Pain in Childbearing

I’ve been in the thick of lesson planning these past few months. As a first semester teacher, my prep is never done. And since I’m teaching a marriage and family class, we covered some basic foundational truths related to God’s design for marriage in the first few weeks of class. Obviously you can’t teach these things without talking about the reality of sin early on. The Bible doesn’t get very far before sin comes on the scene, so it only made sense that we went where the Bible went as we began.

As I’m worked through the account of creation and the fall, a number of things stood out to me, but the thing that struck me most about the fall of man is how gender specific the curse actually was. Of course, both Adam and Eve faced the most devastating consequence together—separation from God. But God also applied the curse to them specifically within their gender.

In Genesis 3:16, God tells Eve:

“I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.”

Often I hear people explain this text only in the context of physical pain, which is not a wrong explanation at all. It’s true. From what I’ve heard the physical act of birthing a child is excruciating. But I think it’s even more than that.

Along with everything else after Adam and Eve sinned it doesn’t take long for the effects of sin to begin their devastating ruin. Pre-fall, God had given Adam and Eve the command to be fruitful and multiply. Part of their God-given design included the ability to bear children and fill the earth. Post-fall, pain would now be associated with it. Barrenness is introduced just a few chapters later and continues as a general theme throughout the book of Genesis, and even the rest of the Bible. The inability to bear children was always seen as a dreadful curse, in part because it was a terrible reminder that the world was now not what God intended it to be.

The fact that Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, Ruth, Elizabeth, and countless other women throughout history faced infertility is a dark reminder that all is not right in the world. Women lose children through miscarriage or stillbirth. Children are rebellious and turn away from their family and Christ. Adoptions fail or take years to be finalized. And that’s not even including the daily realities that being a mom is just plain hard. Yes, the process of pregnancy, labor, and delivery is painful and not how God originally designed it to be. But so is everything else before and after the birth day as well. As I told my class, what was once intended to bring the greatest joy to a mother would now bring added pain and turmoil in the midst of the joy.

Wherever you are on your journey of plodding along through this life, you can rest in this glorious truth: the curse didn’t end with the curse. With the curse came the promise, the promise that through this very painful process of childbirth everything would one day be set right. Jesus broke the curse on all of us, namely death and separation from God. But he also secured for us the promise of a new creation, one that isn’t plagued with death, sorrow, barrenness, loss, and heartache. What glorious good news!

So that is what we wait for. While every day, month, and year is a reminder to us as women that the curse is still wreaking havoc on our lives, the curse has a timetable. And that timetable is short compared to the glory of eternity. The pain will end someday. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for that day!

For a more in depth look at this verse, Tim Challies wrote a very helpful post on this last year. I was very encouraged by his take on it.