For a long time I have kept silent,
I have been quiet and held myself back.
But now, like a woman in childbirth,
I cry out, I gasp and pant.
Isaiah 42:14 (NIV)
In Isaiah 42, God is about to deliver His people from exile and usher them into newness—into a future of grace possibilities. In revealing this message to Isaiah, God uses a metaphor to help the people understand the coming change. What picture does He give them to help them grasp the magnitude of His divine intentions? The image of a mighty army? An animal protecting its young? A rushing river? A shepherd leading sheep? Or a potter working with the clay?
No. Of all the images God could have inspired the prophet to offer the people, He chooses a woman in labor, crying and panting and gasping.
God’s images and parables and metaphors always have spiritual meaning, so we know that God has a specific intent for giving us this image.
Exile is about to be over; deliverance is surely coming. And to prepare them, God wants Israel to have in their minds the idea of a woman in labor, groaning to deliver. What is this image God inspires seeking to evoke? What is God telling the people through this picture? Perhaps God is saying, “What you've been through has been really difficult, and what's ahead of you is going to be so powerful, but the newness that is coming will not be pain free.”
The same is true for you and me. Progress and change and conversion and maturity and awareness and elevation and progression are not pain-free realities in life. There are costly things that you have to pay in order to grab what God has in store for you.
The newness that is coming in your life will not be pain free—but like childbirth, it will be worth it.