The birth of a child is something I dare not claim to have any direct knowledge of, or even pretend in which to relate. All mothers are probably saying “Amen” as they read this article. But what I do know as an observer and father of four is that the pregnancy and birth of a child is one of the great discomforts and pain of this life for those brave saints we call “Mom.” The fatigue, swelling in the feet and legs, the pressure on the back, and the misery of this process is something that makes us men look as though we are lightweights when we complain of certain aches and pains to our wives.
Jesus says the following in John 16:20-22, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. 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.”
Jesus uses this imagery of birth, relating it to life in general. We live in a world of suffering and pain. We live with heartache and loss. As Christians, we are planted in a world of tears and great distress, as we continually observe on the nightly news, or experience in our daily lives. Violence, disease, emotional or mental anguish, or broken relationships cause us much hurt in this life.
The resurrection, however, is a reminder that all this hurt and pain does not last forever. Now it’s important to put our Lord’s words in their proper context. Jesus says these words here in John 16 prior to his death on the cross. Our Lord reminds his hearers that sorrow will turn to joy, pain and loss will give way to hope, and despair will be eradicated for all those who put their faith in him.
I can attest to the fact that when my children were born, the happiness and joy that filled their mother’s face erased what was once the look of hurt and struggle. Overwhelming joy beamed from the face of my wife, and an immediate bond was formed between mother and child.
Jesus says that this is what characterizes the life of the Christian. All of the hurt and suffering we experience will now give way to an unspeakable joy when we, like the first disciples, see our resurrected Lord face to face. And this is what faith is all about. As the writer of the book of Hebrews says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen.” As we live our lives here on earth, we feebly struggle anticipating the day when we, too, will see our Lord face to face.
On that day, we will not dwell on the past heartaches or commiserate on how hard we had it. We will be overjoyed in the presence of Christ surrounded by all those faithful saints that have gone before us. And yet, our joy was not without great pain. Jesus Christ took upon himself the sin of the world, our sin, in order that sin and death would not be our lot for eternity. Our Lord, who knew no sin, became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God.
Therefore, dear people of God, though we are now called to experience the hardships of this life, we bear it with joy because we know that one day we, too, shall be raised to new life where pain and suffering will no longer define our existence. We are called to love God and others in this vale of tears so that the trials that we face in this life will give way to an overwhelming joy, when Christ raises us up on the last day.
What I am saying is simply this, we are called to a life of love as we bear the hardships of this life. We are called to live faithfully in the grace and mercy of the Savior who took our sin upon himself. He did this so that we might be born anew – born again through the life-giving waters of holy baptism in order to live as his children, in his kingdom. Therefore, we bear our cross patiently in constant prayer as we await our Lord’s appearance, which will fill our hearts with an inexpressible and eternal joy. The Psalmist captures the essence of our hope with those words, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
My prayer is that we will press on, not ignoring or pretending that the difficult hardships of this life are not real, but that we remain steadfast in Jesus Christ who is our hope and eternal joy!
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Wade A. Miller