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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Creation's Birth Pains

Behold, the LORD makes the earth empty and makes it waste,
Distorts its surface
And scatters abroad its inhabitants...
The earth is violently broken,
The earth is split open,
The earth is shaken exceedingly.
~ Isaiah 24:1,19 (NKJV)

I read Isaiah. I read the headlines. I see Christians and non-Christians alike experiencing unrivaled hardship.

I emerge from the valley of death's shadow and feel darkness licking at my heels. It still wants me.

Was life always this difficult and I never saw it? Or are we nearing the end?

"You will hear of wars and rumors of wars ...
There will be famines and earthquakes ...
All these are the beginning of birth pains...
At that time many will turn away from the faith ...
many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.
Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold."
~ Jesus describing signs of the end (Matthew 24:6-12 NIV)

Is it just me, or do I also observe unrivaled apathy? Have we, as a people, heard about so many disasters and diseases—have our eyes seen too many violent acts and victims—that we have found ways to desensitize ourselves to the pain and thereby also desensitized our love?

Must the Lord then allow the pain to become more intense, lest we either accept the brokenness of our world or believe that we are capable to fix it ourselves?

For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.
~ Romans 8:22-23 (NKJV)

I've birthed five children. I tried an epidural for the first one, but it didn't work correctly and caused far more pain than it relieved, so I didn't try to numb the pain again. I learned to pray through it, taking hold of necessary strength from God.

These are characteristics of birth pains: they get horrifically worse, you don't get out of them except by going through them, and they do end—with the most intense exhilaration life offers.

God's Word says the same of the birth pangs we share with creation. Efforts to mitigate suffering ultimately prove futile. We emerge not by running away, but by pushing through to promised joy and peace.

You will keep in perfect peace, The one fixed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
Trust in the LORD forever,
For in YAH, the LORD, is everlasting strength
[Rock of Ages].
~ Isaiah 26:3-4

Lord, whatever lies ahead, in our world or in our lives, we know we can persevere with the strength You supply. We trust You not to leave us. We look to You to preserve us in peace.

: : :

This is the "rest of the story" connected to my testimony of gratitude posted at Everyday Testimonies.

Comments, questions, and respectful disagreement are welcome. Reply to comments, or e-mail buildingHisbody [plus]
Copyright 2011, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.
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  1. It's a hard question that you ask.

  2. Anne,

    Yes. And also:

    "...scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.'"--2 Peter 3:3-4 ESV

    There have been earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, New Zealand, and now Japan. I sense trepidation even in those who deny just about all things of God. The greater the signs, the louder the denial, it seems--so that it becomes taboo to even WONDER if this is the beginning of birth pangs.

    And so many Christians don't even want to publically wonder. That's part of "love grown cold", in my estimation. The apostles told the Truth in love in the face of real physical threat. Yet modern American Christians don't want to tell Truth for fear of offending--and by "Truth" I mean the clear, overt teachings of Scripture, as you cite above. (NOT pronouncing judgment on the Japanese people...the Bible does not speak to that; neither shall I. God's judgment in the end times come to us all, either directly or indirectly--this is not about Japan, in my estimation.)

    Thank you for sharing the Scripture, the verse, and the message. I pray our love, and our ability to tell Truth wrapped in love, will not continue to grow cold. I pray we'll hold tight to God and one another if the birth pangs continue. For as you rightly say, the only way out is through.

    May God bless you richly, Anne, with all your continued ministries.

  3. Oh, I agree.

    My apathy has become dulled.

    Lord, open my eyes.

  4. Susan ~

    There are no easy answers, but there is One with an easy yoke.

  5. Gwen ~

    I would call such birth pains "warning" rather than "judgment." We cannot afford to become indifferent, lest we grow cold. The alternative is to share the pain, and remain responsive. It is a burden we will not carry for much longer, however many years, months or days are left.

  6. Duane ~

    I admit that it isn't easy to remain sesitive, to share the pain. Even prayers start to feel repetitive. More and more, it seems that I need only enter my prayer closet and bend the knee, then I at once feel the Spirit's groaning, and may struggle to pray. I think sometimes all I can do is groan with Him.

  7. Important questions and thoughts, Anne. Thanks for calling us to remember His truth in the midst of devastation.

  8. Is it apathy or are we so overwhelmed by the suffering that we become numb? We cannot fix it. Only He can. All we can do, it seems, is groan and pray and reach out one at a time. Let's hope it's not a long labor.

  9. Jason ~

    There is so much more devastation to come, so much truth to remember ...

  10. Snady ~

    You raise an excellent question. When pain overwhelms us, we feel compelled to numb it in whatever way we can. The Bible says there is a time to numb pain (Proverbs 31:6-7). Paul speaks of a time of despair (<a href=">1 Corinthians 1:8</a>). But we can't camp there. We must renew our strength in the Lord.

    I've experienced times when I felt so overwhelmed with my own pain that it was difficult to respond to others. There are other times when I feel overwhelmed by so many needs, and remind myself, as you so wisely mention, that I am not God, and only He can respond to all needs. I remind myself of how important it is to draw from His strength rather than my own to meet those demands.

    I pray that the Lord gives you new strength, especially after the last couple of months you've had. I send my own ♥ love too! : )


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