I have indeed heard the people of Israel say mournfully, ‘We were like a calf untrained to the yoke. You disciplined us and we learned from it. Let us come back to you and we will do so, for you are the Lord our God.
[Jer 31:18 NET]
The spiritual feeling of sin is indispensable to the feeling of salvation. A sense of the malady must ever precede, and prepare the soul for, a believing reception and due apprehension of the remedy. Wherever God intends to reveal his Son with power, wherever he intends to make the gospel “a joyful sound” indeed, he first makes the conscience feel and groan under the burden of sin. And sure am I that when a man is laboring under the burden of sin, he will be full of groans.
The Bible records hundreds of the groans of God’s people under the burden of sin. “My wounds stench and are corrupt,” cries one, “because of my foolishness. I am troubled—I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long” (Psalm 38:5, 6). “My soul,” cries another, is full of troubles, and my life draws near unto the grave” (Psalm 88:3). “He has led me,” groans out a third, “and brought me into darkness, but not into light” (Lam. 3:2). A living man must cry under such circumstances. He cannot carry the burden without complaining of its weight. He cannot feel the arrow sticking in his conscience without groaning under the pain. He cannot have the worm gnawing his vitals without groaning of its venomous tooth. He cannot feel that God is incensed against him without bitterly groaning that the Lord is his enemy.
Spiritual groaning then, is a mark of spiritual life, and is one which God recognizes as such. “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself.” It shows that he has something to mourn over; something to make him groan, being burdened; that sin has been opened up to him in its hateful malignancy; that it is a trouble and distress to his soul; that he cannot roll it like a sweet morsel under his tongue, but that it is found out by the penetrating eye, and punished by the chastening hand of God.