I knew a woman once who became very sick one day at work. She left to go home but instead headed to the emergency room because she felt so horrible. She walked into the hospital terrified she might be dying and walked out three days later with a full-term baby.
This story is one hundred percent true and also one hundred percent bonkers.
Last Sunday, as I stood and sang during worship, this story came back to me. When I first heard her news, I tried to recall if she had looked pregnant to me in the days leading up to her big surprise. She didn’t. No one had a clue. To be pregnant with life and unaware is a shocking circumstance.
But the story causes me to wonder how many of us are spiritually pregnant with new life. Could the painful circumstance in our lives, families, communities, and nation be contractions? Could the intolerable weariness we carry be caused by the energy within us being siphoned off by the hope God is forming within us? Will the fear we feel be quelled one day by some beautiful, unexpected answer to our heart’s deepest prayer?
In John 16, Jesus said that grief often turns to joy. He gave the example of a woman in the throes of childbirth, saying that once the baby arrives, she forgets the anguish because her joy is so great.
I have returned to that passage many times, as a woman who was pregnant in the natural and as a woman who longed to see God birth something spiritually in her life. Part of my brain rejects the idea that we forget the pain completely, simply because I gave birth four times and I have not forgotten how it felt like a giant, sharp metal monster was housed in my body, fighting to find an exit.
In my experience, the pain is not forgotten completely, but our anguish over the pain does dissolve into nothing in the end. While the contractions pound us, we resent them. Once those contractions push that baby out, our gratitude for the new life we hold expands to include a strange kind of gratitude for the birthing pain that brought the baby to us.
Today, if you’re going through a painful season of some kind, I pray you hear the voice of God, like a divine birth coach. I hope you’re able to breathe through the contractions. And I pray your heart is lit by the hope that our God turns grief into joy, transfers anguish into gratitude, and gives us beauty in exchange for ashes.
You are loved, and this too shall pass.