Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Book Review: Labor with Hope

Labor With Hope. Gospel Meditations on Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood. Gloria Furman and Jesse Scheumann. 2019. Crossway. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Even the midwives were charmed.

Labor with Hope is a devotional book; it offers readers twenty-five devotions. It isn't your typical devotional book. First, it offers much more than just a simple page or two with a Scripture nugget as a jumping off point. (The chapters are longer than that.) Second, it is geared specifically to women who are new mothers or soon-to-be new mothers. Third, the focus isn't me-me-me or you-you-you. The focus remains clearly and substantially on Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

The goal of Labor with Hope is clearly stated in the introduction,
"In Labor with Hope we will see how Jesus has everything to do with everything, including our spiritual nourishment in pregnancy and childbirth. We will walk together and examine the treasures we find in God's Word concerning many related topics--pregnancy, infertility, miscarriage, birth pain, new physical life--and how these common experiences point us to eternal realities."

She concludes,
"Worship was my goal in writing this devotional book, and it remains my hope and prayer for readers."
I love how saturated Labor with Hope is with the Bible itself. It is packed with Scripture itself and also informed by Scripture. The writers truly point readers to the Word and illustrate the fact that, "the Bible is a buffet with plenty of soul food for those who are eating for two."

Though to state the obvious, the good news of the gospel as unpacked in Labor With Hope does not just apply to moms-to-be. Far from it, the good news is for every one regardless of age, gender, or fertility. Whether believers are pregnant, planning to adopt, or have recently welcomed a new member to the family...or not...daily refreshment in the gospel is a necessity.


  • Childbirth--new physical life--is evidence of God's ongoing mercy to sinful humanity. Everyone who has ever been born has tasted this mercy. 
  • If what C.S. Lewis says is right--that pain is God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world--then women experiencing birth pain might be the most spiritually attentive people in the world. 
  • We all need hope and help for our labors in parenting. We need to know there is a resolution to our suffering. We all need to see how our pain as mothers points us to a man who hung on a cross for our sin and three days later walked out of the grave for our justification.
  • It is a hard truth to accept, but a solid one to stand on: we cannot deliver ourselves. May God's rich kindness to us lead us to repentance. 
  • If we do not have Jesus then we cannot expect rescue from God but only his righteous judgment for our sin. 
  • Oh, how we need eyes to see that God is the center of the universe. As dizzying as the pain we experience in raising children can be, we need to have the wherewithal to remember how it points us to God himself. Our fertility complications are not about us. Our pregnancy pains are not about us. Our labor in building our family is not about us. In eternity past the triune God ordained that the crucifixion of the Son of God would be the means of our salvation. 
  • Pretending we are able to deliver ourselves from our sin cannot confirm our dignity as women or mothers.
  • No doubt you're noticing a pattern: every aspect of motherhood serves to fuel our worship of Jesus. We take our eyes off ourselves and look through the shadows to the substance, who is Christ. Birth is not about us, but about God. 
  • Fake hope is like using toothpaste to spackle a hole in the wall. It's a poor filler for that cavity, and all you get in the end is a colony of ants with minty breath.
  • Let's be obsessed with what we're going to be obsessed with thirty zillion years from now: the glory of Jesus. 
  • We should ask God for help: "Help me, Father. My feelings don't match your Word. I want to love your Word and follow you more than I want to follow my feelings. Please change my feelings." 
  • Our childbirth and fertility is not about us, but about God. He is not like us or made in our image, but we are like him, made in his image.
  • It is remarkable how Scripture uses this scenario--when children come to the point of birth and there is no strength to bring them forth--to describe our helplessness to save ourselves and God's ability to deliver us. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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