Last summer, my niece was in labor with her second child, my brother was facing life-threatening oral cancer surgery, and my uncle was dying from COVID-19—all at the same time. I was grateful that my brother had a second chance at life, that my niece celebrated the birth of her child, and that my uncle entered peacefully into the mystery of life after death. These were all experiences that led to the creation of new life. For through pain and suffering, joy can be realized, and through death, we enter into eternal life.
To comfort the disciples and help them understand that his “hour had come,” Jesus drew on the traditional biblical metaphor of childbirth to explain his upcoming death and resurrection. Childbirth is a combination of expectancy and uncertainty, filled with mystery and gratitude. We journey through the pain and difficulties of labor because we know that birth will bring hope and joy. In John’s reading, Jesus does not say that pain is literally forgotten or that the mother’s sorrow is replaced by joy. God does not erase or devalue the pain we experience; instead, God brings joy into our lives through a transformation of the pain.
When we face our storms of suffering that cause us to flinch at life, God is present. The disciples thought Jesus’ death was the end of the story, but through the Cross, Jesus was birthed into eternal life. What joy of new life is God birthing in you?