I am almost a month away from having the second most trying experience of my life. I know that because the hardest, most painful and yet most rewarding day of my life was Oct. 3, 2014—the day our first child was born. I am due with our second child in January, and as the day draws near, I realize now is the time to start preparing for the feat.
It's gotten me thinking: How is preparing for labor similar to preparing for the return of Jesus Christ? There are so many scriptures that correlate labor with His return. Why is that, and what can those of us who prepare ourselves for childbirth at some point in our lives learn from this analogy? Let’s start by going through two emotions we all experience when preparing for both the birth of a child and for the return of our King.
1. Part of you is afraid
I'll be honest: Giving birth to our daughter was the hardest, most painful thing I’ve ever done. Part of me is genuinely afraid to experience that much pain again! Have you read Matthew 24? “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.” These will surely be the most painful and trying days of our lives if we live to see it! Just like labor, we know the pain and anguish is ahead, we just don’t know when and exactly how it will affect us. There is a very real part of me that dreads what God says must happen before the return of our King.
Another scary part of birth is not knowing when you will have to take on this huge feat or how long the pain will last once it has begun. Apparently it will happen similarly when Christ returns. God has given us markers but no specific day. “While they are saying, 'Peace and safety!' then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3). So what does God want us to do with this very natural and appropriate fear of the events surrounding Christ’s return? How can we look forward to something that we are afraid of?
Remember that God is in charge. We’re not. Praise God for that! I remember praying fervently once labor had started knowing I would have the baby that day. I kept reminding myself that God created me to do the task ahead. Likewise, God created us with His end in mind. He will bring us through those dark days in His perfect way.
Prepare now! I have heard that labor is the equivalent of running a marathon. So I have spent the past 9 months exercising, walking and nourishing my body so that I am as prepared as I can be. Likewise, the most important part of preparing for Christ’s return is building a relationship with Him now. Every day. Knowing, loving and obeying God and Jesus Christ ensures that those trying days can be filled with a hope that surpasses any circumstance.
2. Part of you is excited
As the day draws closer my excitement to hold that sweet, new miracle grows. I know that I still have a mountain to climb but the anticipation of the reward I’ll receive at the summit continues to swell. The feeling of raw accomplishment in those first few moments while holding that brand new child is unique to motherhood. There’s nothing else like it, and I know it will be worth whatever I go through to get there. The apostle John sums it up beautifully when he writes, “Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world” (John 16:21).
As the days grow darker and God’s way is abandoned ever more it becomes clearer and clearer just how much we all need our King to return. I read scriptures that describe the new world that He will create and it gives me great hope! There is a better world than we can even imagine ahead! To have run the race and come across that finish line will be sweeter than anything we have ever experienced. Running this race will be the most worthwhile thing we have ever done! What are we to do with the excitement and anticipation we feel with relation to the return of Christ?
Use your excitement to extinguish your fear and doubt. Hope is a great motivator. That’s why God gives us so much of it in Scripture! When the days of doubt or struggle come, try to remember the vision He has given to us. We have so much to look forward to and be excited about. The pain is temporary but the hope that we have is eternal! Fall on this when tribulation comes.
Excitement is contagious, so go infect someone! If we are excited about God’s plan for all of humanity other people will be too. Do you know someone who makes you more joyful just because you’re around them? Let’s be those people! We should be so excited about what God has in store that other people want to ask us about it and then grab hold of it themselves. So be excited, not about this world, but about the one God is preparing for us!
So as my due date rapidly approaches I will continue to prepare steadfastly for that momentous task of bringing life into this world. And as I do, I will hold fast to these principles that will enable me to better prepare for the return of our King. During the difficult times that lie ahead we can all take comfort in the words of the apostle Paul: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).