The Joy of Labor

"Just like a woman giving birth experiences intense labor pains in delivering her baby; yet after the child is born she quickly forgets what she went through because of the overwhelming joy of knowing that a new baby has been born into the world."

The Driving Force of Labor

What comes to mind when we hear the word labor? More than likely, we think difficult, challenging, demanding, or even painful. Typically, when we think of labor, the last term on our mind is joy

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word labor is defined as the “expenditure of physical or mental effort especially when difficult or compulsory.” It is also involved in the physical act of giving birth. 

Based on this definition, as well as our own preconceptions, why would any reasonable human intentionally put forth such extreme effort? 

What is it that drives people to get out of bed day-after-day? Why do parents sacrifice so much, both physically and emotionally, to raise their kids? Even more, what motivates pregnant women to undergo hours (or even days) of intense physical anguish?

Well, the answer is actually quite simple: the reward.

The hope of a future reward sparks the willingness to go through temporary pain. During childbirth, the prize for a mother’s labor is undeniably the new life of her beautiful child. 

We intentionally undergo various forms of labor because on a fundamental level, we know that on the other side of discomfort lies comfort, the other side of pain lies relief, and the other side of labor lies joy. 

On the other side of discomfort lies comfort, the other side of pain lies relief, and the other side of labor lies joy.

Fuel to the Flame

In all their shapes and sizes, rewards are the driving forces of our endeavors. As an illustration, the expectancy of a new baby encourages a mother to push onward in spite of the intense contractions. As a result, the challenges of childbirth are nothing in comparison to the immense love between mother and child. 

Expanding to spiritual realities, the lovers of God are willing to labor through the inflictions of this world for the greatest reward of all: a new and everlasting life the presence pure Love and Light (I John 1:5). Faith in such a marvelous reward is the fuel that lights a fire in the hearts of believers everywhere. 

To encourage those encountering daily hardships, the apostle Paul writes, For this light, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (II Corinthians 4:17). For a woman in labor, hours of intense strain is nothing in relation to a lifetime of shared love with her children. In the same way, the troubles faced in this short lifespan are microscopic compared to eternity. 

Of course, it is impossible to find hope in such reward without faith. Faith in the unseen is the foundation of finding joy in the labors on earth. 

Just Can't Wait for Heaven

Back in the 80’s, Keith Green released a song with these lyrics, “In six days You created everything, but You’ve been working on heaven two thousand years. I can’t wait to get to heaven, when You’ll wipe away all my fears” (I Can’t Wait for Heaven ). These lyrics, along with the desire for eternal rest, are admirable. In fact, the Scriptures constantly remind us to keep our eyes on the ultimate reward of new life (2 Peter 3:13). 

As children of God, eternity with our Creator should be what we look forward to most of all. To the greatest extent, it is meant to be the fuel that keeps the fire alive in our hearts. The promise of full salvation should always be the hope we fix our eyes on. 

And not just us, but Nature herself eagerly awaits the reward at the end of our labor. For we know that up to the present time all of creation groans with pain, like the pain of childbirth. But it is not just creation alone which groans; we who have the Spirit as the first of God’s gifts also groan within ourselves as we wait for God to make us His children and set our whole being free” (Romans 8:22-23).

Focused on the Prize, Faithful to the Mission

Be that it may, remember that the hope for new life should never be an excuse for apathy.

Hope for the future is meant to encourage endurance, not develop bitterness concerning the present. When we grumble about our existence in this world, we miss the wonderful opportunity of finding joy in the labor. 

When the apostles encouraged eager anticipation for the return of Christ, they did not intend for us to abandon our callings in this lifetime. Their goal was (and still is) to encourage believers to faithfully persist in their labors, while patiently awaiting the final reward.

Isaac David, from Daily Disciple, put it this way, “When all we think about is getting to heaven, we actually lose sight of the mission that we have here on earth.”

During the apostle Paul’s life, he struggled between his deep longing for the reward of heaven and the present joys of his ministry. “If I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live” (Philippians 1:22-24).

While faith in hope is necessary, joy in labor is commendable. We ought to patiently embrace the labor pains, rather than rushing to the delivery. In this way, we allow the Spirit of God to prepare and strengthen us through the lessons gained from these difficulties. 

Lessons from Labor

Waiting for my daughter to be born taught me life-long lessons about patience, humility, and finding joy even during childbirth (Read the full story here). 

Days following the birth, I was still silently battling the series of events leading up to it.  By second-guessing every decision I had made, I wondered if things were supposed to turn out differently. Then one afternoon, as I gazed into the beautiful grey eyes of my newborn, a sense of deep gratitude filled me. “Trust in My good and perfect timing,” God graciously reminded me. 

Even though it did not go exactly as planned, the midwife was right; it was a beautiful birth. My impatience to speed things along almost made me miss out on the joy of labor itself. By prolonging the delivery, God gave me the opportunity to spend quality time with the love of my life before adding another addition to our family. Together, we were given alone time to walk, to laugh, to hold each other, and even to watch the sun rise. 

By complaining or wishing the time away, I would have missed out on all of those beautiful moments and lessons. In the same way, hostility toward life on this earth may cause us to miss out on the important work and training God has in store for us. 

Presence in the Pain

Beyond the realm of childbirth, it can be easy to miss out on matters that seem meaningless by rushing to the end. Nevertheless, it is in those twists and turns of fate that we truly see the way God works. Staying present in the pains may teach us lessons that can ultimately be used to encourage others.

Though the labors of this life may seem unbearable at times, it is possible to maintain a sense of gratitude for the experiences God presents us. And while it can be tempting to hurry the trials of this life along, can we pause to give thanks for the guidance we’ve been given? For every contraction in this life gives us strength to endure the next.

It is no secret that the demands of this life will wear us down. Yet nonetheless, in the midst of labor, we can be joyous in the knowledge that as the delivery approaches, a glorious new Life is awaiting us.

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