“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Romans 8:22)
St. Paul is talking about the tough stuff of life -- the ugly, crummy, miserable side, our suffering and our pain. I need not cite examples, the evidence is everywhere. In his letter to the Romans, he proclaims that, although life can be extremely unjust, perhaps agonizing, it is but a small blip compared to the endless glory, beauty, and wisdom of God -- the peace and rest we will all experience when are with him face to face.
I have been pregnant for a long, nine months now. I got through the first part where I puked everyday and past out in exhaustion every morning. I got through the middle part, where aside from all those little pregnancy joys like swelling and heartburn, I felt pretty good. Now I am limping my way to the finish line, sweating, heaving, big as a beached whale panting for just a dollop of refreshing water on a hot, Florida beach. If you think this is complaining, you should have been a fly on my wall the last two months. I think my general crankiness and complaints reached near epic proportions, and I probably owe Lydia, Bo, and Jesus a heartfelt apology. But in all the struggles of pregnancy there is a saving grace. There is a finish line ahead, an end-point, and a very great reward: getting to see my son’s little face.
Over the course of these nine months, I have been mediating on St. Paul’s words, “all creation groans as in the pains of labor.” With labor being just around the corner it made me see his metaphor in a fresh, new way. Any mother knows, labor is painful, but it is also the most unique pain there is. It is intentional, purposeful, and most importantly, it has an end-goal and a great reward. It’s amazing, but if pain has a purpose and a reward, it is so much easier to endure.
How does this relate to our human suffering? Many will and have argued that we suffer wantonly, without meaning. In other words, the labor pains are arbitrary. Poet Matthew Arnold suggested this most vividly in his poem Dover Beach, “We are here as on darkling plain, filled with chaos and strife, while ignorant armies clash by night.” Suffering, ignorance, and pain, it’s all chaos with no ultimate meaning.
But to the Christian, all suffering is bundled into God’s suffering. All suffering has some mysterious meaning and redemptive purpose. We don’t know the full mystery of our pain yet, but we know that it will one day be revealed to us. God put his very life on that. The resurrection of His Son, Jesus God incarnate, is our promise that whatever we have suffered, either corporately or individually, small or large, will be redeemed.
More than this glorious mystery, there is a great reward. For just as surely as I will look into the beauty of my son’s face, we too will gaze upon the beauty of the Son’s face.
Nine months of pregnancy and several bottles of antacids, made me think more on the goodness of God and his promises. Our suffering is meaningful and there is a great, goal in sight. Whatever you are dealing with today, you can hand it over to Jesus and have the promise of an end, a reward, a redemptive act after the pain is over.