The “Labor Pains” of God’s Will

May 19, 2023
Friday of the Sixth Sunday of Easter
Readings for Today


“When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world.”  John 16:21

This truth can certainly be extended to any form of anguish we experience for a good reason. Note that the pain experienced in childbirth is pain for a good and holy reason. Therefore, the pain is forgotten, in a sense, when the mother sees and holds her newborn child. That suffering is forgotten in the sense that it is transformed into joy by the birth of a child.

There is much in life that can cause anguish. In today’s Gospel, Jesus goes on to say to His disciples: “So you also are now in anguish.” He says this because He had just finished speaking to them about His coming departure to the Father and about the suffering that they would all experience in the form of persecution. But then He says to them that after He departs and they no longer see Him, they will then see Him again and will rejoice. And He says, “On that day you will not question me about anything.” This is an important line to understand.

Anguish, or any form of suffering, can tempt us to question our lives and even to question God. It is clear that after Jesus was killed, the disciples questioned everything. They were confused and frightened. All appeared to be lost. Then, to a lesser degree, after Jesus ascended into Heaven and prior to Him sending the Holy Spirit, the disciples would have also experienced confusion. Why did Jesus leave them? Why didn’t He stay longer? Who was going to lead them now? These and many other similar questions would have arisen in their minds.

So also with us, when things do not go as planned, or when things take a painful turn in our lives, we can immediately question and even doubt the perfect plan of God. If things fall apart because of our sin, then repentance is the remedy. But if things fall apart, in the sense that life becomes difficult, then we should especially listen to the words of Jesus today.

When anguish in life happens because we are fulfilling God’s will, we must see that anguish as a means to a much greater good. Just as the pains of childbirth lead to the gift of a child, so the pains of bringing forth God’s will in our lives will lead to the presence of God Himself. Patient endurance is a virtue that is especially important in this case. For example, the anguish of overcoming an addiction, or of praying when we don’t feel like praying, or of forgiving someone who hurt us are all examples of anguish turning into blessings. Very often, combatting our own selfish will is difficult. But the fruit of engaging in such a battle within us is joy. There is joy found in victory over sin. Joy is found in persevering in prayer. Joy is found in every difficulty we endure for the Kingdom of God. But the joy is not always our first experience. It is only experienced when we patiently endure the situation.

Reflect, today, upon any form of anguish you are currently enduring for the glory of God, or anything you are currently avoiding because it seems difficult to do. Do not shy away from these difficulties. See them as a means to a glorious end. Endure the “labor pains” of the purification and mission God is calling you to by looking beyond the difficulties you initially experience so that you will see the end result that awaits you.

My glorious Lord, You endured Your passion with perfect virtue. You never wavered from fulfilling the will of the Father, and the fruit of Your perseverance was the glory of the Resurrection. Please help me to patiently endure the crosses in my life and give me hope to see that from them You will bring forth the good fruit of eternal joy. Jesus, I trust in You.

Novena to the Holy Spirit
Prayed in preparation for Pentecost
Day One – Friday, May 19

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Featured image above: Stained glass depicting the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus, via flickr