Both of us were feeling the same pain, and we both were moved to tears. For maybe ten minutes there were no words exchanged between us, but there was a deep companionship, understanding, and connection. I think that is what the Holy Spirit was inviting me to that day. I didn’t recognize Him that time, but I hope to the next time.

  3. Tisha says:

    This was extremely helpful. Thanks!

  4. Yes! During a recent mission in Viet Nam, our team came face-to-face with suffering we had never imagined in abandoned and abused children. One of our team members finally broke and sobbed inconsolably for two hours. She was embarrassed until I suggested that her tears were holy. The context in Romans 8:22-27 speaks about creation’s groaning, our human inward groaning, and the Spirit’s groaning within us. Four chapters later Paul commands us to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). We should not be surprised if the Spirit uses our sobs and tears as part of God’s intercession.
    Our sorrow is not without hope! Writing in a different context, Paul calls to see that “godly sorrow” brings a readiness and an eagerness to see justice done (II Corinthians 7:11, NIV). And this calls us to a different experience of God’s peace.
    Thanks for sharing God’s invitation with us.

  5. pastordennisking says:

    Cynthia, your post was quite helpful to me. I’ve been going through a prolonged season of deep dissatisfaction about something related to our church life, and I tend to question why i feel the way I do and wonder if my perspective is distorted. Yet the sense of restlessness refuses to go away when I pray. Your words caused me to realize that it’s quite possible the reason I can’t seem to escape this inward struggle is that the Holy Spirit is dissatisfied with the situation and I’m experiencing His groanings, not just my own. That makes a huge difference in my thinking about . Thank you!

  6. Ferree Hardy says:

    Dear Cynthia, I, too, want to go straight for contentment and bypass the sorrow. What you’ve written here helps me patiently endure, and even glory in this intensely personal, although silent, way the Holy Spirit may come alongside us as our Comforter. I think we all long for human comforters who will simply “be there” with us, but have never expected that sort of comfort from the Holy Spirit—Thank you for opening my eyes to this possibility and unexpected way to consider God’s presence. I hope to send my readers to this post on Monday.

    • cbezek says:

      Yes, the Spirit-to-spirit type of consolation is a bit of a mystery, isn’t it? Let’s share more of this with each other as we continue on our journeys. And thank you so much for sharing my blog with our audience.

  7. Polly says:

    Thank you for this wonderful encouragement. I, too, often feel like such a failure when I go into those kinds of situations- I feel like I’ve lost God or left him behind somehow…It’s good to ponder that he is there, ever present, he is grieved as well, it may help me to pray better to be aware of that.

    • cbezek says:

      Thanks for sharing, Polly. I don’t wish another of these situations for you anytime soon–but if you do see a difference next time you must be in those tough circumstances, I’d like to hear how experiencing it with God changes the experience for you.

  8. Wonderful articulation of how the Spirit is present in grief! I experienced similar understanding during a season of multiple miscarriages. My worship became heavy for a while…..then empty. I struggled because I thought worship was meant to be wholehearted, encouraging, comforting, full of zeal. Mine wasn’t. But I spoke with the Lord about this and He confirmed that this was ok. I didn’t understand how it could be. But I continued to speak blessing toward Him even without the emotion and “sense” of blessing. Now I know why He’s ok with it. He understands grief all too well. Every tear that fell during that season was laden with His presence – I knew it, I could sense it even though it did not comfort me……yet.


    • cbezek says:

      TL, Have you ever wished the church did better at singing laments? The Psalms are full of them, and they connect me (and others, I suspect) to God better than happy-clappy songs sometimes. Your faithfulness to bless the Lord even when you were grieving must have been a treasure to Him.

  9. Lacy Finn says:

    Cynthia, Thank you for this post. Thank you for this reminder. I was here yesterday and today. Oh to know God grieves with me.

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