03 May 2007

Sudden Destruction from Which I cannot Escape?!

Why must the bible constantly compare childbirth to the worst imaginable pain and distress you can imagine? I don't find this particularly helpful when trying to prepare for what is ahead! Some of these heavy, and rather violent verses include:

For I heard a cry as of a woman in labor, anguish as of one giving birth to her first child,... (Jer. 4:31)

They will be dismayed: pangs and agony will seize them; they will be in anguish like a woman in labor. (Is.13:8)

...the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night....sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (1 Thess. 5)

I have to wonder what childbirth would have been like before the fall?

A friend of mine who recently had a baby, told me that while she was in labor, she kept thinking "Why did we have to sin?" As in, "Why did we have to sin in Adam?" Her husband later told her that she was not just thinking it, but actually said it aloud. Needless to say, she was a bit embarrassed in hindsight because of how the doctors and nurses might have misinterpreted what she said.

I have recently been comforted by some beautiful words by John Calvin in his commentary on John. It's a little surprising. Not that his words haven't given me encouragement many times in the past, but I can't say that his commentary would be the first place I would look for encouragement in the realm of childbirth! John 16:20 -22 compares labor and the resulting birth of a little soul to spiritual realities.

You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

In a strange way I almost feel privileged to be able to go though something so unique. This very human experience somehow reflects the anguish and groaning of creation as we wait for the redemption of all things, for the return of our Lord. What a vivid lesson! How many experiences turn from anguish to sudden joy in a moment?

Calvin comments on the privilege that Christians enjoy even now in the Spirit:

Having been regenerated by the Spirit of Christ, we ought to feel in ourselves such a joy as would remove every feeling of our distresses. We ought, I say, to resemble women in labor, on whom the mere sight of the child born produces such an impression, that their pain gives them pain no longer. But as we have received nothing more than the first-fruits, and these in very small measure, we scarcely taste a few drops of that spiritual gladness, to soothe our grief and alleviate its bitterness. And yet that small portion clearly shows that they who contemplate Christ by faith are so far from being at any time overwhelmed by grief, that, amidst their heaviest sufferings, they rejoice with exceeding great joy.

What will it be like to see our Saviour face to face? If we know Christ's presence by the Spirit in only "a few drops of that spiritual gladness" now, what will it be like to enjoy him perfectly, free from the bonds of sin?

I pray that as I'm going through the trials of labour, I can keep my eyes fixed on the blessing to come. May it teach me how to sojourn through this beautiful, yet fallen world. May the darkness never overwhelm me, but may my eyes be fixed on the joy set before me as my Saviour exemplified at the cross (Heb. 12:2).

I love how Calvin puts it later in his commentary on John 16:

…believers are like women in labor, because, having been born again in Christ, they have not yet entered into the heavenly kingdom of God and a blessed life; and they are like pregnant women who are in childbirth, because, being still held captive in the prison of the flesh, they long for that blessed state which lies hidden under hope.

May the Lord teach me through this trial what it truly means to "long for that blessed state which lies hidden under hope," trusting in the sufficiency of my Lord to accomplish it.







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