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A Startling Question

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

“Did you ever wish you hadn’t been born?”

The class, I among them, sat in stunned silence. The professor's question felt invasive—not even polite to ask. No hand went up.

Not able to see into others’ lives, I wondered if each of us was wrestling with our feelings. How honest did we want to be?

The professor, with his searching question, was referring to the man Job, an historical, biblical figure, one who had everything—riches, honor, fame—and lost it all, as well as his health and his children. Job’s wrestling with what seemed like cruelty from God caused him to cry out, “Let the earth perish on the day I was to be born, and the night which said, ‘A boy is conceived.’ Let that day be darkness…” i

That is excruciating honesty. Had we been asked at our conception whether we wanted to be born, knowing what we know now, what would we have said?

We could not have been asked. We had no choice.

The Swiss poet and theologian, Kurt Marti, gives us a startling, breathtaking, glimpse into one answer to the question in his poem, “Birth.” ii

I was not asked

If I wanted to be conceived

And those who conceived me

Also were not asked

If they wanted to be conceived

Nobody was asked

Except for one

And He said


I was not asked

If I wanted to be born

And she who bore me

Also was not asked

If she wanted to be born

Nobody was asked

Except for One

And He said


At Christmas, we read about an exceptional conception and birth—that of a baby born to a young girl, a virgin at the time of her baby’s conception. Humanly speaking, that birth was impossible.

But do we contemplate the further drama surrounding that conception and birth? That of the already existing, eternal God in heaven who was given a charge: will You offer Yourself to become the lowliest of all human beings, a tiny egg, implanted in the darkness of the womb of a woman for nine months? Are You willing to pass through the blood-and-mucous-filled birth canal? To begin a vastly different kind of life on a turbulent, danger-filled earth as a human baby? To spend the years of boyhood and adolescence in a human family as a submissive son rather than the ruling King of Heaven as You are now? To know that Your destiny as a human man is to die a torturous death?

If you had been given the choice—knowing the emotional or physical pain you may be experiencing—what would you have said? What would I?

We could not foresee our destinies as He could. But His answer to the question makes all the difference to ours—and to our present experience.

He said yes.

“Consequently, when Christ came into the world, He said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings You have not desired, but a body You have prepared for Me…Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God, as it is written of Me in the scroll of the book.’” iii

i The book of Job, chapter 3, verse 3

ii Poem by Kurt Marti (1921-2017),

translated from the German by Vivian Hyatt

iii Quoted in The Letter to the Hebrews 10:5-7 from Psalm 40:6-8

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