Our labors are meant to point us to a much greater reality—Christ and him crucified.
I was about nine months pregnant with my first baby when I received some advice I will never forget. A sweet friend of mine told me to be very mindful of the first moments when my daughter entered this world. She told me of the incredible miracle of watching a baby take their first breaths of oxygen while knowing that God is breathing literal life into their bodies. A few weeks later when my daughter was born, I yelled with relief and excitement, “Breath of life! Breath of life!” as she took her first breath. I’m sure the nurses and the doctor in that delivery room thought I was crazy, but I didn’t care. I was seeing the active hand of God’s grace as he breathed the breath of life into her body. I was experiencing, as you may have, the time for my daughter to be born. Whether you birthed a baby yourself or are the mother of a child through adoption, you are a recipient of this grace. You have received it both in the breath of your own life and in the life of your child. The intricacies of labor and delivery; the entry of a child into the world; the biological realities of how a child comes to be; all of these things scream of God’s glory and God’s grace. God’s kindness is on inexplicable display in the birth of a child, perhaps more than it is in any other time. In the midst of the curse of humanity, God is near. In the midst of agony, we know that joy is coming.
In John 16, Jesus gives a clue to the disciples of his coming death. As they express their sorrow, he relates his own death with the pain and sorrow of a woman in labor—but we know that this is not the end of the story. He says:
“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.”John 16:21-22
In the mysterious way that Christ often does, he gives us a peek behind the curtain. In labor, we are uniquely experiencing a parallel of the gospel. As we experience the pain of contractions and transition, we see a glimpse of the sorrow the disciples felt at Jesus’ death. We have sorrow because of the time that has come, but we praise God that’s not the end of the story. In the midst of labor, we, like the disciples, do not fully know the joy that is to come. We can only see the sorrow of where we are, but Jesus instructs our hearts: joy is coming. When our precious child enters the world, we have utter joy and forget the pain we have just experienced. In Christ’s resurrection, we—along with the disciples—are reminded of the immeasurable joy found in him.
There is something greater than the joy of birth, and that’s the point. Jesus’ parallel is not meant to teach us to seek the fulfillment of joy through the birth of children. His parallel is to point us to the joy that is so much greater. The joy of the birth of a child is fleeting, temporary, and dependent on something finite. Childbirth does not always end in joy and many of us are closely acquainted with the sorrow of loss, but thank the Lord we are not dependent on the joy of birth for our satisfaction. There is greater joy available for all. In Christ’s resurrection, there is no loss of joy. His death and resurrection secured our salvation and there is no opportunity for us to lose that.
When the contractions come, the fear, the unknown, the hardship, and the sorrow that our time has come, we can use that experience to point our eyes to what’s most important. It is a grace that we get to experience this view of Christ’s death—he says we are engaging in the closely related sorrow of his crucifixion. In the final push of victory where we are overwhelmed with the joy of our child, we experience just a glimmer of the joy of being with Christ. The presence of Christ in his resurrection is the fullest expression of God’s grace that we see on small display in the birth of our children.
We should take labor and delivery for what it is—a glimpse of the sorrow and joy of Christ’s death. A picture of the agony endured at the loss of his life and a sliver of the deep joy experienced in his defeat of death. Jesus chose to use this picture as a description of the most important moment in all of history. So when we get the distinct honor of living that parallel, our hearts should be tuned to its true meaning. In our birth pains, we remember Christ. In our inexplicable joy, we remember Christ. In the sorrow of our loss, we remember Christ. With the newness of life given as a blessing to us, we remember the greatest expression of God’s grace—Christ himself.
Image credit: Emilee Carpenter
Haylee is a wife, mother of two, and faithful church member. She is also pursuing an M.Div from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Haylee is most passionate about Bible literacy and biblical theology. She recently authored her first book, God of Forever, with Hosanna Revival. You can find more of Haylee on Instagram at @hayleejwilliams.