Are you Trusting God, or Yourself?
Many women ignore God when it comes to childbirth, deciding God is unable to help they put their total faith in doctors and an epidural. But women who trust in medication as their salvation are not the only ones who do not rely on God during childbirth. A funny thing happens to some women who determine that it is best to labor without medication, they begin to have faith in themselves instead of God. I am not talking about the faith that they should have in the way God made them, or the faith that God will bring them through. I am talking about a faith in themselves that can teeter over the boarder of pride and cause you to stop trusting God because you do not think you need too.
They begin to understand the process of labor, how it all works together to get the baby out. They learn some techniques to relax and comfort measures for the pain. They choose the best birth team they can find, and insist on having their coach attend classes to understand what they will be doing. They write a plan to ensure that everyone knows what they expect to happen during labor, and how they want things handled. Then the knowledge and wisdom that they have gained begins to puff them up, and they become convinced that there is no reason that they should not have the labor experience they have planned for.
The danger here is that the heart has gone from a faith in God, to a faith in self. In some cases it goes from a faith in God to a faith in nature. Either way, the heart has been divided and is no longer pure. You see a pure heart only serves one master. A pure heart places its faith and trust in only one place. When the heart begins to have faith in something or someone other than God, that heart is not pure.
Sometimes, we look at God's creation and have faith in the creation rather than the creator. Instead of trusting God will get you where you need to go, you trust that your car will get you where you need to go. Instead of trusting that God will cause the sun to rise every morning, you trust the sun can do its job. And instead of trusting that God will strengthen you through your labor, you begin to trust that you will be strong during labor, or the techniques you have learned will strengthen you during labor.
This may seem a small thing, almost an unnecessary turn of our attention to semantics. I assure you this is vitally important to your labor and your life. Why? Because the woman who trusts in herself is not trusting in God. You will not have two lords in labor any more that you will have two lords in life. You will choose one to serve, and the other will be ignored. You cannot trust in your strength and God's strength at the same time.
You see, God does give strength to those who trust in him. God does answer the call for help from those who call His name. But, if your heart is focused on yourself, you will not call on God during your labor. If your heart is serving some other master, or relying on some other master, it will not occur to you to lean on God when the labor gets tough. There is no energy left to continue actions that do not fit with where your heart is.
James 1:5-7 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault and it will be given to him. But when you ask you must believe and not doubt, because the man who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. Such a man is a double minded man, unstable in all his ways."
Double minded is one way to say that you are unpure. You are half for one thing and half for another. This double-mindedness causes you to doubt, and you become like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. Do you need it explained in simpler terms? A mind that is split between God and something else creates a person who acts not out of wisdom or trust, but out of doubt and impulse.
One thing that I hope you have learned so far is that faith in God will allow you to labor in peace, despite the amount of pain your body may happen to be in. What happens if instead of laboring with faith, you labor with doubt? You will lose that peace, you will have much more difficulty relaxing and the pain you feel will seem more intense. You can help prevent doubt at your labor by working now to have a pure heart.
Let me review for you an allegory that is frequently used to explain the process of achieving a pure heart. Metals are mined as ore from the earth and are not pure. In fact, there are many impurities that not only make the metal unsightly, but also make the metal weak. To purify the metal, refineries heat the metal to such high temperatures that the metal becomes liquid. All the impurities float to the top to be skimmed away, or they burn up in the heat. What is left is a strong, beautiful, pure metal.
When God looks at our hearts, he sees the ugliness and the weakness that comes from impurities. He sees our hearts as the ore and recognizes the value of our hearts if he could get the impurities out. So He begins to turn up the heat. This is a painful process, first because we do not like to be in hot situations, and second because we do not like to face the truth about our own hearts.
What exactly happens when God turns up the heat? It is different for every person, but basically you start to see difficulties or trials in your life. These trials have been designed to cause you to turn to God rather than the impurities in your heart. These trials also help you to recognize where you had not been wholly devoted to God, so you can seek forgiveness and try to prevent becoming impure again.
The first step to a pure heart is recognizing these opportunities that God is giving you to turn from the things that divide your heart, and relying on God. The second step is using these opportunities to turn to God. Remember this will probably not be an easy task. It will hurt to go against what your heart has been relying on. But remember that soon, your heart will be relying on God alone, and then it will hurt to turn away from God!
Once, as I was praying for understanding about a specific issue in my life, God showed me a beautiful picture to help me understand what I needed to do. I was walking with Jesus in a garden, and the garden was my heart. Jesus and I talked about all the lovely plants that were growing there, and I began to get a little nervous because the garden was overrun with unsightly weeds. I turned to Jesus and asked Him to help me remove the weeds from my heart.
