There exists a remnant of Eve in every woman.
We desire perfection and beauty and simplicity and frankly, an easy life. Eve had it all. She spent each day naked with her perfect husband all day long, in perfect weather, doing nothing more than delighting in the Lord and delighting in her (perfect, naked did I say that?) husband all the days of her life.
But then she wanted more. She sunk her teeth into the fruit, and the juice dripped from her lips, staining her forever. She was no longer perfect, and neither was her husband. And God’s heart broke as He saw that they had forsaken the sacred for a taste of the secret.
He said to her,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will bring forth children.” – Genesis 3:16
Then to him,
“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.” – Genesis 3:17
We share their sin, therefore we bear their curse. This remnant suspends us between the once-was and the should-be, designed for Eden but balancing on the Earth.
From the heartache of an empty womb, to the discomfort of pregnancy, to the pain of childbirth, nothing about a woman’s life is easy. And “bring forth children” goes beyond the birth itself; mothers carry a burden all the days of their lives. With painful labor a woman makes new life.
The Hebrew word for this “painful labor” is עִצָּבוֹן, transliterated “itstsabown.”
For men, it’s backbreaking labor under a hot sun. It’s the feeling of never getting ahead, no matter how hard he works. It’s the pressure to produce enough for a family from cursed ground. It’s the struggle to be an exemplary leader for children. Through painful toil a man makes a life.
This Hebrew word for this “painful toil” is also “itstsabown.”
The curses are different, but the outcome is the same. This Hebrew word is only ever used in the Bible in reference to this curse.
We spend our lives trying to escape itstsabown. The world itself groans awaiting the day that the curse is lifted.
But itstsabown isn’t the end. There is a cure for this curse.
“And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.” – Romans 5:9
“But women will be saved through childbearing.” – 1 Timothy 2:15
Then why did it take 18 hours of difficult labor to bring my son into the world? Why does my husband still have to go to work every day? Why is life so hard?
We are not saved from the curse; we are saved through it by the blood of Jesus.
Without Jesus, we are slaves to sin, imprisoned by iniquity, held captive by the curse. We are saved from God’s final judgment, but live the remainder of our lives still under the curse. Walking with Jesus is the beginning of the journey, not the end. When He lifts the burden of the curse from our shoulders, our work is not done. With lightened load, we fall into step with Jesus, chained to Him rather than itstsabown.
And His chains? They are impossibly light and refreshingly easy.
Childbirth delivers us to the end of ourselves. The perpetual 9-5 drives us to the end of ourselves. Parenting sends us to the end of ourselves. Working the land projects us to the end of ourselves. Itstsabown moves us to the end of ourselves.
And the end of ourselves is exactly where Jesus dwells.
Therefore we are free to enjoy our labor when done for Christ and not for our own gain. And in return we receive far more than we could ever accomplish on our own. Our toil, our labor, our daily struggle has purpose.
With each child we deliver, each timecard we punch, each diaper we change, each rock we unearth, each dollar we spend, each phone call we make, each toilet we scrub, we are being saved.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” – Colossians 3:23
Whatever form it takes, your labor is not in vain. You are free to do whatever you do with renewed purpose today, letting your chains pull you forward as they clatter in perfect tension between you and Jesus.