“I didn’t think I could go on.”
“Why did no-one tell me?”
These were the descriptions of child-birth at our ante-natal class reunion last Saturday. The scars, of all kinds, were still very fresh and one horror story quickly snowballed into the next.
Our teacher said, “I didn’t tell you about the more gory details, because sometimes you can know too much. And for lots of people it’s a really beautiful experience.”
There was murder in her listener’s eyes, so she left to boil the kettle.
Too much information can be a dangerous thing. But the Bible doesn’t take a soft approach. From page one we are warned:
I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labour you will give birth to children. (Genesis 3:16)
Creating life has always been a messy, painful, even life-threatening, business. There is no new life without blood-shed, without suffering, without mortal danger. Even before sin.. seeds get buried in order to grow. Or Genesis 2: Eve is created out of Adam’s death-like sleep. From Genesis 3 onwards, new life comes through pain and sacrifice.
The cross and resurrection is written into our world at a profound level. And it’s a picture of life far beyond the womb:
A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. (John 16:21)
Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth-pains. (Matthew 24:7-8)
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Romans 8:22)
Some of these pains involve the tragedies of child-bearing itself – miscarriage and still-birth and infertility. Others are cosmic – like wars and earthquakes. But Jesus calls them “birth pains” instead of “death thros”. Because after the pain, there is birth. And just as every woman began her story last Saturday with words like “awful”, each ended with the same refrain – “it was worth it.”
Whatever the pains we are facing – bereavement, addiction, singleness, childlessness or pregnancies lost – there is a birth to come that will swallow up even these sorrows. With tears we will share our stories. But by God’s grace we will know His comfort and we will say, with Him, “it was worth it.”