What do earthquakes and birth pains have in common? Well, for one thing, Jesus mentioned them together when His disciples asked about the signs of His soon return in Matthew chapter 24, and there is a surprising link between them—an analogy that can give us hope in unstable times.
An earthquake surprised the Australian state of Victoria—where I live—in September 2021. It was the strongest earthquake ever recorded in our area—measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale. We felt very “shaken” to realize that the ground beneath our feet is not always as solid as we thought! I can’t say that my response was even slightly logical. I had never practiced an earthquake drill with my family, and we weren’t expecting a temblor on that beautiful, sunny morning.
I was standing right next to the sliding glass door at the back of our house, and suddenly I felt the door shake violently as if buffeted by a huge gust of wind! However, when I opened the door, I could tell it wasn’t windy at all. That’s when we realized what was happening, and I shouted, “Everyone outside!” It was like a dream. We ran around like headless chickens—running from one end of the house to the other and out the front door. The kids called out to my husband and warned him about the earthquake, but he’s from Chile, so he didn’t even get out of bed! Later on, we realized that to evacuate, we should have gone through the nearest door. Not to mention that running outside is not the official safety advice for earthquakes; it was just an intuitive reaction to the human feeling of not wanting to be trapped. We were completely unprepared because we had never expected an earthquake in Melbourne.
In the passage that mentions earthquakes in Matthew 24, Jesus and His disciples had just visited the temple in Jerusalem. The disciples were awestruck by its beauty and tried to call Jesus’ attention to its magnificence. It was a glorious structure built of huge stones with features of pure gold and fine craftsmanship. But Jesus, looking into the future, predicted its total destruction: “Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. ‘Do you see all these things?’ he asked. ‘Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down’ ” (verses 1, 2).
Later, when Jesus and His disciples were resting on the Mount of Olives, they came to Him privately and asked Him to reveal more about His startling prediction: “ ‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’
“Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am the Messiah,” and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains’ ” (verses 3–8).
Part of Jesus’ prophecy was a warning about the tragic destruction of Jerusalem, and in fact, because of this warning, His followers were able to escape from the city before its horrific downfall. When the Roman soldiers finally swept in—after a long siege during which many people starved to death—they were merciless: the streets ran red with blood, and the city was set ablaze. The magnificent temple caught fire, and this mighty structure—one that would have been one of the wonders of the ancient world—was reduced to rubble.
Further on, Jesus also said that earthquakes were one of the signs of His soon return. He described wars, famines, and pestilences and even went so far as to use the analogy of birth pains! Why would Jesus use such a term? In my humble understanding of birth pains, there could be two reasons for this, and one of them is because He wanted to encourage them. If you have ever experienced birth pains (I have), you know that they get more intense and closer together as they progress. In fact, I remember wondering toward the end of labor, “Why does it feel like there’s no gap between them at all?” The intensity at the end was almost overwhelming, and the pain was exhausting—I just wanted it to be over.
Jesus was honest with His followers. He let them know that things would not get easier toward the end. However, He intended for His words not to scare us but to encourage us. This is why I say there is a positive reason for the birth-pain analogy—the whole reason for willingly suffering through birth pains in the first place! It sounds cliché, but it is true; you forget all the pain you have been through when you feel the joy of meeting your child for the first time.
Jesus drew the curtain aside for His followers so that they could be ready and encouraged for the trials ahead. This is why He said, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28). All of the pain and pressure is not to signal fear but to be a beacon of hope. It is an invitation to look to God for our help and salvation. When we see disasters happening, God’s Word tells us not to focus on the disasters and tremble in fear but to “lift up [our] heads” and be ready to meet Him.
So how can you be ready to meet Him? All Jesus wants is your heart. He wants to be your Lord. He wants to forgive all of your sins and show you His amazing mercy. If that’s what you want, too, all you need to do is invite Him into your life. He will forgive your sins and help you turn away from sinning. He will cover you with His perfect life, and you can rest in the joy of His salvation. It’s that easy. Jesus doesn’t want anyone to be lost (2 Peter 3:9).
Leesa Briones is a lifestyle medicine student with a background in education. She lives with her family in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.