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Smile...you're in labor | Romans 8:22-23


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. Romans 8:22-23

Life doesn't happen without some groaning. In a delivery room, there are doctors whose groans urge the mother on, come on, one more push, come on. There is a father who groans in empathy for his wife, will she be okay? And of course there is a mother who groans in labor, often without words, without thoughts, just bearing down, waiting, hurting, hoping.


This passage tells us that the creation is in childbirth. It tells us that we are the baby being born. Think about it. All those bodies in the ground, dead, helpless, and the creation is getting ready to give birth to them - the redemption of our bodies. The labor has already started with the Spirit's work in us - he's groaning, too (v. 26). The groanings of our spirit in cooperation with the Spirit of God are the early contractions that can only lead to the dilation, transition, and eventual birth of the earth as it produces the fruit of the Jubilee harvest of Christ.


Childbirth is not a pretty picture. It's painful. It takes time - so much time. It feels all the time like nothing is happening, like all the groaning is simply bouncing off the walls, producing nothing. But the beauty - and the sheer terror - of childbirth is that once it begins, there's no turning back. No "I changed my mind".


But it's not just creation groaning. It's we ourselves. The bride of Christ, delivering the life he has produced in us.


In labor, there is so much work to be done. You sweat and when it's over you feel like you ran a marathon. And yet, strangely enough, you weren't the one making it happen. It would have happened without you. Your body would have pushed that baby out with or without your cooperation. So the trick for childbirth is to figure out how to work with what's already going to happen, how to maximize it and not fight it.


This experience of childbirth is what you are in the middle of - and should expect to be in the middle of throughout your life. Not that this particular stage of childbirth will last your whole life, but that you will be in this groaning for the rest of your life as a believer. There is no other way to be born. And now that it's started, you can never turn back. God will bring you to full eternal life, no matter how long it takes or how hard the labor gets. What has begun in you spiritually will one day finish in your physical body at the resurrection. Eternal life.

Expect groaning. Groaning in childbirth isn't a sign something is wrong; it's a sign something miraculous, something incredible has started and is on its way into life. That something is you. The "you" that God is creating in Christ, holy, blameless, spotless, pure, and strong.


At times the groaning will be caused by your own sin, as the Spirit strives and pushes to bring us to spiritual life, to pull us with forceps from the grip of sin. We groan because sin hurts us, it grieves us, it wrecks our situations and relationships and creates messes that we have to try to either clean up or live with. But as I've told you before, this struggle is a sign of life. And though it feels in the moment like all that labor is producing nothing, you will see that it is, as you gradually learn to resist doing the things that dead people do.


Sometimes we groan because of the sin of others. This also hurts, and it induces sin in us, which we didn't even ask for. And then we have to labor and bear down as we learn to do the things a living person does, like love, and forgive, and heal.

Other times the groaning is caused by the curse all around us. People die who we loved and then we have to learn to live without them. We get diseases and bones break and have to heal for months. Cars wear out and plumbing leaks and leftovers rot in the fridge. College tests come and go, some go fine and others bomb out because our minds are weak and forgetful. All these big and little things weigh down on us and remind us all the time that things aren't right. We aren't strong. We aren't in control.

But if you're expecting it, you won't believe the lie that groaning is failing. And if you understand what's going on - that the whole world, including you, is in the process of childbirth - you'll learn to look on all that struggle and apparent failure as hard work that ends with a product. It feels like death, but it ends in life.


But there's another thing I want you to know about the experience of childbirth, something only a mother who gave birth could tell you. And that is that the very second that baby is born, all the pain vanishes. Instantly. It's as if it never happened. And it's not just mental, it's physical. Nothing hurts anymore. You laugh to remember the groaning of only seconds ago, because now you feel warm and relaxed and rested. And sometimes even hungry.


I want you to know this because the same thing will be true for you when you are finally completed. All the struggle and guilt and pain of this life will instantly vanish and you'll look back on it (I don't think we'll forget) and think to yourself, "So that's what that was all about...I was just in labor...for this." There will come a day when you look back on this struggle you're in now and all the pain of it will have given way to warmth and joy. When the struggle is over, the pain will be gone.

 

Claim it. What's causing you to groan internally right now? In what area of your life are you pushing, contracting, dilating, and in pain? Talk to God about this. Rather than asking him to make it go away, ask him to produce through that struggle the fruit he is bearing in you. Ask him to show you what it is, to give you a glimpse of the fruit of his love in you. You can ask him for rest, too. In between contractions there can be rest. And we need it, God knows. But always be ready to return to labor. God is doing something bigger in you and through you, and it takes a birthing process to accomplish it. Why? Because he's creating life! But talk to him through it. Pray. He's there to make sure you deliver successfully.

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