References to childbirth in the Bible always make me pause when I’m reading them. My personal experiences and those of the women I’ve served as a doula are brought to my mind. Childbirth in the Bible—whether it is spoken of as an event or used as a metaphor—conjures up multi-sensory memories for me.
I think it would be an edifying study to compile a biblical theology of this subject from the garden to the garden-city… “be fruitful and multiply,” “in pain you shall bring forth children,” “we were pregnant, we writhed, but we have given birth to wind,” “desire when it is conceived gives birth to sin,” “you must be born again,” “my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you,” “yet she will be saved through childbearing,” “the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth”...
One such passage stood out to me this week as I was reading.
“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 firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:22-23).
Without wishing to hyperextend the metaphor, here are just two aspects of childbirth that I think help us to envision this pan-creation labor Paul is describing:
- The pain of childbirth is all encompassing yet focused. God designed childbirth to be accompanied by a wondrous multitude of complicated processes working together to accomplish one thing. In this event, every system in the woman’s body from the endocrine system to the cardiovascular system focuses on the singular goal of bringing new life into the world.
- Once labor has begun then childbirth is both imminent and inherently unstoppable. In other words, when a woman is in true labor then one way or another a baby is coming (and not a manatee, like I heard one woman half-joke while in labor). It is unstoppable in that the pains of childbirth can only be managed or masked until the process is over.
In this passage in Romans we read that the whole creation is groaning together in pain as we wait for one thing—our Blessed Hope. All things are aligned under God’s sovereign purpose to glorify himself through the redemption and adoption of his chosen people through the work of his Son. And though we would like to walk out saying, “That’s it; I’m done” in the middle of our pain (a sentiment I've felt and heard laboring women express), we can be assured that deliverance is coming. Lastly, Romans 8:22-23 states clearly that it is redemption and adoption that is nigh (no surprise manatees). Our groaning is not for anything less than this glorious, guaranteed, impending reality.
These hopeful thoughts put all of our present sufferings in their rightful place in God’s redemptive plan as productive, meaningful, focused, and never, ever wasted.