By Contributing Writer, Yvonne Harink
If you google the word “labor pain” your screen will likely fill up with posts all related to the pain of child-bearing. Images of contractions and the anguish of a woman in travail will likely fill your mind. Yet, as women, we do well to remember the Bible’s teaching that we are not the only ones who go through labor pain.
Just look at the dictionary definition of the word:
labor, labour: Exertion, physical or mental, or both, undergone in the performance of some task or work; particularly, the exertion of the body in occupations by which subsistence is obtained; the performance of work; toil; the pangs and efforts of childbirth; to be burdened; to suffer; to till; to cultivate; bearing the marks of constraint and effort; opposed to easy or natural…
The Glory of Labor – the Pain of Labor
As humans we were created for the high calling, privilege and glory of work. As image bearers we get to be co-workers with our Creator to develop this earth. It’s the Fall that brought on the pain. Because of man’s disobedience God cursed the soil and pronounced man’s verdict:
“Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; …In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread… To the woman he said: ‘I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children…’” (Genesis 3: 10-19)
If it were not for the promise of a Savior, all labor would have come to an end. There would have been death. But God mercifully promised to send His Son, who would save mankind. Isaiah 53:11 describes Christ’s work as “travail,” the very word the Bible often uses to describe a woman’s labor pain: “He shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied”.
Christ suffered the deepest agony in his life and death, in order to restore us to our original calling: work.
“We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them”. (Eph. 2:10)
Any good work that we do here on earth, done in true faith, to God’s glory, is done in His power and enables us to share in His suffering and His glory.
Adam’s calling was to labor at cultivating the earth, conquering it, having dominion over every part of it. Because of the reality of sin, the labor really would become warfare. Whether he worked with his hands or with his head, life would be a series of problem solving, decision-making, and risk taking. Labor would involve blood, sweat and tears.
Satan would have his ways and means of sowing thorns and thistles in the fields, spreading lies and discord in relationships, and making sure that everything built with human hands would slowly erode, wear out and break. Human bodies would inevitably suffer sickness, break down, and eventually die. All the labor-saving devices would only increase man’s responsibility to do more. Yet despite the pain, Adam and his progeny were commissioned to embrace good work, and they were promised glory in the task.
Eve, on the other hand, was created for a different purpose. The Bible specifies a division of labor, each with its own realm of glory and pain. While Eve was to be a help meet to her husband, assisting him in his dominion mandate, her highest glory would be in the privilege of bringing forth and nurturing children.
Because of the fall into sin, child-bearing would involve pain. This pain would draw her closer to Christ if she continued to trust him. The labor pain would turn to joy in the birth of a child. Christ’s suffering is also an inspiration for us as women. Our Lord understands our pain. He suffered it too. When we share in the pain, we also share in the glory. In John 16:20-21 he says:
” Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail has sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembers no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.”
Andrea Schwartz, in her article Rethinking Childbearing, gives some food for thought about the reality and even the blessing in the pain of childbearing. She notes the irony that though our modern humanistic medical establishment has researched every scientific way to help women deal with childbearing, though the emphasis has been on natural childbearing, yet we have seen such a marked increase of C-sections.
The menu of pain reduction medications has only led to more interference, which is still the greatest danger to both mother and child. She asks the question: could it be that humanistic medicine has forgotten that we need God? Women need to prepare spiritually for labor pain. Rather than seeing childbirth as a pathology, they are to experience it as a reflection of God’s creative power. Materialism and atheism are not included in the make-up of motherhood.
The Harvest is Plentiful, but the Laborers are Few
Whether our labor pains are in childbearing or in any other dominion endeavor, let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. (Gal. 6:9). God prepared work for each of us, and the harvest is truly plentiful, though the laborers are few. Let’s not be surprised when building God’s Church and Kingdom seems like an uphill battle filled with thorns, thistles, weariness, and pain.
To reach the goal, focus on the promise. Just as women focus on the reward of that miraculous baby, so all labor promises a reward.
“As it is written, no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor 2:9)
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matt. 11:28-30 NKJV)
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me (Ps. 23:4 NKJV)
Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved. (Ps. 55:22 NKJV)