The disciples want to know what to look for to recognize when the end is near. After warning against false signs and prophets he says, “For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.” Mark 13:8
When we feel weary, we too want to know when it will all end. When will Jesus return? When will He make all things right as He promised? When will sin, and pain, and envy, and our repeated mistakes, and suffering, and death be defeated once and for all?
In two and a half chapters of Genesis, we got a peek into what that life would be like. Walking side-by-side with God in a world void of sin…not even knowing the difference between good and evil because it was all good. It was “very good”, to quote God.
But the first humans succumbed to the temptation of the devil. They fell for his only and often used bag of tricks: questioning the goodness of God; dangling things before them that are pleasing to the eye; promising higher knowledge and position; the lure of power and the force of pride.
They took the bait and took the bite. Instantly nothing was the same. Nothing was as it should be.
“To the woman he said, ‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.” (Genesis 3:16). And those birth pains have continued and will only intensify as the end draws near.
In this passage in Mark, Jesus tells the disciples that the signs to come before the day of His returns will be horrible…nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom, earthquakes, famines. And if that isn’t bad enough, He says they are but the beginning of the birth pains.
Pain has a purpose. Progress comes from pain. Pain indicates something is wrong and makes us take a hard look and try to change something to fix it. Pain makes us stop, limiting what we can do; forcing us to slow down. Pain is humbling.
Jesus relates the pain to come as birth pains. Pains that increase and intensify, but ultimately produces something new and something beautiful.
Paul says in Romans 8:18-22, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”
Though we groan now under the weight of sin, a time will come when all things that went wrong when sin entered the world, when the pains of childbirth began, will be made right again.
C.S. Lewis says, “If you find yourself with a desire that no experience in this world can satisfy, then the most probable explanation is that you were made for another world.”
Indeed, we were made for another world. A world free of sin and suffering. A world in intimate communion and community with God. Until that time, we groan with the sustaining and increasing pains of childbirth. We follow the path laid out by Jesus and the apostles to be on guard, abide in Him, holdfast to the Gospel, love God, love the truth and love one another.
And when that time comes when the birth pains subside, and new life emerges, the pain will long be forgotten. It will again be good. Very good.
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