The day my first grandchild, Liam, was born, Linda and I arrived at the hospital and went to my daughter Elizabeth’s room to spend time with her and her husband, Josh. Every two or three minutes, Elizabeth would have a contraction, a passing moment of tension and discomfort, but between those contractions, she shared conversation with us, posed for pictures, and even joked about becoming a mother. But in a few hours, the pain she was feeling became far more intense and came more often. I saw suffering written on her face and the fear that comes from hurting like you’ve never hurt before. The time came for all “nonessential personnel” to exit the room, leaving Elizabeth with her husband, her nurse, and the challenge of enduring the pain she was feeling.
As excited as I was about becoming a grandfather, I spent the next several hours pacing up and down hallways, interrogating anyone who came out of Elizabeth’s room, and even putting my ear up against the hospital room door to hear any clue that could tell me how my girl was holding up in her battle with pain. A few times, a doctor or nurse caught me listening at the doorway, but I didn’t care. I was worried about my daughter. Everything inside me wanted her pain to end. For hours, we heard the voices of doctors and nurses coaching her. We heard her cries of anguish as she fought the good fight. Then, at 7:21 p.m., almost fourteen hours after her labor had begun, my daughter’s pain turned to the joy of a new life. Outside in the hallway, we who had been listening to Elizabeth’s struggle heard something new, a little voice crying out to announce his entrance into the world. I hugged Linda and we remembered three such days in our own marriage. But now we felt the joy of our daughter’s pain leading to the miracle of a new life.
Childbirth is one of the most painful and dangerous experiences a woman can endure. I wish it were different. I wished it a hundred times that night. But, in God’s plan, pain is the price of new life. It’s true for a woman giving birth. It’s also true for any person struggling through the dark night of depression.
Liam’s birth taught me that, for any of us, pain is the price of new life. So many people long for some kind of new beginning: deeper faith, greater faithfulness, victory over a struggle, joy on the other side of weeping. But what we must realize is that we won’t experience the miracle of new life unless we are willing to endure the pain that new life demands. New life demands the pain of honesty, confession, heartbroken repentance, letting go of the old in order to make room for the new, enduring a night of darkness in order to see the glory of a new day.
The Apostle Paul tells the Galatians that he is bearing great pain for the purpose of seeing Christ more alive in their hearts and in their church. He writes, in Galatians 4:19, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you . . . .”
So many times in my battle with depression, I’ve asked God why I’ve hurt so badly—why the people I love have hurt so badly. I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand the reason for this pain, not on this side of heaven, but I can find hope in the result of this pain. Depression can be the labor pains of a new life. New insights can be realized. New skills can be learned. New wisdom can be gained. A healthier, happier lifestyle can be built and followed. By God’s grace and power, my pain and your pain can be the beginning of a new life.
God, some days all I feel is pain, and I want the pain to stop. Help me see that my pain may, by your grace, be the labor pains of a better life. You are great enough to work even depression to my good. Strengthen my trust in you and my willingness to follow where you lead—through this night of hurting to the dawn of a new life. Amen.
This post originally appeared in Seeing in the Dark: Biblical Meditations for People Dealing with Depression by Ronald D. Vaughan.