What do you know about God’s Word pertaining to labor and childbirth? Probably the basics. You know that painful labor is a large part of the punishment God placed on women after The Fall (Genesis 3:16). And you’ve probably read the one million verses in the Bible comparing other pain and hardship to a woman’s experience at birth. Here are a few to make you cringe:
Jeremiah 22:23, “You who live in ‘Lebanon,’ who are nestled in cedar buildings, how you will groan when pangs come upon you, pain like that of a woman in labor!”
Isaiah 13:8, “Terror will seize them, pain and anguish will grip them; they will writhe like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at each other, their faces aflame.”
Psalm 48:6, “Trembling seized them there, pain like that of a woman in labor.”
Jeremiah 4:31, “I hear a cry as of a woman in labor, a groan as of one bearing her first child—the cry of Daughter Zion gasping for breath, stretching out her hands and saying, ‘Alas! I am fainting; my life is given over to murderers.'”
Groaning. Pain. Terror. Anguish. Writhing. Trembling. I’ve read all of this before, but I’ve always skimmed past quickly, thinking, “Yeah, yeah, it’s painful, I get it.” It really hits home now that I’m only weeks away from this painful labor myself. So as I’ve read verses such as these multiple times in my quiet times in the last few months (because trust me, labor pains are every Biblical author’s favorite metaphor to really get their point across—they show up all the time!), I’ve really been searching for God’s truth in the Bible regarding labor and childbirth. Many times, such as in the examples above, I really believe it is simply used as a metaphor to describe immense pain. But, as I have kept searching and studying, God has spoken to me about His greater purpose in childbirth—past the simple use of a metaphor.
1 Timothy 2:15, “But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”
This verse immediately caught my attention because it’s a reference to childbirth that isn’t all about the pain. But, saved through childbearing? I wasn’t sure exactly what Paul meant by this at first, but I knew being saved is a good thing—and it looks as if childbirth is a way to bring this salvation about. After searching and studying, I have four possible understandings pertaining to this verse.
- Pain in childbirth is woman’s condemnation for sin, but Christ saves us through this. While painful childbirth is what women face on this Earth in punishment for our sinful natures, Jesus offers us that which we don’t deserve—eternities free from pain in Heaven.
- Through childbearing, women fulfill their God-given roles and demonstrate “true commitment and obedience to Christ” (from the Zondervan Application Study Bible). The verse is not taken to refer to the instance of salvation from sin but to the act of living out salvation. God’s plan for wives is to bear children and raise them up with care.
- God planned for salvation to come through childbirth—the birth of Jesus Christ. Women (and men, too) receive salvation because Mary gave birth to Jesus.
Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
Did you know that “he” in this verse refers to Jesus? I have always loved to jokingly refer to this verse as the reason behind my fear of snakes, but this was mainly because I took “her offspring” to refer to females. As in, there is enmity between “your offspring” (snakes) “and hers” (females). But, the verse clearly says HE will crush the serpent’s head. So the enmity stretches farther than just to females. This early in the Bible, God was already foreshadowing the birth of His son. And while the serpent gets to “strike his heel,” such an act isn’t deadly. Crushing the head, on the other hand, is deadly. From the beginning, God planned for Jesus to come to this Earth through childbirth in order to deal Satan the final blow.
- Through the difficulties and trials of childbirth, women develop qualities that make them more like Christ. God designed childbirth to train women after His heart in faith, love, and holiness. These bring about salvation for women (just not salvation from sin, which only Jesus provides).
Basically, while childbirth is painful, God has designed it to provide women with so much more than just the pain. He chose painful childbirth as the vehicle to bring His son (and ultimately our salvation) to Earth, and He continues to use childbirth to bring life-change to women.
Romans 8:22-23, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.”
Just as painful childbirth was the precursor to the first coming of Jesus, the trials and hardships of this world (and of Christians particularly) are the precursor to the Second Coming. We must endure these struggles as we await the return of Jesus, our hope, but the laboring mother also has hope and a reason for her pain: the precious life of a new baby.
Romans 8:22-23 (above) gives an important Biblical perspective on childbirth. In the spirit of Paul’s comparison, we ought to treat labor and childbirth the same way the Bible teaches us to treat life on this Earth—as temporary, but not without purpose. And just as God promises to end our struggle on this Earth, we can trust Him to keep this promise in childbirth. We are blessed to be able to do the work we are called to do while fixing our eyes on what is to come: Jesus, and in my case, Nellie.
P.S. My new Biblical perspective on labor and childbirth has also given me a new perspective on CHRISTMAS! We all focus on precious baby Jesus (who does deserve all of the glory), but I often forget the part about Mary actually having to birth him. Alone. Without experience. In a stable. So, this Christmas let’s remember the most important birth that this Earth has ever seen.
P.P.S. I’m so excited about CHRISTMAS!!!