Any woman who has ever experienced labor has probably had some unkind words for Eve at some point, or at least felt like it. Even women who haven’t gone through the birthing process are familiar with the curse that faces us as women. The curse given to women when sin entered the world is often repeated and frequently misunderstood. While the pain of labor is a sad reminder that sin is alive and well, the entire journey of motherhood is wrought with pain from beginning to end.
When God brought down the curse on humanity, he cursed men and women generally in that in Adam we all will die and face judgment for our sin. But he also cursed us specifically, seen most fully in our genders. Men now face painful toil and strife in their sphere of influence, and women in there sphere (Genesis 3:17-19). God told Eve he would increase her pain in childbearing (Genesis 3:16). And the sad reality of sin is that childbearing is now a painful and excruciating process. While many apply this verse only to the birthing process, we would be lying if we said the pain only ended there.
The very next chapter a sword pierces Eve’s heart when one of her sons kills the other in a murderous rage. Fast forward a few more chapters and we hear the devastating news that Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel are all barren. Children die. Children fight. And the path to motherhood seems anything but glamorous.
The Bible is rife with stories of such tragedy and disappointment on this journey called motherhood (Judges 13:2, 1 Samuel 1, Jeremiah 31:15), but it’s also filled with much blessing and joy. What was once intended to give women the greatest joy would now be laced with great pain as well.
And isn’t that our experience also?
After losing our first baby to miscarriage we endured a long road of infertility before finally getting pregnant with our twin boys. And the pregnancy was far from easy. Morning sickness gave way to gestational diabetes, and I didn’t even make it past seven months. After five long weeks in the NICU, my boys came home only to be faced with nursing issues among other things. Nothing about motherhood has been easy. But it sure has been joy-filled!
Joy in the Midst of Pain
Maybe you can relate.
You might be in the midst of the busy toddler years and you think you can’t face another knock down drag out tantrum, and then your sweet child hugs you after he is disciplined. Joy mixed with pain. Maybe you spent all morning hugging the toilet but after you saw your little baby on the ultrasound machine it all seemed worth it. There is difficulty in the midst of gladness. I don’t know about you, but there are times where I wish the curse only applied to the momentary experience of labor and delivery.
In his sermon, To Be a Mother is a Call to Suffer, John Piper says this about the journey of motherhood:
“To be a mother is a call to suffer. Not just at the beginning of life, but also at the end. Simeon said to Mary, Jesus’ mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed – and a sword will pierce even your own soul” (Luke 2:34-35). Mothers suffer when their children are born. Mothers suffer when children leave them and go to the mission field. Mothers suffer when their children die. Mothers suffer when their children are foolish. “A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish son is a grief to his mother” (Proverbs 10:1). To be a mother is a call to suffer. Oh yes, it’s more. But it’s not less.”
A Steadfast Hope for Suffering Mothers and Not-Yet Mothers
So what is a woman to do? On these days leading up to Mother’s Day, you might be like I was last year, dreading the day and wishing you could just sleep through it all.
God knows your pain.
The same God who spoke the curse over Eve and her female offspring is the God who spoke the hope of the gospel. This promise is the good news that the pain of her childbearing would not have the final word. Yes, what was once intended to give her the greatest joy would now be laced with pain. But from her womb would come the promised one who would put an end to this pain, sorrow, and curse.
Motherhood is a call to suffer, but it’s also a call to joy. The Savior came to us through this very process of motherhood. And isn’t it like God to take the curse and turn it on its head?
So wherever you are this Mother’s Day, know this, dear sister: the baby born to the scared virgin all those years ago is the very hope you need to get through another day, even another Mother’s Day. He’s the hope you need to bring joy into your painful mothering. And he’s the hope you need to get out of bed in the morning.
With the curse came the promise. And that’s good news for every woman this Mother’s Day from the full armed weary mother to the empty armed sorrowful one.