2 Timothy 1:7, hcsb:
For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.
No question at all that this verse is not talking about labor and pregnancy. It’s talking about the Spirit, about faith, about not being ashamed of the Gospel.
And yet: these very same characteristics do inform Christian childbirth.
Our identity in Christ necessarily transforms our approach to birth.
God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness
Right out of the gate, here’s a thing to cling to: God didn’t make us fearful. Fear is not a “natural” thing or a good thing—fear is the opposite of what we’re supposed to be. Fear is not resting in God’s sovereignty.
Further, we’re commanded multiple times not to fear. Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
We don’t fear because God strengthens, God helps, God upholds. And God is mighty.
Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let you requests be made known to God.”
We don’t fear because we pray.
Psalm 56:3: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?”
We don’t fear because we trust. We don’t fear because God has promises.
Joshua 1:9: “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
We don’t fear because God is with us, everywhere, always.
But one of power
So we don’t have a spirit of fear—we have a Spirit of power. This calls to mind the contrast of Romans 8:15: “you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” We don’t have a spirit of fear, we have the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of power, the Spirit of adoption, the Spirit that brings us into union with our Father.
The Spirit teaches us (John 14:26), helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26), guides us into truth (John 16:12), gives us freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17), and causes us to abound in hope and peace (Romans 15:13).
We have been given the Spirit of power not the spirit of fear. It is this Spirit who goes before us and with us into delivery rooms. It is this Spirit who calms our minds and assures us that God is trustworthy, that God is mighty, that God will keep His word, that God is with us. It is this Spirit who gives us endurance through hardship, who helps us resist the temptation to fear and sin in the middle of suffering.
How do we love in labor? The same Spirit of power is a Spirit of love, teaching us to love.
First of all, we can love God. We can love by seeking His glory in our births, by praising Him—as 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “give thanks in all circumstances”—even contractions. We can bear testimony of Him. We can obey His commands. We can testify that “the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
Secondly, we can love our neighbors. We can put others first even in the midst of great tribulation. We can live according to the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. We can beat our bodies into submission so that we do not sin against those around us even in the most trying moments.
and sound judgment.
I really love this part, it’s so encouraging. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but… of sound judgment! So much of birth is about decisions and terror and distraction and yet—we have a Spirit of sound judgment. We have a great long book of Scripture with many, many principles that apply to birth. We have Proverbs. We have so many verses, truths to turn to, about suffering. About endurance. About rewards. We have testimony that children are good. We have this encouraging little testimony from Jesus: “Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world” (John 16:21).
We have countless comparisons of birth that experiencing it can help us understand better—creation is groaning as in childbirth (Romans 8:22) and we are groaning similarly waiting for the redemption of our bodies (v. 23)? Now, we understand that groaning better, as we have groaned. And we understand the joy that awaits.
We have Proverbs 16:9, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” We plan. But God is sovereign and does the ultimate work, brings it all together, to the conclusion He chooses.
As Christian women facing the worst travail of most of our lives (and praise God for even that!), we rest in Him, and are encouraged and strengthened and have HOPE because our Spirit is not one of fear—our Spirit is the very Spirit of God, and He goes with us and upholds us and strengthens us and girds our minds—even in the midst of great physical horror.
I write this a day over-due with our own son, so I’m entirely talking to myself here. 🙂