Living through the “Birthing Pains” – Easter 4

Living through the “Birthing Pains”

Easter 4 T 1 Peter 2:11-20; John 16:16-22


In the apex of pain and sorrow, suffering seems inescapable. But the resurrection of Jesus shows us that pain, sorrow, and suffering is temporary. It doesn’t last. For sin gives way to freedom. Death gives way to life. Sorrow gives way to joy.

Jesus comforted His disciples in the Upper Room with this truth. He said, “your sorrow will turn into joy.” Of course, Jesus predicted the disciples would be filled with sorrow following the crucifixion that took place on Good Friday. Yet, He also predicted that their sorrow would in a flash, change into joy. That is to say, the disciples’ sorrow was no more, when they saw the resurrected Christ once again!

Our sorrows are caused by sin and the effects thereof. Whether it’s our sins, or the sins of others, living in the dregs of sorrow cause us to live in pain and loss. Heartache and pain can lead to other emotions like anger. And when anger goes unchecked, it can lead to the hatred of others within our hearts – only further contributing to sorrow’s advancement.

Sin and the decay of goodness cause sorrow in various ways. Of course, the death of a loved one causes sorrow – just like it was the cause of the disciple’s sorrows when Jesus died. The decay of God ordained institutions like man, woman, marriage, friendships, government, good neighbors, destruction from natural disasters – the decay of God’s creation may cause sorrow within your souls because we long for something better and more complete. Or perhaps were filled with sorrow because of our own failures – failures of what we expect ourselves to be, failures to live up to the standards God set for us, or failures to be what we should be for another.

Jesus taught His disciples, and teaches us, that this sorrow is temporary. The sorrow of sin-filled life gives way to joy of the everlasting. Jesus compared it to a woman who gives birth – in the moment of affliction, she’s so consumed with that pain. She probably thinks the pain will never escape or leave her. She’s too consumed with her present suffering to even consider the joy that comes after. But her sorrow swiftly transforms to joy as a human being – body and soul – is finally held by its mother in her arms.

This is an example of pain’s temporary hold. It doesn’t last. Your sorrow will subside when you, like the disciples, see the living Christ. We see Him now – in the forgiveness of sins given in Word and Sacrament. But joy will be made complete at Jesus’ second coming.

Of course, that seems forever away. The relief from sorrow at times seems more like a pipe dream than a reality. But that’s just our sinful human way of thinking, for with God, a thousand years is as a day. Time is just a drop in the bucket when compared with eternity. But the pain and sorrow that we see from moral and physical decay all around us causes impatience within us, as well as a lack of direction and knowing how our Creator, redeemer, and sanctifier want us  to live the rest of our days. It may cause us to echo from Psalm 44  – “Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground. Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!”

So, how are we to operate in this time before Jesus comes back and judges between the righteous and the unrighteous? Between those who reject God and His creative and redeeming purposes and those who’ve been washed in the blood of the Lamb?

It’s hard to know what to do when afflicted with sorrow. Because sorrow can be a bit debilitating and lead to a sort of paralysis where we don’t really know how to be faithful to God and proceed forward. Our pain and sorrow can even lead us to sin towards others. It’s like when you have a bad day at work, and you come home to the littlest things that your kids or spouse does just annoy you, causing you to lash out toward them in anger and sin.  The same thing happens in the spiritual life too.

Our epistle lesson from Peter gives us some helpful instruction in this regard. What is Peter’s overall message? In trying circumstances that cause worry and sorrow, make a habitual practice of these three things: 1) trust the Lord. 2) Live obediently to your circumstances and calling. 3) Keep hope fixed on Christ.

Peter begins his encouragement to us by reminding us who we are. We are sojourners and exiles in this world. We don’t belong HERE. We belong with HIM. Our promised land prepared for us by God is nowhere found in this world. It’s in the next, when God resurrects all His children from the dead and creates a new heavens and a new earth. THAT’S our home!

Until He brings us to such glory, Peter gives us wise instructions for how to lead Godly lives as we live through the birthing pains and sorrow of this world. First, abstain from fleshly passions. Because it wages war on your soul. The fleshly passions are addictive – whether the passion be substances which your flesh clings to for feelings of bliss or completeness, like drugs or alcohol. Or the passions are pleasures received through the hit of dopamine in the brain – like sex, gluttony, or even getting lost in the internet world on your phones. Such passions are dangerous because they lead one to this way of thinking: why do I need a God who doesn’t satisfy me when I have a chemical substance or a dopamine rush of pleasure in my brain that grants me the immediate hit of satisfaction? Any reliance on God is then lost. Thus, any hope of having joy, and not just fleeting pleasure, in this life, is lost too.

Second, keep your conduct honorable. Don’t give anyone reason for anyone to call you an evildoer. Sure, some may disagree with Christian beliefs when it comes to some things in public life, but may they never justly accuse a Christian of terrorizing folks. Rather, our actions should be conducted as though there is a hope of life beyond this – that we aren’t lashing out on sin as ones getting revenge. That any suffering incurred is just a temporary annoyance, and that the hope of life with God isn’t worth submitting my actions to be a slave to sorrow.

Third, be subject to human institutions, and really all who have some sort of authority over you. God created government to punish evil and to reward those who do good. And Peter is instructing this to an audience where the people are being persecuted. He doesn’t incite rebellion and chaos. Rather, He instructs us that it is God’s will for Christians to put to silence the ignorance of foolish people – that if Christians should suffer for doing GOOD things, so be it. That’s how Christ suffered for us. He suffered at the hands of evil men not because He was some sort of insurrectionist. Not because He was really AGAINST anyone in a physical way. Rather, He suffered because He healed the sick and diseased. He brought the kingdom of God to earth to save people from their sins. For this, Christ died. We should seek to act likewise as we live through the birthing pains.

Lastly, live as people who are free. Don’t use your freedom as a coverup for evil, but use your freedom to serve the living God. You are freed from sin. Christ has made it so. Now, free from that burden, share the news of how Christ has forgiven the sins of others too – because that’s what free people do. They boast in their savior who’s delivered from the pains, sorrows, and sufferings of this life and provides hope of glory in the resurrection of flesh.

These actions are God-pleasing as you patiently wait through the present child pains. But know that the pain is temporary. The glory of God will bring you through these temporary pains to an eternal life of joy! And this joy isn’t something far off – God shares it with you now. For there’s a joy that comes from living a Christian life that flows from the gifts of forgiveness received in the Divine Service. When this forgiveness is given here, it instills us with a joy for the glory of God which is yet to come. The joy that God instills brings contentment and strength, because it recognizes the temporary nature of the birthing pains. So, don’t mourn. Take up hope dear Christians. For your sorrow will turn into joy when you see Christ again.



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