Is there any suffering on this earth that ends in miracles like labor and birth? There is tremendous suffering in labor pains. Yes, the physical suffering of a body preparing to move a child from a womb into the world. But there is also a spiritual component. The fear that accompanies the pain makes a lasting impression. When one is in unbearable pain, but does not know when the pain will end (only that it will), every contraction scars the psyche irreparably. But then an infant is brought into the world and the pain and terror are quickly forgotten (but not erased – the scars of unbearable pain change us forever). The entire process is both terrifying and exhilarating.
Paul describes our world’s suffering by using the imagery of labor pains. Creation itself is in labor. We are living on a planet that is suffering from the infliction of human sin. Christ’s coming was a little like moving from Braxton-Hicks contractions into fully developed labor. Creation has not yet birthed the perfect world God has conceived, but we move closer with every passing moment. Every positive thing we do in this world is like ice chips to a parched mother. Every time we do something that requires faith and trust is like taking a Lamaze breath. We can contribute to the soothing of creation’s labor pains as we wait in hope for the birth of the perfect creation.
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.