Apr 10, 2013

I wish I had never been born!

[Excerpt from sermon 4/07/13 from John 17:1-5]

“I wish I had never been born!”  When these words are spoken, they are most always shocking—most shocking to the parents of children speaking them.

But why?—Some of the greatest, most significant biblical characters have felt, or stated this outright.  The reason—they suggest ingratitude. But why is this surprising, ingratitude is a sin we all commit and with relative frequency.

Consider the words of Jeremiah in Jer. 20:14-18:
"Cursed be the day when I was born; Let the day not be blessed when my mother bore me! 15 Cursed be the man who brought the news To my father, saying, "A baby boy has been born to you!" And made him very happy. 16 But let that man be like the cities Which the LORD overthrew without relenting, And let him hear an outcry in the morning And a shout of alarm at noon; 17 Because he did not kill me before birth, So that my mother would have been my grave, And her womb ever pregnant. 18 Why did I ever come forth from the womb To look on trouble and sorrow, So that my days have been spent in shame?"
This is the most poetic expression I know of the “I wish I had never been born” concept. It should be noted that such expressions are typically expressed from someone experiencing great emotional distress, and are perhaps depressed.

Also, Scripture sometimes describes scenarios where it would have been better for some or another person to have never been born.  Judas, for example, fits this category (Matt 26:24; cf. Solomon’s references in Ecc.).

As an angst ridden melancholy child then teenager (and on some occasions since then), this was one of the first questions I remember pondering seriously.  Here are some of the reasons I have learned that parents have children.

Parents sometimes want Children:
1.) to fulfill their personal list of goals (I once heard a pastor admit that on one occasion he told his rebellious teenage son, “You are ruining my dream.”  That parent was admitting that his family was really about his dream);
2.) to have someone to love, or to love them—perhaps support them in their old age;
3.) to not miss out on some aspect of life;
4.) to feel validated in some way (when others have children or long to have children, it validates their decision to have children, or validates their role/status as a parent);
5.) sometimes as an intentional means of preserving their race (I have heard this on multiple occasions);
6.) sometimes, for the noblest of reasons, people choose to have children for the purpose of contributing lives and energies to God’s Kingdom;
7.) the most basic reason, as put by Victor Hugo, is simply a fulfillment of the great law, “Multiply.”  In fact, let me share with you one of my favorite Victor Hugo quotes from Les Mis.:

“A few feet below Cosette's window, in the ancient and perfectly black cornice of the wall, there was a martin's nest; the curve of this nest formed a little projection beyond the cornice, so that from above it was possible to look into this little paradise. The mother was there, spreading her wings like a fan over her brood; the father fluttered about, flew away, then came back, bearing in his beak food and kisses. The dawning day gilded this happy thing, the great law, "Multiply," lay there smiling and august, and that sweet mystery unfolded in the glory of the morning.

Cosette, with her hair in the sunlight, her soul absorbed in chimeras, illuminated by love within and by the dawn without, bent over mechanically, and almost without daring to avow to herself that she was thinking at the same time of Marius, began to gaze at these birds, at this family, at that male and female, that mother and her little ones, with the profound trouble which a nest produces on a virgin.”

In short, the primary reason we reproduce is because God has decreed it so, except in cases where His specific will is something different—for His better pleasure, or when people exercise their ordained prerogative in a different direction.

Notice, in most of the above reasons there is an undisguised element of selfishness.  This explains why it is so shocking to parents when they hear their child exclaim, “I wish I had never been born!”  [Remember, you have experienced deep ingratitude to your first parent—God, in a far profounder way than this]

The answer to this conundrum in this passage in the words from the prayer of Jesus:

John 17:3 "And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.”

Let me suggest that the greatest reason of all for human life—the thing that makes being and existing worthwhile for a human—is the opportunity to spend an eternity intimately knowing God.

As a melancholy teenager, this hope is what got me through the angst of those years—this is the answer to the question, “Why were you born?”  It is that you might know God, both in the present as well as in the eternal future.  The greatest thing about Heaven is to be in the eternal presence of God.  Communion with God is the ultimate fulfillment of all human aspirations.

Conversely, the greatest failure in life is to fail to know Him.  In fact, the most grievous aspect of Hell is the eternal separation from God.

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