“Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” (EZEK. 47:12)
The story of Scripture opens up with the two glorious realities of light and life. The rebellion and consequent fall of the human race introduced darkness and death. The rest of Scripture’s story reveals the two movements of redemption: from darkness to light and from death to life.
Left to ourselves, we are destined to the slumber of darkness and the sleep of death. By the mercy of God, we are awakened to the light of God. By the grace of God, we are awakened progressively to the life of God, and by the commission of God, we are called to become agents of awakening. We must remember that the journey of awakening, though often romanticized by history, is anything but romantic or nostalgic. Though the journey of awakening ends in a most glorious place, it begins in the shadow death and passes through many dark valleys.
The journey of awakening is not one of sentimental love but of love as glorious travail. Scripture shows us some of the contours of this travailing journey with these words: “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Gal. 4:19); “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church” (Col. 1:24); “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:22–23); “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Rom. 8:26–27).
As the Holy Spirit travails in us, awakening us to the profound love of God, so the Spirit travails through us to make us people of profound love for others.
There may be easier journeys, but there are no greater ones.
Let’s be clear. Travail is not a feature of our commitment. It is a fruit of love. We will not travail until we learn to love.
Father, the word “travail” frightens us. It seems hard. But hard things don’t seem hard when they are done in the power of your love. We confess, our own love will not cut it. We want to open our lives to you so your Spirit might travail in and through us for others. Teach us your own labor of love. We must learn this new and living way that come from you. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
How do you relate to this notion of the travail of love for others? What if this is what it means to count the cost? What if the cost is our giving ourselves to the love of God for others? Discuss this today.
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