I remember the day when my life changed forever. It was a summer day in August. The year was 2004. We had just welcomed our first born child into the world. I will never forget that experience, and neither will my wife! I admit, that my role was not as involved and ‘felt’ as my wife’s (or any other mother for that matter). But from my perspective, the journey towards new life seems to involve moments of pain.
Again, I want to make it known that I am not attempting to say that I ‘know’ what it is like to give birth. That would be unnatural. I am simply alluding to the reality that during the stages of giving birth, there are definite moments and cycles of pain.
My sister-in-law is a mid-wife and she would be able to identity the many stages and phases that women go through while giving birth. I admittedly acknowledge that I have completely forgotten all of what I learned in our pre-natal classes, other than this one simple command … breathe!
Breathe in … breathe out … breathe in … breathe out … breathe in … pass out! Oh wait, I can’t. I’m supposed to help get my wife through this part of the journey. I need to understand that the pain will come, and it will pass. I need to understand that pain is part of the process in order to bring forth new life. I need to know that the pain will end, and that new life will come.
With all the recent activity amidst the COVID-19 crisis, I am sure that you have had many opportunities to form your opinion pertaining to ‘why’ things happen, and if there ‘is a reason’ for any of this?
Speaking as a parent, here is what I have come to understand.
The pain is not the product.
Never once did I consider the pain that my wife was going through to be the ‘essence’ of my unseen child. In other words, the pain was not part of my child’s essential character or quintessential make-up. In fact, we named our children specifically because we believe that a child’s ‘name’ speaks about their life and character. We see this in Scripture. Moses means ‘drew him out’; Abraham means ‘father of many nations’; Eve means ‘living or to give life’ etc. Names speak about character.
In the Bible, God reveals Himself as the “Yahweh”. In the book of Exodus it says that the LORD passed in front of Moses and said:
Yahweh—Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving wrongdoing, rebellion, and sin.
The Bible affirms that God is merciful and compassionate in over thirty-eight other verses. It seems that the Bible testifies loudly to the merciful character of God. I say this because of the temptation to turn the events of the world into a doom and gloom stick used by ‘Christians’ to improperly match negative events with the essence of God’s character.
I realize that God cannot be divorced from tragedy. However, God’s character is also not vindictive, judgemental or condemning. He is good, merciful, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. He desires mercy over sacrifice (Hosea 6:6, Matthew 9:13) and closed the book on vengeance permanently. Jesus specifically announced that God’s favour and jubilee was here (Luke 4:18-19, c.f. Isaiah 61:1-2).
It saddens me to hear those who only speak gloom, doom, judgement and fire. I refer to these lost people as the ‘turn or burn’ folks. If you are a ‘repent, hell, fire and brimstone’ type of person, I challenge you to read the gospels and notice how Jesus spoke, acted and demonstrated God’s character in the world. Please do.
Furthermore, it pains me to hear supposed ‘prophets’ claim that God is more aligned with any one political government over the other. I recently heard one such ‘voice’ declare that ‘God is angry’ with ‘country-x’ and is going to bring ‘devastation’ and ‘judgement’ upon them because of their ‘ungodly ways’ and ‘persecution’ of the Church, and that God is tired of their ‘arrogance’ and how they have snubbed their nose at Him. If I am not mistaken, the Spirit seems to have spoken already about this, and the Bible affirms that God is for all the nations, not just one nation from the West. But I digress.
In a previous blog, I spoke about the context of plagues and being shaken. Please feel free to read that blog to see where I am coming from in terms of my understanding of world events. We are witnessing ‘birth pains’ that Jesus said ‘must’ take place (Matthew 24:3-8, Rev. 1:1, 22:6).
It is my opinion that in the context of God ‘delivering’ His people, pain can be understood as part of the birthing process. The movement from ‘no life’ to ‘new life’ involves pain. Children cannot come into the world without it, and even when they arrive the pain does not end! But most parents would not identify the pain with the product. In other words, the essence of the product is not to be understood synonymously with the pain.
The pain is not the product, but it is part of the process.
The pain is part of the process.
The Genesis narrative is pretty clear regarding the cause of the rift between God, humanity and creation. God’s shalom was broken and it was our fault. By turning away from the source of life, humanity embraced the voice of the deceiver and ate from the forbidden tree. The result of such produced a journey of pain.
He said to the woman: I will intensify your labor pains; you will bear children in anguish … And He said to Adam, … The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life. (Genesis 3:16, 17)
The process of life here on earth involves painful labour. It resulted from our turning away from God and embracing a false one. Humanity’s idolatry has marred God’s good work and corrupted His perfect shalom. Creation itself longs to be set free from this futility and despair (Rom. 8:18-25).
Thankfully, God is not some cosmic kill-joy or grumpy brow-beater looking to install hardship, toil and sorrow. Remember, we brought this on ourselves. However, God has provided a Way. The pain is part of the process, but with God, the process can produce a new product.
The product is new life.
I’ve spoken about being made new, or being born again recently at Calvary church. This ‘newness’ of God is offered exclusively through Jesus Christ of Nazareth. God’s new creation is available for anyone who believes. As Paul would say: if anyone is in Christ, new creation. I love how The Message translation phrases it:
Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start …. (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)
Does that not sound good! Is this not what Easter is all about? In fact, it is. But Jesus is not done just yet. He continually makes all things new up until His Return (Rev. 21:5).
Yes, that’s right, Jesus is coming back. And when He returns, everything will be made right once again for eternity. We will experience the shalom of God forever and ever. That’s a good plan.
I realize that we are still in the ‘midst’ of COVID-19. I realize that we are in the middle of God’s three-day story. The second day in any three day story is challenging and normally involves difficulty and pain. It does. But God’s third day is on the horizon. Pain is part of our process, but it is not the final product. The final product is new creation.
God’s final product is coming … breathe … there is still pain during the process … breathe … you will make it through … breathe … He is with you through it … breathe … He is coming …