As we bent down to weed the garden, I realized how strong the weeds were. In fact, I could not pull a single weed out of the ground. "What is wrong? Why can't they be pulled out?" I asked Jesus. He looked very sad as He showed me a view from underground. What I saw was a massive, heavy vine of a root that had burrowed to every part of my body. I looked at the weeds, and again at the root and began to understand that it was not hundreds of weeds, they were all linked to the same root system. I would never be able to pull any of the weeds out.
In desperation, I cried to Jesus, "How do I get rid of it?" He simply answered, "Kill the root." I understood. I needed to stop feeding the root system so it would die. Once the root was dead, the weeds would be easy to pull. I needed to starve the root, that meant that I needed to make conscious decisions everyday to follow Jesus, and not continue in the petty "little sins" I had not worried about for so long. I needed to stop gossiping, stop reacting in anger, stop the bitterness, stop the laziness. In short, I needed to stop allowing myself to commit sins simply because they were seen as "normal" or "average" parts of daily life. I needed to live according to a higher authority.
Are there weeds in your heart garden? Perhaps like me you expected to simply pull out the weeds, but it does not work that way. These weeds must be tackled from the root, and they must be starved. I urge you to spend time in prayer asking God to revile to you what sins in your life have been destroying the purity of your garden.
We know that a pure heart is important because it allows us to rely on God for our strength. Despite the amount of training, reading, preparing, praying and building your faith you have done, your strength must still come from God. Paul boasted in his weakness, because he understood that through his weakness God was able to demonstrate His strength. The idea of "when I am weak then I am strong" can be a difficult one to grasp.
Try to think of the plants in your garden, specifically think about beans. There are two main types of beans, bush beans and pole beans. Bush beans grow on a low bush, and the bush is able to hold the weight of the beans without additional support. The bush may get leafy and full, but the bush will never get very tall. Bush beans produce a crop, and can be beautiful in the garden. Yet they are limited in their growth because the plant needs to support its own weight. When the plant is too big or full of fruit, some of the branches sag into the dirt, potentially destroying the fruit.
In contrast, pole beans grow on a long weak vine. The vine needs a support to wrap itself around and keep it off the ground, or the fruit will rot in the dirt. Without the support, pole beans simply do not grow. And yet, when given adequate support, pole beans can grow into magnificent plants - in fact, they will continue to grow to completely cover the support they are given. If you add more support, the vine will continue to grow to cover that support as well!
Relating beans to life, you can live like a bush bean or you can live like a pole bean. You can live your life relying on your own strength to support you and your fruit, and there will be a limit to your growth. Or you can live your life relying on the strength of God for your support, and you can grow strong and tall, growing ever further as you rely more and more on His strength for your support.
You see, when you rely on God's strength, you do not need to be strong yourself. God holds you and supports you. God allows you to grow and to flourish. Some people do manage to have growth and bear fruit relying on their own strength. But that growth is limited, and when the rains (trials of this life) come, the plant can easily lose fruit and branches because there was not enough support.
It is the same in labor. You can rely on your own strength, or your ability to perform certain techniques. These techniques are useful and have helped many women through labor, but they are simply tools. Your faith should be on God, not on your own body. By relying on God's strength for your support, you are able to use many tools. What worked to relieve pain an hour ago, may not work in 15 minutes. By relying on God's strength to keep you laboring in peace, you can easily and without regret, change techniques or comfort measures. You will not need to feel as if you "failed" because you could not do the breathing right. You will not blame your husband because he did not massage you effectively. If a technique does not work, you simply ask God to show you what to try. Usually, God programs the body to desire the type of activity that will encourage the baby to descend and help move the labor along. But if you are relying on a technique, or your knowledge, or your own strength, you may not be listening for the signals that God is sending you.
So you see, you knowledge of comfort measures and pain relieving techniques is not a bad thing. In fact, these are extremely helpful during labor. But you need to be careful about where you place your trust. Are you trusting that God will show you what to do? Or are you trusting that what you know will get you through? When your defenses are down, and you are left to what is in your heart, you will be your true self. If your true self does not trust in God, you will not rely on Him during labor.
Relying on God does not guarantee a perfect or painless labor. Only God can determine what will await you, and He is more concerned with your character than your comfort. But, by relying on God through the trials, you will be able to achieve peace despite the pain, discomfort, or boredom you may be feeling during your labor.
God never promised us that life would be easy. In fact, we are told that in this life, "you will have trouble." What a blessing to know that when trouble comes; whether in the form of a difficult labor, death of a loved one, or financial crisis; we do not need to rely on our own strength, but can continue to grow trusting in God's strength for our support.