Mark 13:7-8  When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines.  These are the beginning of birth-pains.

As Jesus was approaching his death and preparing his disciples for the anguish that would inevitably come upon them in the face of all its injustice and cruelty, he used the common example of childbirth to put it all in context and help them understand: “I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices.  You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.  A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.  So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no-one will take away your joy” (John 16:20-22).

When our first child was due, the medical profession was just starting to consider the possibility that it might be helpful all round if the father were actually present during the birthing process instead of being exiled to the waiting room while the ‘professionals’ dealt with the cries of pain they would hear through the door, and cope with their helplessness as best they could!  Fortunately, our obstetrician was one of the leaders in this ‘new’ approach, so I got to be holding my wife’s hand and whispering words of encouragement in her ear as she went through it all for us.

At least it it helped me appreciate Jesus’ use of this example.  When Jesus returns, those of us who have put our trust in his redeeming grace and are longing to be with him for ever will be filled with overwhelming and inexpressible joy – like seeing a beautiful new person being brought into the world.  But he is also coming in Judgement to a world that is in violent conflict with itself because of Man’s sin.  So the bringing in of ‘all things new” (Revelation 21:5) cannot be without pain and sorrow.

Either we will have taken refuge in the one who has already borne all the pain and sorrow for us on the cross, or we will have to bear it ourselves,  So, as Jesus warned, in the light of all this we ought not be surprised by all the stressful and distressful things that are we are seeing around us today as the time of his appearing draws near – it’s all in God’s loving, sovereign hands.  (cf 1 Thessalonians 5:3).
– Bruce Christian