Outward Pain, Inward Peace
By: Brittany Dellinger
C. S. Lewis once said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
2020 is coming to a close and we could look back over the year, littered with pains, and mourn. We could look back and weep. We could look back at all that has been lost and feel hope slip away. But so much of life is about perspective; beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Yes, this year has been tough on all, but we can know that our Good Father does not waste any pain. Scripture tells us to “Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4
To guide our perspective, it may be helpful to turn our minds to the Christmas season. Church yards are dotted with Nativity scenes depicting a serene stage: animals kneeling, angels keeping watch, Joseph calmly smiling, Mary gazing at her newborn son. But there is so much more to the story than the peaceful nativity presents.
Imagine with me for a moment what the hours before might have been like… (This is only a guess into what Mary may have been feeling, thinking, and experiencing. Scripture doesn’t give us these details, but I have experienced childbirth six times, and daily managing a small farm, I can imagine some of these scenarios could have been realistic.)
Mary is heavy with child, and she and her husband, Joseph, are wandering around Bethlehem. She has never given birth before, but even still she knows it must be close. They have been turned away at every door. Mary is beginning to wonder if she will have her son in the street. What would that be like? What would it be to experience the most intimate and sacred moment in the midst of a public street? She is finally escorted to a stable and makes a birthing space among the animals. (Again, we view the Nativity scene with calm and quite animals looking on, but if you have ever walked into the living space of pigs, chickens, donkeys, horses, or cows you know that when you enter it is anything but calm.) Mary must decide if her space is far enough away from the larger animals so they don’t trod on her while she is distracted by labor. She must determine which location is less contaminated by animal droppings. As labor intensifies, somewhere in the back of her mind she thinks back to the day when she met with Elizabeth. She remembers the overwhelming peace and joy she felt as she felt baby John jump in Elizabeth’s womb. She wonders how she went from that peaceful day, to this! But nonetheless, she draws strength from the memory of that day.
Mary’s labor pains reach a level she had not anticipated and as she lets out her own shouts of pain, Emmanuel emerges into our physical world: God’s own shout to us. Baby Jesus is the megaphone by which God says, “I am coming to you. I will meet you. I will rescue you.”
We don’t always understand our pain. We cannot look to our sufferings and figure out “why?” But we can look to Mary’s story to learn about the character of God. He doesn’t waste our pain. He will bring beauty from ashes. So, no matter what your Christmas celebrations look like this year, remember that any discomfort you feel can be an amplifier of what God wants us to know: He is Emmanuel, “God with us.”
*Featured image from “The Nativity Story”