“…my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!”
Childbirth is no joke. Carol Burnett said, “Giving birth is like taking your lower lip and forcing it over you head.” She is funny, but pretty accurate. To endure natural childbirth women train their bodies to “go with the waves of pain.” They must wait until it is time to push. They must trust that the pain will lead to something great – a health baby.
Interestingly as Paul writes to the Galatians, a group of believers that he is discipling, he tells them he is in the anguish of childbirth over them. In fact he says this isn’t the first time he has been anguished as he disciples this group of people.
No wonder we prefer to evangelize, “get people saved,” and move on with life. For a natural birth a mother can experience anguish of laboring for a long time. Some women deal with labor off and on for weeks. But only once does the mother get to the point of pushing, the point of maximum pain and effort. After that the baby makes his or her entrance into the world.
Not so with discipleship. When we disciple well those we are mentoring or discipling will bring us to the anguish of childbirth again and again. Why? Because when we love well and care about the welfare of someone’s soul their choices in life may break us. As they stumble down the path of faith their detours and falls will cause us to anguish over them in prayer.
That means my detours and falls can also cause anguish to someone else. And I need someone travailing over me in prayer just as much as the person I am discipling needs me.
Discipling is a messy business. It will be painful and you will spend time on your knees begging God to work in ways you cannot. It will bring you to the end of yourself and make you rely fully on God and His wisdom. It will require grace and mercy that only through God you can offer. And humility, it will require you to admit your failings and weaknesses. You will have to ask for forgiveness.
But just like natural childbirth, it is so worth it in the end.
Father God may we be a people who love others well. May we be willing to invest in the lives of others to the point of travail and anguish. Holy Spirit have Your way in our lives that Jesus may be formed in us and through Your power we will guide others to know You and love You well. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.