My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you. (Galatians 4:19)
Any woman who has given birth to a child knows the pain of childbirth. With my first child, I was obliviously idealistic about what childbirth would be like. Other women might have tried to explain it to me, but nothing could have prepared me for the experience of labor. Giving birth to a child is a complete investment of oneself— body and soul. The pains of childbirth are, of course, a part of the curse. What is true on a physical level about childbirth, is also true on a spiritual level about the labor of love called missions. The gospel worker must endure hardship in the process of watching and participating in the birth of spiritual offspring.
The Pains of Missions
Missions, like childbirth, is painful because of the curse. People are blind, deaf, and rebellious. The Bible says we are all “dead in our sins.” (Ephesians 2:1) We do not naturally want to know and obey God. Oftentimes, God uses painful experiences in people’s lives to make them aware that they cannot be fruitful on their own. Without God, they are only giving birth to wind.
It’s painful to go through, and almost just as painful to watch someone go through that process. We groan, as Paul did, as if in labor, because the work is so agonizing. Sometimes our endeavors remain without fruit, sometimes labor progresses so slowly, we get discouraged. The saddest experiences are the spiritual stillbirths when people’s initial interest suddenly aborts, and we are left empty-handed and grieve the loss. One friend to whom we had been witnessing for years died before accepting Christ; another was on the brink of conversion only to say, “The Gospel is like a fairy tale, it’s too good to be true!” and walked away from the church.
We groan in pain at such losses. But we must not forget that there is also great joy and hope in the labor of missions because Jesus has promised us his comforting presence and to do the work of calling and redeeming his own.
A Life-Giving Opportunity
The pain of childbirth is nothing compared to what good comes through it! What keeps us women going and enduring in childbirth is the thought of holding that precious newborn in our arms when all is over. Similarly, the pain of missional engagement is eclipsed by its ultimate goal: seeing new birth happen. We get front-row seats to watch Christ’s life being formed in others, growing, and bearing fruit to God. Jesus describes regeneration and conversion as a birth account…