“Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world.” John 16:21 [NASB]
December 20th, 1999, was a day marked by intense pain followed by consuming joy. John 16:21 (above) is absolutely true regarding the birth of Sarah Lauren Harmening. As I sit here this morning, 18 years later, I can not recall the pain of that day, but I very much recall the thrill of holding that beautiful baby girl in my arms. Unlike the pain of December 20th, 1999, I’m certain the pain of December 20th, 2017, will not be forgotten. As I sit here in the dark of early morning I recall the excitement as we traveled to the hospital eighteen years ago today. I would soon be holding the precious baby who felt so long awaited. Today I again find myself longing to hold that same precious baby, but recognizing my wait has the potential to be oh so very much longer.
As I was lying awake through the night watches I was thinking about the oppressive weight of the pain in my heart. In my mind’s eye I once again traced the pain to its source, the fall of man. The pain I felt 18 years ago and the pain I feel today both originated in the exact same moment. Both the pain of childbirth and the pain of death entered in Genesis 3. The pain of childbirth only a fleeting memory in comparison to the debilitating sting of death, though.
With the prevalence of the prosperity gospel some have mistakenly come to believe that we as believers should be free from pain and hardship, and to experience otherwise is evidence of a lack of faith. It is wrongly implied living victoriously in Christ means we live free of the impact of the fallenness of this world. It is presumed we are to be free from pain, suffering, grief, trials and tribulations. Joy in Christ is wrongly understood to mean the absence of pain and the presence of perpetual happiness. These beliefs and teachings can result in unintentionally pious Christians who meticulously hide away their pain, fearing that acknowledging its brutal grip will indicate a failure to abide in Christ. I’m convinced this is another brilliant scheme of our adversary.
Experiencing and acknowledging pain and grief is not evidence of a lack of faith or joy in the life of a believer. They are simply evidence we live in a fallen world and suffer some of the consequences of that fallenness. Every twinge of pain should be a reminder of the consequences of sin: Adam and Eve’s sin, and our sin. Pain should be a powerful reminder harnessed to propel us toward righteousness. Pain, suffering, mourning, grief, trials and tribulations are acknowledged as ongoing realities throughout scripture. As followers of Christ we are never promised to be spared from these things, but we are promised His grace and mercy to sustain and uphold us. As Dr. Jimmy Jackson shared, having heard someone else say, “God’s grace is sufficient, but it’s not novocaine.”
Though we as believers have been gloriously redeemed, we are not spared the painful, temporal consequences of our sins. We will all taste of the hardships of the fall in this life: brokenness, pain and death. Just as pain should propel us toward righteousness, it should also compel our sharing of the gospel. We are called to be Christ’s ambassadors to a broken, hurting and dying world. Our tasting of the pain of brokenness and death powerfully equips us to be effective ambassadors. If I am unwilling to experience and transparently share about the deep sting of pain and death, how can I testify to His faithfulness and provision as the great comforter (2 Cor. 1:3-4)? If I am unwilling to acknowledge the hurdles of this life, how can I testify to the joy that perseverance brings in the midst of the hurdles and pain (Job 6:10)? If I refuse to acknowledge the depths of the sting of death, how can I adequately testify to the weight of the glorious truth that the day is coming when there shall be no more death (Rev. 21:3-4)?
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 [NASB]
“But it is still my consolation, And I rejoice in unsparing pain, That I have not denied the words of the Holy One.” Job 6:10 [NASB]
Therefore, I am compelled to transparently share this morning that my heart is still shattered. I desperately long to hold my child, to feel her hair brush across my face as she hugs me, to hear her laugh, and to see her eyes light up as she tells a story. I ache beyond words that there will be no birthday celebration with my child today. In the midst of all that pain, though, He is faithful. Though He allows the pain to persist, He faithfully comforts me in it. He is faithful to graciously uphold me by His right hand, and I confidently know He will remain faithful. More glorious than that, though, is the Hope of knowing there is coming a day when He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death, no more mourning, no more crying, and no more pain. “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20 NASB).
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4 [NASB]