Your Spiritual Workout
"We're NOT having this baby today!" Those were the final words Sarah shouted out as she got off the delivery table and stormed out of the delivery room. The doctor and nurses had been by her side giving her the only encouraging word their experience had taught them to give, "PUSH!" They were astounded as she walked away. "What is she going to do? How else will she have the baby without pain and discomfort?!
Now Sarah wanted her baby as did her husband. They both had imagined all the joy a child could bring into their life. They had watched others with their children and were encouraged to go ahead with their plans to have a child as well. The anticipation of joy only grew as the baby grew inside Sarah's stomach. Finally, the time had come for them to have their lives changed forever by the joy of a new life being gifted to them but there was just one major problem-the pain and discomfort Sarah had to endure every time she pushed.
Sarah wasn't ignorant. She knew there would be pain and discomfort. However, when the time came to push the reality that pain and discomfort precedes the life of her baby went out the window and she chose to stay comfortable. All that she had dreamed of and all that she desired was being delayed by her resistance to PUSH and endure the temporary pain and discomfort that would ultimately bring her joy.
This illustration, though fictitious, is a great parallel to our lives in Christ. We, too, desire a new joy coming into our lives. For some of us it's operating on a new level in God's gifts. For others it's a new level of His fruit that we greatly desire to taste. That fruit may be peace, hope, or strength. Whatever the desire, like Sarah's baby, it has been growing inside us. We feel it. We even have the urge to push. We can sense that God has more for us but, like Sarah, the pain causes us to delay and stay comfortable. We resist pushing because while we have the urge in us to push, frankly, it's painful every time.
In the Kingdom of God pain and discomfort always precede growth into greater things in Christ. Thus, Jesus used this same example with His disciples about a joy coming to them (Now you know where illustration came from). He said, "It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world." (John 16:21) At the time, the disciples were attached to Jesus and had arrived at a certain level of comfort with Him. They were anticipating the joy that would soon come into the world through His ultimate sacrifice. They were told it would be painful and discomforting but when the time came for that sacrifice it was hard for them to endure something painful. Their push went out the window like Sarah's.
The disciples had to let go of the comfort of their current relationship with Him. They had to go through watching Him suffer in order to get to something better and experience more joy than they ever had. They also had to push to get there and it was painful. Jesus' words to them in that moment were, "So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice..." (John 16:22a) Their sorrow would be eclipsed by the joy that resulted from them pushing.
Our recent series on "Life Giving Routines" has been challenging. Changing routines can be painful and uncomfortable. But it's the routines in life that can either rob us of life or give us life.
As we get into new routines that give us life remember Sarah. She had to push. And we all know that there could be no baby without the pain. Remember the disciples who had to let go of their routine with Jesus. It was good while it lasted but Jesus had more-better-greater and it was going to come through the pain of pushing through. Their routines would be changed into a new routine with Christ that gave them more life and joy than they ever had. Jesus finishes with these encouraging words: "...And no one can rob you of that joy." (John 16:22a) How many suffer from a joy that comes and goes! That's not Jesus' plan for us. His plan is to get into a routine to experience a joy that NO ONE can take away.
Have you been resisting pushing because of the pain and discomfort? Getting into a routine of prayer, study, fasting and community is not easy if you haven't done that. What we've discovered so far is that they are biblical and they are expectations. But remember we're not starting new routines for the sake of changing things up but so that the life of Christ might be fully known in all Its wonder! It's life full of joy!
Are you ready to push? What does pushing look like for you today? Which routine causes you the most pain? Prayer? Study? Fasting? Community? All of them? Go ahead and PUSH through the pain and discomfort and experience the life of Christ like never before. You won't regret it!
In His grace and changing routines,