This post is written for born again Christians. I want to throw out a crazy idea for you to ponder. Birth involves suffering, as we all know. Even a C-section or epidural does not remove the suffering from us, only changes it. Just like in the rest of life, there will be suffering in the pregnancy/birth/recovery/parenting process. It is no surprise to us and Jesus told us, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.
It is what we do with our suffering the separates us from the rest of the world. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 that our light and momentary afflictions are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond comparison. A look at Paul’s life tells us that his personal afflictions, those afflictions he calls light and momentary, were not light and momentary compared to what most of us experience: Beatings nearly to death, prison, shipwrecks, chains, court trials, insults, etc. So why does Paul make light of his troubles? Because he is comparing them to future glory. How can we hope to be like Jesus and skip over the suffering part? Romans 8:17 tells us, “And since we are his children, we will share his treasures – for everything God gives to his Son, Christ, is ours, too. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.”
The city of God that John describes in his revelation is encrusted with precious stones. The description is breath taking. But how are those precious stones formed? Gems are formed by tremendous heat and pressure. Pearls are created in the lonely dark by irritants. This is a metaphor for us, as believers. These are God’s building blocks for something glorious. Our suffering is transformed into glory beyond what we can picture, like the description of the resurrected, ascended, ruling in heaven Jesus in the book of Revelation. We belong to the overcomer of suffering! We can do more than hang on and endure; we can embrace our suffering. This is where birth and the Bible intersect beautifully. Scripture is full of birth metaphors. Later in Romans 8 it says, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. Quite obviously the suffering of labor is working something glorious for us. There is no question about that. It is our attitude toward suffering, in labor or anywhere in life that can use a Jesus overhaul. Jesus willingly went to the cross. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For the joy set before us we labor and deliver and then receive the precious reward. But how many of us go into labor with an attitude of willingness? So much of the pain of labor is caused by our fighting and tensing against the very contractions that speed our reward into the world. We embrace an attitude of escape, numbing our bodies to pain, no matter what the consequences to ourselves and babies.
What I am suggesting is not the old Catholic church doctrine of refusing ourselves comfort because we are cursed as women with pain in childbirth. That stems from a misunderstanding of the curse in Genesis 3:16. We read Scripture in context and we see that the serpent is cursed first. He is cursed with emnity between himself and the woman and likewise between their offspring. A very literal reading of the text might end with the conclusion that my grandmother will hate snakes. And she does. Like no one I’ve ever seen. She is from Kentucky, the snake capital of the U.S. which may explain some extra emnity there. But we know that this is prophecy about Jesus and Satan. Next is Eve’s turn. She is cursed with bringing children forth in pain. Continuing along the same line, let us take a peek at the lineage of Jesus. Every notable woman mentioned in the line of Jesus brought forth her child in pain: physical, emotional, psychological pain. The suffering servant comes from a long line of pain. Eve saw her son murdered by her first born. Sarah suffered the cultural humiliation of barreness until 90. Leah was unloved by her husband. Follow the meaning of her sons’ names for a look at her heartache and desperation. Tamar was abused and rejected. Mary had to endure humiliation, loss of reputation and possible death sentence because of her immaculate conception. Like our Saviour, these women were well acquainted with grief and suffering. It is no coincidence that the greatest words on suffering have been penned by the apostle Paul, of the tribe of Benjamin, the son that Rachel named “her sorrow.” Yes, we are promised increased pain in childbirth, but a bigger picture of suffering in the curse is found in the lineage of Jesus.
We are promised comfort in our troubles. God’s Holy Spirit is our personal Comforter. (2 Corinthians 1:3 – 7)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
The next few verses seem written just for birth:
For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death (Sounds like that moment right before the baby emerges!). But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
Pain relief is merciful. It is not sinful. It is our escape at all costs attitude that is sinful. The act of yielding ourselves to the birth process that God created, putting our trust in his goodness, his design and his comfort is embracing the suffering. Though we should have caregivers that we trust, we should not put our trust in caregivers, doctors and nurses. We have to educate ourselves on how our bodies work and what potential God created in them to complete the task set before them. We may need extra help with birth. We may actually need pain relief from modern medicine. But anything less than giving our best does not bring God glory. And it does not work in us an eternal glory. I love what Rachel Marie Stone says in her article for Christianity Today “Christ’s Labor on the Cross” (April 2015). “Birth is not passive, pointless, cruel suffering. It is active work—labor. Women who have given birth sometimes speak of the great sense of strength and triumph they feel when their baby finally emerges. These mothers suffered pain, perhaps even risked death, to bring forth someone new, to bring forth new life. And so when Jesus goes to the cross ‘or the joy set before him’ as the writer of Hebrews puts it, it’s not masochistic, nor is it passive. He puts forth strength and endurance; like childbirth, it is a commitment to struggle.”
This struggle does not end with birth. We plan our lives around avoiding discomfort. When we embrace the struggle that is parenting and quit complaining about it, we are free to enjoy it. Let us roll up our sleeves and dive in with our whole hearts, Christian mamas! The whole messy experience of birth, life and existence in a fallen world is working for us an eternal weight of glory beyond comparison. Lord, help us to step out of our own way and be led by you, even down a path of suffering because we trust you that you will not fail to comfort us, that you work all things for our good, and our eyes are on the eternal! Amen.
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