“The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven’t yet come to the end of themselves. We’re still trying to give orders, and interfering with God’s work within us.” –
You’ve gotta be in labor to give birth to the baby. And if you’ve never experienced it personally, let me just tell you, labor hurts. But hurt as it may, at the end of the pain, there is something new and beautiful ahead. Another thing about labor, once it begins, you literally have no choice but to see it through until its natural end. You can’t force it, you just have to surrender to it. So think about this for a moment then… what if everything you’re going through right now is preparing you for something beautiful? Perhaps for something you’ve been praying for? What if, at the end of this current season or struggle, there is a new life that you may not be able to imagine while you’re in the thick of labor.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
This life is full of challenges and even a joy filled life in Christ will offer countless hardships and sorrows, day after day. I am a fervent disciple of Jesus, He has changed me completely inside and out. And yet, I still have many really difficult things happening in my life right now. But when I look back, I realize I have always had difficult things going on, and based on what scripture tells us, I’m sure all of us always will until Jesus comes again. The New Testament is pretty clear on the fact that there will always be suffering and hardship in this life in the world.
The Mind of a Midwife
So how then do we learn to walk through these ebbing and flowing storms of sorrow without drowning? We have to remain calm and surrender. When a person is drowning in water and their rescuer comes to pull them out, if the victim is struggling and flailing about, trying to control the situation and save themselves, they may drown both people in the process. But when the victim surrenders to the process, they can be pulled to safety.
This is one hard lesson I’ve had to learn throughout my own recovery journey. I like control, I try VERY hard to keep my own little world in order and make sure all my ducks fall in a row as I like them to. But the more I push and struggle to control and do everything myself, the more it all falls apart and I start to sink again. So I’ve had to change my mindset about this over time.
One way I’ve started to look at this crazy journey we have with God is like that of a midwife. So often we push through life trying to give orders and hurry along the process to meet our intended or assumed ends. But it simply doesn’t work that way. It’s better to nurture the entire process of transformation and recovery like a midwife. Let’s look at the birth metaphor again for a minute… unlike many clinical birth settings where a doctor tries to control the entire process, sometimes even to the detriment of the mother and baby, a midwife takes on a more passive role. Midwives lovingly nurture the process so that the experience is fully realized and received. When we allow ourselves to live into this type of role in relation to God working in our lives, things begin to shift in beautiful directions.
Trying to force the process of growth and healing ourselves doesn’t work. Because on our own, we simply don’t have the right tools and medicine to do the job. Try as we might to fix specific areas in our life on our own accord, the old patterns and pains just keep coming back. Much like spot treating physical or mental illnesses, long term healing doesn’t occur until we find and treat the actual cause of the pain. Dulling the symptoms may help temporarily, but unless we can cut off the source of the pain, it will continue to surface in our lives and put us to tests again and again. And the source of all our pain is sin, something only the Great Physician can heal.
Transforming Through the Trials
There’s one more layer to this thought, a deeper message in our suffering and pain that’s taken me many years to understand. Not only does our healing come from God, but I believe that our pain is one way that God speaks to us and into our lives to guide us. But you know as well as I do that we often simply don’t listen to His voice and try again and again to do things our own way. Which always leads to even more intense suffering. The pain and struggles we experience are teaching tools and I’m starting to see from evidence in my own life that unless we surrender to God in all things, the specific types of trials we face will continue to present themselves until they no longer trigger us to react with fear, anger, or more sin. You will always have challenges in this life, but your outlook can and should change as He changes you. And in turn, those trials you’ve always faced may not look quite the same after a while, and some may even go away for good.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brothers and sisters throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” – 1 Peter 5:6-10
The big takeaway? Our God listens, He understands, He gently guides us, but He doesn’t force or control. That’s what WE try to do. The beauty of this relationship we have with our Creator is freedom. He allows us to go through the birthing pains of our spiritual formation so that we can learn to choose Him over our sin. When we surrender and agree to work with God as a midwife in the birthing process instead of fighting His direction, he transforms us along the way and leads us to places beyond our wildest dreams.