A. We are taking a break from 2Corinthians today for a Mothers Day sermon.
B. Today I would like to speak to the mothers here about something you know more about than I do.
C. John 16:20–22 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
II. The nature of labor and delivery as described in v.21
A. “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come.”
1. This is referring to tthe experience of labor and delivery.
2. Labor pains are gripping.
a. Therefore my loins are filled with anguish; pangs have seized me, like the pangs of a woman in labor; I am bowed down so that I cannot hear; I am dismayed so that I cannot see. (Isaiah 21:3)
(1) Can’t see or hear: absorbed with one’s own pain
b. “Our hands fall helpless; anguish has taken hold of us, pain as of a woman in labor.” Jer.6:24, Cf. 50:43. — Loss of strength, a sense of panic
3. For I heard a cry as of a woman in labor, anguish as of one giving birth to her first child, the cry of the daughter of Zion gasping for breath, stretching out her hands, “Woe is me! I am fainting before murderers.” (Jeremiah 4:31) — Feeling like it’s killing you
a. Crying out: modesty, politeness, not wanting to impose on others: all these are suddenly irrelevant
4. “She has sorrow because her hour has come” Doesn’t she want to have the baby? That’s not the point. She has sorrow because she has gone into labor and her pain is very great.
B. “when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.”
1. A dramatic change occurs.
2. A moment ago she feels like she’s going to die, she is overwhelmed with her pain, and then suddenly, she isn’t thinking about pain anymore. She’s as happy/content/delighted as she can be.
3. When terrible pain ends, there is almost a sense of pleasure: cold hands
4. But the pain of labor and delivery do not turn to joy because of the relief, but because of the baby.
5. The joy is completely different than the pain. The pain is bodily. The joy is personal. The joy is a new baby. And the joy of the new baby trumps the pain of the birth.
6. I have been with my dear wife for nine deliveries. The contrast between the way she is during labor and delivery and the way she is right afterward when the baby is laid on her chest I can’t begin to describe.
a. I was never quite prepared for the change. Emotionally she leaves me in the dust.
b. The deepest woe to the deepest satisfaction in the period of about fifteen seconds.
7. What seemed insurmountable a few minutes earlier, now seems insignificant.
8. What seemed unbearable a few minutes earlier, now seems unimportant.
III. The history of labor and delivery — It wasn’t always like this.
A. Gen.3:16 To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children."
B. And it wasn’t just the woman: God cursed all the earth. Everything became painful. For man, working the ground became toilsome.
C. 20 “The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it.”
1. (But v.21 goes on to give us the good news: the futility has a purpose, the futility is preparation.)
IV. Labor and delivery are used a number of times in the Bible as an illustration.
A. A man’s book? A man’s religion?
B. In the Bible, birth pangs are the very symbol of pain. When the Bible is searching for a way to describe just how acute and gripping a person’s pain is, this is where it turns.
1. “Trembling took hold of them there, anguish as of a woman in labor.” (Psalm 48:6)
2. “They will be dismayed: pangs and agony will seize them; they will be in anguish like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at one another; their faces will be aflame.” (Isaiah 13:8)
3. “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!” (Jer.22:23) Cf. Jeremiah 30:6 “Ask now, and see, can a man bear a child? Why then do I see every man with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labor? Why has every face turned pale?”
C. But it’s much more than just a model of pain. It is also the model of how pain suddenly turns to joy.
D. Here in John 16, Jesus uses it as an illustration of how the disciples would experience His death and resurrection. Their agony/despair over His arrest and death would be turned immediately to joy at His resurrection. And that’s exactly what happened, isn’t it?
E. In Matthew 24 Jesus uses it to explain what must happen in the world.
1. Matthew 24:3–8 The disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, ...what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
2. The last day is the day of delivery. Until then we should expect labor pains in the world.
F. And in Romans 8 it is used to explain our lives in this era.
1. You might be familiar with the groaning passages of Romans 8. The whole creation is groaning. We ourselves groan inwardly. Well, the groaning of Romans 8 is the groaning of childbirth.
2. Romans 8:22 The whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
3. Rom.8:23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
a. This age is spoken of as the age of labor.
b. The age to come is described as the age of birth and new life.
c. Rom.8:19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
4. This means that for the believer, pain is temporary and purposeful!
a. Our pain is described as labor pains, and that these labor pains are leading up to a great birth moment, a great birth event.
b. “Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Ps.30:5) If you know things are going to be better in the morning, it makes the night much more endurable!
5. The key is realizing that the pain is not empty, it is producing a harvest of joy and treasure.
a. Not just preceding the blessing, not just leading to the blessing, but in some way bringing about the blessing.
