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"You have to welcome the pain," my mother said to the young mother in labor. "Each contraction brings you that much closer to holding your baby." I was home from my sophomore year in college and helping with a homebirth had not been on my "must-do" list of things for the summer. But there I was, watching one of my friends deliver a baby when I overheard this statement. Welcome the pain? How is that even possible? Mulling it over, I began to realize that this strange piece of advice has far-reaching implications.
To welcome the pain, to enfold it to ourselves as a precursor to good, is an idea foreign to our human natures. The Garden of Eden could not teach us to welcome the pain. God did not create us to do so. How could Adam and Eve have even fathomed the horrible effects of that one choice in the Garden—the choice to doubt and question the ultimate goodness and love of their Creator God? And Eve, how could she view as good a pain that stemmed from hers and Adam's direct disobedience?
As the pain washed over that First Mother, a woman estranged from her Maker and completely alone but for her husband, what were her thoughts? For each pain that threatened to tear her once-perfect frame apart, perhaps she was able to feel one step closer to her Redeemer. Her thoughts were certainly never far from Him. She persevered, believing she was bringing into the world the Man that would restore creation, reversing the effects of the worst decision she and Adam ever made. But in the infinite moment of each agonizing contraction she had to choose to accept the inevitable—the suffering of a now sin-cursed world—in favor of the hope that lay beyond.
Similarly, in the Christian life, our attitudes toward pain are rooted in our perspectives. Suffering in life will come regardless of our readiness, but we can always choose our response to it. We can choose to fight each pain, heartbreak, and trial because all we want is temporary comfort, or we can accept each one as a gift meant to draw us closer to our loving Father. Remember, it is only in God's masterful hands that each of our pains becomes—just as with labor contractions—a foreshadowing of the good He brings about when we embrace His will for our lives.
Thus, seen in the light of childbirth, Paul's declaration in Romans 8:24 that "we are saved by hope" takes on a whole new meaning. Truly, it is the certain hope of Christ's work in us that enables us to weather each painful trial and see through to the "joy [that] cometh in the morning," Psalm 30:5.
John 16:21 A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.