The pains of childbirth are no joke. As a male, I can’t testify to this reality personally, but I have had the privilege of sitting with my wife through the births of our two children. It doesn’t take a genius to see that the pain is real, intense, and enduring. Nor does it take a genius to see just how remarkable women are.
As Paul shifts to the theme of suffering in Romans 8:18-30, he compares it to the pains of childbirth. Here we see that Paul is no romantic daydreamer when it comes to the hard realities of life. Suffering, he says, is akin to one of the greatest pains of the human experience. Sometimes life hurts that badly.
Yet, pain is not the only component of labor. For the pain eventually gives way to the reality of new life! This is an important insight if we are to understand Paul correctly. Yes, suffering can hurt like the pains of childbirth. But, also like the pains of childbirth, the pain is the precursor to something greater. For us Christians, the pain of suffering must ultimately give way to the beauty of new creation. That is what Paul means in verse 18 when he says:
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
In saying this, Paul isn’t downplaying suffering – he will soon compare it to childbirth! Instead, he is calling our attention to what comes after suffering. Glory, he says, is the sure destiny of God’s children. Yes, things may hurt now, but this pain isn’t even worth comparing to the glory and beauty and majesty of what is to come.
This is what it means to live in hope. It doesn’t mean that we act as if the hardships of life are less than they are. No, to live in hope is to fully affirm the difficulties we face while looking forward to the glory that is to come. Like a woman in labor, we experience pain in the moment, but it must ultimately give way to new life in Christ!