Genesis 3:15 gives one of the Bible’s greatest promises. It is God’s curse against the serpent, and his first proclamation of the gospel: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” This curse against the serpent was fulfilled on the cross, where Jesus was bruised for our transgressions, while at the same time crushing the devil and all his deadly schemes against our fallen race.
This gracious announcement is followed by what for us is a darker promise. As the just consequence of her sin in eating the forbidden fruit, God said to the woman, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children” (Gen. 3:16). This is a good time to reflect on the meaning of this verse because we are celebrating the birth of the newest Ryken. Karoline Jorena was born on October 2 and welcomed with hugs and kisses by her brothers and sisters. She was born in excellent health—7 pounds, 12 ounces—but like any other child, she did not come into the world without suffering.
Genesis 3:16 means what it says: “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.” We know this because it is in the Bible, which is the Word of God, who always says what he means and means what he says. But we have also witnessed it. In various ways, Lisa has been touched by the curse of Genesis 3:16, and so have I, if only because I love her.
I think first of the suffering she endured when Joshua was born. The delivery was not well-managed, and Lisa endured excruciating pain without the help of any relief. The pain was so intense, in fact, that later we realized she had been blacking out during her contractions. There was a bad tear during the delivery, and significant blood loss. The experience was so harrowing that afterwards I went home and wept. When I spoke with Lisa’s mother the next day, she asked whether I thought that Lisa was going to die. “No,” I said, after long moments of reflection, “but there were times when I thought that death might be a deliverance.”
Then I think of the two children we lost through miscarriage. We did not suffer as greatly as some, since Lisa had not yet felt the children moving in her womb, but there was still a sense of loss and sadness. Our joyous expectation of another child suddenly vanished. We always knew that this could happen, of course, and we had prayed that God would give us the grace to accept it, but that still didn’t make it easy.
Our other pregnancies were much happier, but they were not without difficulties of their own. There is always the hardship of the pregnancy itself, of course, with all of the physical changes it brings, and all of the uncertainties which require the exercise of faith. It takes almost everything a mother has to bring a child into the world. And every delivery has had its own unique pains, especially this last one, which was none to easy, as Lisa could tell you. She was in moderate labor for several days, but when it was finally time, the baby came sooner than anyone was ready. There was no pain relief, and again I heard cries of anguish that for Lisa seem only to come in labor and delivery.
Everyone’s experience is different. In the providence of God, we have suffered much less than some couples, but we have suffered at least enough to know that Genesis 3:16 is true: children are brought forth in pain. What can we learn from this biblical and practical truth?
We learn to be grateful for the gift of our own lives, which came at the cost of our mothers’ suffering. We too were born in pain, and we should give thanks to God for the mothers who courageously brought us into the world.
We learn the necessity of prayer. Childbirth and everything connected to it, including the inability to bear children through singleness or through the difficult providence of God, brings suffering. This calls us to prayer for all our sisters in the family of God. Every child comes at some cost, and we need to intercede for our mothers throughout pregnancy, delivery, and early maternity, especially when there are unexpected or even tragic difficulties along the way.
We also learn to take sin seriously. The pains of childbirth are a reminder that we live in a fallen world, in which we experience pain, loss, and the judgment of God against our sin. How telling it is that children come into the world crying. The sound is a happy one because it means that their lungs are drawing the breath of life, but it is also a sober commentary on our whole human existence. We are living in a world of tears, where we often suffer the painful consequences of sin.
But that is not the whole story. There is also grace. It would have been perfectly just for God to condemn Eve not to have any children at all, since the wages of her sin was death. But God has grace for sinners, and in his grace, he had a plan for the salvation of our race—the sons and daughters of Eve. According to this plan, a Virgin would conceive and bear a Son (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:23). He too would come with pain and suffering. But in his life there was the promise of redemption and the ultimate reversal of Eve’s curse. Jesus Christ is the Redeemer of our fallen race, the best comfort of mothers in distress, and the only hope for all their children.
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