6. You see, a woman’s pain in childbirth is a God-given aid to help us to endure the pain of this world in hope and joy.
a. Labor pains are not just the very model of pain, but the model of the reason for pain, the purpose of pain, and even the joy of pain.
G. “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! 6 He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” (Ps.126:5-6)
1. When you’re in tears, you need to remember that this isn’t the time of reaping, it’s the time of sowing. It’s the season of toil, not the season of abundance.
2. The season of reaping is coming, but right now we have to resist the temptation to give up.
3. Gal.6:9 Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
4. When a woman is in labor, she sometimes feels like giving up. One time my wife had been in labor so long and had worked so hard that she kept saying, “I don’t think I can do it. I don’t think I can do it.” And the nurse grabbed her face and said, “Stop it!” (FYI, this doesn’t work so well when the husband tries it.) You see, the baby’s life is in limbo. You can’t just decide to stop. No matter how you feel, you’ve got to rally yourself and fight for your baby.
5. “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy” could be reworded to say, “Those who labor in tears shall give birth with shouts of joy.”
6. It’s not enough just to endure/survive/groan. You’ve got to sow, you’ve got to toil, you’ve got to love, you’ve got to be faithful, you’ve got to carry your cross, you’ve got to seek first the kingdom, you’ve got to walk in obedience and faith. You’ve got to believe that the seeds you’re sowing while you weep are going to yield a harvest of unspeakable joy.
V. There is a great day coming! There is a great birth coming.
A. Referred to in Rom.8:19 as “the revealing of the sons of God” and in Rom.8:21 as “the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”
B. Referred to in Rom.8:23 as our “adoption as sons” and “the redemption of our bodies.”
C. And Romans 8:18 says, “that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
1. Not worthy to be compared. It’s not just that the bad things will stop. It’s not just that things are bad now and are going to be good later. The degree of today’s bad is tiny compared to the degree of tomorrow’s good. It will make the worst of earth’s suffering seem light and momentary.
D. That’s what it’s going to be like on the last day.
1. We can’t see it yet, but we know it’s coming.
2. Right now, it’s uncomfortable; right now we ache.
3. And there is probably more discomfort to endure before the great day of deliverance.
4. But the discomfort is sweetened by the knowledge of what is to come, knowing that soon our joy will overwhelm our pain.
E. But some don’t believe in it. They believe in their pain. But they don’t believe anything could be so good as to overshadow such pain. They don’t believe in something transcendently good. They only believe in the pain and pleasure of the here and now. The labor pains don’t make any sense to them. The pain presses them down and they have nothing to lift them up, nothing to look forward to.
F. Believers also feel the pain. We get the emptiness; we experience the brokenness; we understand the sinfulness. But we know a secret. We know what labor pains lead to.
1. And so we wait – and groan – in hope.
2. We’ve stopped thinking of this life as a place where our deepest dreams/desires can be satisfied.
a. We don’t put our hope in our house/career/person, nor in our church/family/country.
3. Any woman who gets pregnant knows it’s not going to be easy.
a. We don’t expect things to run smoothly and painlessly.
4. But we know there’s something much bigger than our experiences of discomfort.
a. We hope for what we do not yet see, and we wait for it with patience. – Romans 8:25
G. The Christian life here on earth is a life of unfulfilled longing – because the thing which will finally fulfill us we must wait for. We do not have it now. We cannot have it now. And so we wait.
1. This means living in pain, living with ache.
2. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, those who are poor, who hunger and thirst, who weep, who are persecuted.” That doesn’t sound like fun. How can these poor folks be called blessed?
3. Because those who mourn will be comforted – future tense. They will be rich; they will be full; their will be filled with joy and dancing.
4. Christian contentment isn’t having everything you want now; it’s being patient in waiting for it.
VI. God is with us in the pain.
A. Many women complain about their husbands lack of sympathy while they’re in labor.
1. If your wife ever says, “I don’t think I can do it!”“Yes, you can! I’m right here to help you, and we’re going to make it through!” Don’t say, “What are your options?” like I once did.
B. But this is not the way it is with Jesus! He’s been here in our place of pain.
1. Jesus wept. Jesus said, “I thirst.” He’s felt our burden to its fullest extent!
2. Because he himself has suffered when tried, he is able to help those who are being tried. Heb.2:18
3. We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Heb.4:16
4. “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, nobody knows but Jesus. Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen! Glory hallelujah!”
a. This is not a song of complaint or self-pity, it’s a song of praise to Jesus for how He knows and He is with us in our pain!