MARCH 8, 2023

Dear Friends,

My wife has suffered more in life that I have.

She has given birth. Five times.

And she has had kidney stones.

She tells me that while both events are excruciating, she’d much rather give birth than have a kidney stone. At least you have a child and not just a jagged quarter inch mineral deposit to show for all your pain!

This week I read about work done by pediatric researches in 2017 in Philadelphia. Using an artificial womb – what they called a biobag –

They took a premature baby lamb and placed him in an artificial womb – what they called a biobag – for four weeks until he was stronger and able to live on his own. While the research is designed to hopefully eventually improve the outcomes for high-risk humans born prematurely, the success of the biobag with the baby lamb has prompted speculation about a future where parents could utilize the technology to enable human reproduction that does not require a mother to have to experience the pain and discomfort associated with pregnancy and delivery. The “pain in childbirth” issue would be solved!

Reflecting on the biobag research, journalist Katherine Boyle asked a group of young women in the Silicon Valley in California what they thought about the prospect of babies born in biobags. “To my surprise,” she writes, “they celebrated the development. They confessed that in their minds, childbirth is dangerous. Destructive, even.” Many of these women had heard the from their peers about the risks and pain of childbirth and had concluded that “this act of self-sacrifice bordered on martyrdom and was neither fair nor worth it. One summarized her views of childbirth saying: ‘I look forward to artificial wombs because it will finally equalize men and women. Women have always had to bear this unique suffering.’”

Boyle’s extended meditation on this subject is worth reading. She uses the development of the biobag technology as an illustration of our culture’s focus (obsession?) on minimizing any and all human suffering. And she wonders about the unforeseen consequences of our technological war on suffering. “In a culture that has no reverence or tolerance for suffering of any kind,” she writes, “even the smallest forms of it can seem like oppression… The war on suffering has not only robbed us of resilience; it has sold us a mirage that is making us miserable.”

I don’t know what Boyle believes about God. But her article made me think immediately of James 1 and Romans 5.

James famously begins his epistle by challenging all of us to “count it all joy when we encounter various trials.” Suffering, hardship, adversity and difficulties have a divine purpose for us. They put our faith to the test. What do we really believe about God, His goodness and His providential care for us, even in the midst of hardships? When our faith is tested, James says, the suffering can produce in us the resilience we need to bear the challenges we will face in life. Suffering helps us cultivate endurance and patience. It makes us stronger.

Romans 5 challenges us to rejoice in our sufferings, “knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

The point of both passages is that when we experience suffering in this life, God can and does use it to refine us, to grow us, to make us stronger.

Sometimes, the suffering we’re facing comes as a result of God bringing loving discipline into our lives, to steer us away from danger and destruction. For the moment, the writer of Hebrews tells us, discipline may seem painful. But He disciplines us for our good. The pain has a purpose.

Here’s the final thought I had as a read Boyle’s article. We are in a season right now where our hearts should be remembering and pondering the One who was stricken, smitten and afflicted for our sake. Jesus, the innocent one, endured suffering for a purpose – so that we could be reconciled to God. He suffered in our place and for our sake. We are told to consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself. Meditating on His suffering will help us to not grow weary or fainthearted. In your suffering as you struggle against sin, the writer of Hebrews reminds us, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood (Hebrews 12:4).

The Bible has much to say about suffering and trials. We should not inflict suffering on others. And we are not to masochistically pursue suffering as some in church history have suggested. But when trials come, when suffering visits our lives, as it will, we should embrace it and not seek to insulate ourselves from it.

When trials come no longer fear
For in the pain our God draws near
To fire a faith worth more than gold
And there His faithfulness is told

In just two weeks, a group of our men will be heading east to the CrossHeirs Retreat enter for our Men’s Retreat with Pastor Jeff Terrell from Ascend Church in Kansas City. If you haven’t registered yet, do it right now. Before you read any further. Click here to reserve your spot.

And while we’re on the subject of registering, don’t forget the upcoming Couples Date Night on Friday, March 31.

Here’s what you need to do this week.
Decide to go and then sign up (at $40 per couple, it’s the best dinner date value in town! Child care is free! And you don’t have to tip your waiters!).Talk together about a couple you know who you could invite to join you.Invite them. At $20 per couple for guests, it’s a really amazing date night deal!

That’s it. It’s easy. You just have to decide and then act.

Do it this week! Don’t make me ask you at church if you’ve signed up yet or not!Believe it or not, Easter is just four weeks away. Here’s what the weekend will look like at Redeemer.Our Saturday Resurrection Rally is a great event for parents and kids. Once again, be thinking about children you know who you could invite to join you for the rally.Please note: If you have a stash of the standard sized (about 2.5 inch) plastic eggs at your house and you’d like to donate them to the cause, bring them to church and leave them in the donation bins in the lobby. Or if you see some plastic eggs at Kroger or Walmart and you’d like to buy a bagful, your donation would be appreciated – and will be used for years to come!

Finally, this is the weekend when we trade an hour of sleep for later sunsets. It’s the start of Daylight Savings Time! Don’t forget to set your clocks FORWARD on Saturday night.

How is it that after the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, declared three times that Jesus was innocent, he still wound up sentencing this innocent man to death by crucifixion while at the same time allowing a convicted criminal to be released? We’ll find out in our study of John’s Gospel on Sunday.

See you in church.

Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Bob

Explore the Library