A few weeks ago, I was reading through the Gospel of Mark and came upon the narrative of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. As I read the words of Jesus “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will,” I felt the anguish of his words in a way I never have. I am currently 34 weeks pregnant with my third child which means my mind is never far from the anticipation of a coming baby and with that baby, the inevitable labor pains. With this being my third baby, I am fully aware of the pain that awaits me. The anticipation of the labor sometimes overbears the anticipation of the baby. So when I read Jesus’ words as he anticipates the agony of bringing forth life in a much more intense and important way, I resonated with his anguish. Once I felt those reverberations of Jesus’ plea in my own heart, I started to consider the ways that birth mirrors Christ’s death on the Cross. Obviously, childbirth cannot be equated to Jesus’ death to save sinners, but there are some evident similarities that have encouraged my heart as I prepare to endure suffering for the newness of life.
On the cross, Jesus bore the agony of our sin to bring forth spiritual life for all who would believe. In labor, women endure the agony of contractions, pushing, and crowning in order to bring forth physical life. Both acts are God’s gracious kindness to mankind yet both acts include intense pain and suffering—one far more significant than the other but both as an act of submission for the sake of the life of another. Even those who have reprieve from the pain of labor through the gift of modern medicine, often do not get through labor without some sort of pain. The Cross and childbirth both tell us one thing, life is not given without intense sacrifice. So, Jesus’ words in the Garden as he begged for God’s relief from the cup of suffering ring familiar in the ears of a woman as she anticipates the hardship of bringing a child into this world.
In his death, Christ defeated the curse of Genesis 3, death. In childbirth, women are bearing the curse of Eve as they birth with increased pain. Christ had to die to overcome the curse for the sin of the world. Birth is excruciating because of that same curse. In a way that our births cannot, Christ’s death redeems the curse of humanity. Where we can merely endure the pain of the curse, Jesus’ suffering was effective for all of time to reverse the curse of death. As you should be starting to see, the parallels of Jesus’ death point us to a hope far greater than a healthy birth.
Sacrifice is required for new life. Just as we would choose to birth children despite the inevitable pain, both physical and emotional, that come from raising children, Christ chose to endure the wrath of God on the Cross out of love for both you and me. We don’t always know the outcome of our births, but we know the outcome of Jesus’ death. He has perfectly secured our futures. We cannot secure a certain future for our children and sometimes we lose them before we ever meet them and endure the pain of miscarriage without the bringing forth of life, but Jesus’ sacrifice means that death does not have the final say in the agony of loss, the emotional agony pain of which is far worse than the physical pains of birth.
After our births, people often reflect on the biology instituted by God that causes our minds to forget the intensity of our pain. Some say this is so we’re willing to have more children. Whatever the reason, it is a gift that the oxytocin released at the sight of our babies cleanses our memories of the agony previously experienced. When it comes to Jesus’ death, the pain of the Cross was not forgotten but instead it is remembered as the greatest event in history where new life became available.
In a perfect scenario, the labor of a woman produces a healthy, beautiful, and thriving baby, but we don’t live in a perfect world. This is where the parallel of Jesus’ death reaches peak encouragement. When our own birth stories do not bring forth life, when our labor does not end with that first breath, Jesus’ death is still certain. When our labors do not go as planned, Jesus’s crucifixion and subsequent resurrection are absolutely sure. His agony assuredly brought forth life. Even when our suffering in labor seems as though it is for nothing because we do not reap the joys of a healthy child, our suffering is not meaningless. In fact, Jesus’ death doesn’t merely parallel the agony of birth, it actually brings meaning to our suffering altogether. The physical pain, the emotional turmoil, the pain of infertility, the struggles of adoption—all are redeemed by Jesus’ death. The meaning we find in other facets of life such as birth are only made meaningful by the fact that Jesus’ died and rose for us.
Just as many of us bear the marks of having children through stretch marks and stitches, Jesus still bears the scars of what he endured to secure life for us. We have the privilege of bringing forth physical life and the privilege of being given spiritual life. In fact, through this lens, all should be considered grace upon grace. We participate in the creation of life and we receive the richness of life through Christ. Birth is merely a picture of Christ’s death—it cannot secure all that Jesus did, but it can point us to the greater reality of the suffering that took place for our own lives. Maybe, with this perspective in mind, we will have joy in the agony of bringing forth life because Jesus submitted himself to the will of the Father for the bringing forth of our very lives.