Today’s Pain, Tomorrow’s Joy

“So…does it hurt?”

My friend’s eyes were fixed on me as I rocked my newborn in the church lobby. I could see a mixture of excitement and dread on her face. Her hands were clasped over her bulging, eight-month tummy. We had been through every step of our first pregnancies together, but I had made it to the finish line first. And now she wanted to know: What was beyond that mysterious curtain? What did childbirth feel like?

“Well,” I began. I looked down at my baby’s creamy cheeks and wispy angel eyelashes. Did it hurt? When I looked at him I couldn’t remember. I looked up at the ceiling. “Well,” I began again. Visions of my hospital room flashed through my mind. The pain, the pressure, the confusion, the intensity. How do you even begin to explain the pain of childbirth?

The simple answer is, yes. Childbirth hurts. But women who have been through it know it’s more complicated than that. It’s a complicated pain.

When I talk to expectant moms about childbirth I compare the pain to what it’s not like. It’s not like breaking your leg. It’s not like burning your hand. It’s not destructive pain. It has limitations and it has a purpose. Unlike breaking a bone, the pain of childbirth produces something new and beautiful. So, while childbirth is characterized by pain, the end goal of the pain changes the way we experience it.  

Our lives on this earth are also characterized by pain. Every time we see the news we feel the weight of this world’s suffering. But, just as in childbirth, a Christian’s pain has an end and a purpose. Our pain is mixed with hope because it is bound to this world only. It has limitations, sovereignly put in place by our creator. Our pain is quickly coming to an end and there is indescribable joy waiting for us on the other side of it. But for now, we groan.   

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.” (Romans 8:21-24)

We groan under illness, under disciplining our children, and under our hurting brothers and sisters around the world. We groan under temptation and the consequences of sin. We groan under heartbreak and loss.  

But one day our groaning will be over. One day we will see our savior face to face. He will wipe away every tear. We will stand before him, clothed in the radiant purity of his own righteous robes, and hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:23)

Each of the five times I was in labor I remember at some point having the same thought: “Is there any other way through this?” In the most intense moments I thought I would not survive. I remember turning to my husband and saying, “I don’t want to do this. I changed my mind.” He laughed nervously and said, “Um…I think it’s a little late for that.” 

There is no other way through this life than through the suffering God has planned for us. But if we forget to look past the suffering to our final reward, we will lose strength. Corrie ten Boom, after surviving a concentration camp during World War II, used to carry around a little square of satin. On one side was a jumble of colored threads. On the other side was a beautifully embroidered gold crown. She would hold it and recite by heart:

“My life is but a weaving betwixt the Lord and me,
I do not choose the color – he worketh steadily. 
Oftentimes he weaveth sorrow and I in foolish pride,
Forget he sees the upper and I the underside.” 

God has guaranteed that we will experience suffering in this life. But he has also promised that one day it will be over. One day we will be in our true home. There will be no death there. No pain, no suffering. No sleepless nights, no fatigue. No fears will tug at your heart. No corridors of anxiety will beckon your mind to follow. You will be safe in the arms of your creator forever. One of my favorite hymns shows how this perspective changes the way we experience suffering: 

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of his glory and grace.”

We can make it through because we know what is waiting for us. When I look into the faces of my babies I can’t remember the pain it took to get them into this world. Whatever pain you are facing today, look at your savior. See your future hope. One day your pain will be gone. And when it’s gone, it will be gone forever.

“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.” (John 16:20-22)

The Gospel-Centered Mom is the single best parenting book I’ve read since becoming a mom.” – Amy T.
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 Looking for a study to do with some friends? Check out how to use this study in a group! 

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