She’s in labor, that friend of mine. Eagerly anticipating the arrival of her little boy or girl. It’s so brief, the time separating her from memorizing every detail of his or her little face…but, it feels like an eternity when you are laboring. Every muscle spasm last for what seems like an hour, though it’s a matter of seconds. Those contractions pile on top of one another, with barely enough time to gather strength and breath. It’s sweaty, hard, intense, emotional, painful, self-aware work. The hardest work I have ever done.
And, her husband is holding her, helping her, coaching her, championing her, steeling his own resolve (as men are so capable of doing for their wives), praying and petitioning on her behalf. Their parents pace and pray, bake and breathe…waiting on the other side of this, remembering their own beautiful experiences, barely believing that the babies they once held tenderly are about to hold their own sweet one. And we, their friends, wait with bated breath to hear their good news. We strain in the anticipation, with love and affection for them. Stretching our hearts heavenward asking for this little blessing to come forth in health. We hope with them.
We are co-laborers.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. 6 Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 7 And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
I think about what it means to labor along side another– who has labored alongside me? So many. Even those I don’t realize. The effort that has produced grace in my life. How God has orchestrated this chorus of praise in my heart through the harmony of others’ faith. Beautiful. Do I offer to labor with others?
Yes, if it is easy. Yes, if it costs little. Yes, if it is enjoyable.
But, is it still labor if it requires little effort? If it neatly fits into a compartment, can be managed and controlled, works within the parameters of my responsibilities, draws no unwelcome attention from others…is it really labor?
People are hard work. I am hard work. If I want to be the hands and feet of Jesus, I will have to labor to bring the Good News to another. It will require sacrifice of self, of ambitions, of finances, of relationship, to be available, willing, open. It will require the presence of a holy God in an unholy vessel. It will need buckets of grace.
And, I’m learning it will also require hardship. Lacking. Longing. Striving. Difficulty. Anguish. Without these to define our need, how can we minister? How can we reach out in empathy? How can we lead others to the throne of grace without learning the path ourselves? He doesn’t make it happen, but He lets it. Everything in our life is redeemable, able to be made holy and worthy through the sacrifice of Christ.
Lord, let me be your co-laborer, working with all that You have given to me to bring salvation, redemption, peace, purpose, unity to others. Make me a clean vessel. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit. Set me apart, Lord for whatever purpose You desire. Give me a clean heart. Forgive me for my selfishness, my pride, my prejudice, my apathy to the spiritual conditions of others. Give me eyes to see not just the sin, but the sinner, not just the walls but the hurting one behind those walls. Make my arms strong, my words loving, my hope secure in You alone. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.