To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.’”
As we have seen in previous devotions (First, Sin – Then, Brokenness, Brokenness With God), sin breaks God’s very good creation, though it does not destroy it. In particular, sin ruptures key relationships, such as the relationship between God and human beings and the relationship between the first human beings, who feel the need to hide from each other, from God, and even from themselves.
Genesis 3:16 elaborates on the brokenness experienced by humans in relationship to their work and to each other. First, God says to the woman, “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.” Bearing children was one essential role in the woman’s original job description. Only the woman had the ability to give birth, thus literally fulfilling the command to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” Of course, the man would contribute to the making of more human beings. But the first woman, just like all women after her, would carry the heavy end of this load, a task that would be even more laborious once sin twisted God’s intentions for life on earth.
As a man, I cannot really imagine what this must be like for a woman. I will not do what my friend Dave once did while his wife was in labor. After one excruciating contraction, Dave said sympathetically, “Honey, I understand.” Dave’s wife grabbed his arm, twisting it so hard that Dave fell to the floor. “You do NOT understand,” she said. So, though my understanding of labor pains is sorely lacking, as a witness of the births of my children, I do know that God was not exaggerating when he said that the woman would bring forth children “in pain.”
It’s important to notice that God did not fire the woman from her crucial part in the work of being fruitful and multiplying. She would continue to do what God had intended for her, that which the man could not do. Yet her work would be much harder and more painful. Not only does this truth inform our understanding of childbearing, but also it suggests what will be reinforced in Genesis 3:17-19, namely, that work continues to be at the center of God’s intentions for us even as work will be difficult and, at times, unpleasant.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
In what ways have you experienced the brokenness of work?
Why do you think God responded to human sin by making work so much harder?
Gracious God, today we are reminded of the pain that comes as a result of sin. Though some of us will not experience the literal pain of childbirth, we all know something of the pain that invades our work because of sin. May this suffering remind us of the brokenness of this world as well as the good news that you are mending the world through Christ. Amen.