Disclaimer: I am not an expert on this subject.
Even typing the title of this blog makes me more than a little nervous that I will incur the righteous wrath of women everywhere. How could I, a male, possibly have anything to say about the pains of childbirth? But, hang with me for just a moment and hopefully things will make sense.
My beautiful bride is currently pregnant with our third child. Full…term…pregnant. She technically is not “overdue,” but both of our previous children came quicker than this third, stubborn kid. Needless to say, she already expected to be done.
This morning I awoke at 5am and rolled over to see her staring at the ceiling. Without even turning her head she said, “I have been awake since 3:30am having contractions…I think this might be it.” Yet, as time passed the contractions died down and so did our excitement.
The waiting is killing her (and me, though not at all in the same way) and she longs so badly to have and hold this kid that she literally is disappointed she is not yet in the full throttle pains of childbirth.
Her deep anticipation of joy has prepared her to persevere through the pain.
In Romans 8, the apostle Paul uses birth pain/anticipation language to describe the current state of all creation. He writes, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now (vv 19-22).”
Because of the humankind’s plunge into sin, all of creation is broken! It has been subjected to futility under the righteous judgment of God. But, there is a hope that it will be set free! And, creation is currently groaning with the pains that are akin to childbirth. Like a mother is enabled to endure labor for the joy of a coming child, so creation groans through the current curse of sin and death, longing for the joyous day of new creation! Creation is waiting.
But there is more…
The next thing Paul says is absolutely mind melting. Romans 8:23, “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
Christians are groaning like creation.
We are waiting…in pain…in anticipation…and the waiting is killing us…literally.
Like a mother in labor waiting for the birth…We are all in the midst of pain and suffering waiting for redemption.
We know this…we feel it everyday. Pain comes through physical, spiritual, and emotional avenues. Suffering is the one experience that universally connects all people. We all suffer.
Yet Paul says that, as Christians, we can lift our eyes and look beyond our suffering to a future day of glory…a day when our bodies, through which we experience all pain, will be redeemed. He would have us look to a coming day of joy…a coming day of glory!
Why? What good does a focus on the future do us now?
It does us endurance-enabling good! Just like a mother endures labor pains for the joy of a child set before her…just like creation endures futility for the joy of new creation set before it…so we endure the pains of this life for the joy of completed redemption set before us!
Did not Jesus endure the cross for the joy that was set before him? God empowers our endurance in the same way…with the joy of glory! Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
So often all I can see is my present pain and I begin to despair. But, I am to look to Jesus who is with me in the midst of pain and in whose presence I shall spend eternity! Through the joy of that truth God empowers endurance and makes me more than a conqueror amidst all my suffering that cannot separate me from Christ!
All of a sudden, I kind of understand my wife’s longing for the pains of childbirth to come. It’s not the pain she longs for, but the joy on the other side…and the deep anticipation of joy has prepared her to persevere through the pain in the present!
That is the way God empowers us to endure…through the present joy of future glory. The promise provides power in the present.
That is the joy of glory.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…
2 Corinthians 4:17