One brimming with hurt, disappointment, and surrender, and yet also hope, redemption, and faith. I decided to write this blog for the person reading it who finds themselves in the midst of a weighty darkness. For the one who struggles to catch a breath under the pressure of unmet expectations, incomprehensible loss, and fragmented dreams. So, should such a heart stumble across this small collection of words and ideas that I have strung together, this one is for you.
This one is to you.
I think one of the trickiest things about loss is that it is a recurrent and ongoing struggle; its presence assumes itself in the seemingly quiet moments, you know the ones. It’s those that disrupt your day with its taunting declarations, “this could have been you! This could have been so sweet. This could have been so different.” Yes, it is those frustrating ‘could have’s’ that often weigh so heavily and fight to make acceptance and peace a seeming impossibility.
Perhaps the greatest struggle in the aftermath of losing our baby was the strong sense of confusion that settled quickly into my heart. I fought so hard for my theology to transmit into my emotions. For what I knew in my mind to grip onto that which I was feeling. And yet, I found myself repeatedly attesting to my confusion.
I thought this was God’s next step for us? I thought He wanted us to have this baby? I thought He told me as much?
I thought God was a Giver?
Though my mind quickly refuted my doubts and wonderings with truths from Scripture-promises of His continued steadfastness, continued provision, continued love-my heart felt ‘stuck’ in confusion and disappointment.
This has become one of the greatest tensions I have thus far encountered in my faith, one that requires complete honesty, utter dependency, and a strong resolve to not bury this discouragement in distraction.
In doing so, I have clung to a portion of 2 Corinthians 4, which says that we can be “perplexed but not driven to despair” (verse 8).
I have come to know, in a way that is new & personal & intimate & hopeful, that this, indeed, is true.
Out of the darkness of confusion that took up so much room in our home following our miscarriage has come the beginnings of a renewed hope and faith. So, for those who have yet to breakthrough to those first fragments of light, here is what I know so far.
1. Your worst fears can come true, and your faith still be strengthened.
It seems illogical and nonsensical, but there is something powerful that happens when we honestly acknowledge our pain and hurts in the presence of God, as Job did. I like to think of it as thrusting that which is unknown & scary & unsure into the light of that which is steadfast & true & entirely sure.
I recall telling Dan that I would be ruined if we lost the baby. How could I possibly walk through something like that, much less with an intact faith? And could I ever trust God again? Surely I would be undone.
Just two weeks later I found myself frozen as I read those numbers on my computer screen-those numbers that should have been increasing but now were plummeting. Those numbers that seemed to gloat in the realization of my fears. Those numbers that seemed to explicitly declare that my body had utterly failed and implicitly whisper that maybe so too did my God.
I am now walking through that which I believed would swallow me up entirely. And you know what? It is the most horrible and painful thing I have ever experienced. The pain is strong and its presence weighty. I find that we don’t talk about this enough-the struggle that walking with Jesus can sometimes be. Sometimes it is fighting to hold onto that which God has revealed to you in times past and resolving to trust that you will see it again. It is always striving to learn the art of surrender and is never forgetting that this world does not have the final say. And it hurts sometimes. I think that maybe more people would know Jesus if we dropped the facade of ease and perfection. But that is a note for another day.
For now, know this. God truly does go ahead of us into the most dreaded of territories and awaits us there with a peace that does not recognize its circumstance. A peace that is so set on eternity that it refuses to be shaken by the painful realities of this world. In fact, it is one that strengthens in its testing.
I have found myself wondering, ‘What will I feel when those around me announce their pregnancies? What will it be like to sit with our families this Christmas without that little bump I had dreamt of? What will I be like next time we get pregnant, should God desire it?’ I am learning not to shame myself in these questions, but rather to immediately pray them into God’s hands. I truly have a growing confidence that no matter what is to come, God will meet us there and provide exactly what we need to walk through it.
2. Jesus does not require the belittling of our sufferings.
I have noticed in myself several times in the last month a tendency to dismiss my suffering on account that somebody, somewhere is walking through something heavier. Should that not itself be a source of comfort? Maybe I could have settled into thinking that way, had I not just spent all of 2018 pouring over the Gospels. Every day since January 1, I have closely examined the person of Christ as revealed in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And here’s the thing: Jesus never belittled the suffering He encountered, though it be ranging & varied & unique & personal. In John 5 I read about a paralytic man that has remained in his suffering for 38 years of his life before Jesus came to change the rest he’d live out. In Mark 4 I read of Jesus’ tender but insistent dealings with the anxieties of His disciples, offering to them peace & rest & an abundant life that was entirely different from their expectations in the wildest and most beautiful ways.
And then there is Luke 8. The account that has changed everything for me. The recording of Jesus’ route to heal a dying child, one that is disrupted by a woman with a need seemingly incomparable to that which He is headed towards. Though her suffering be prolonged & shameful & uncomfortable, it was certainly not urgent nor timely. She knew it too, for she merely reached out to touch the hem of His garment as He passed by her.
And yet, He stopped. He paused on account of a trial that seemed less painful, less consuming, less important.
To summarize, He set His eyes on her and wrecked any semblance she carried of insignificance in His presence. He met her and then He set her free. (And then went on to raise that child from the dead).
My point is this. Jesus didn’t look upon her seemingly more fortunate lot and say, “Why are you reaching out to Me? Don’t you see that there are greater matters at hand?” Instead, He stopped and offered His heart to hers.
I think it would do us much good to approach suffering in this way, that of both our own and others’. Jesus tenderly cares about the burdens in our lives and desires to meet us, just like He did with the paralytic in John, His disciples in Mark, and the woman in Luke. Why should we belittle the path we walk when Jesus Himself doesn’t? Though, yes, perspective is important, assuming a Christlikeness in response to suffering is critical. I am learning that an acknowledgement of our depravity precludes our cry to Jesus, and that the dismissal of our need certainly wont foster it. It’s not about exaggerating your struggle, but it is about truthfully confronting it. Deal kindly with hurting hearts-whether it be yours or another’s-because that’s the only way to resemble Christ in pain.
3. It is Helpful to Learn to Process Grief Day by Day.
Most simply put, I am seeing that it is okay to have days where you feel sad. Sadness is not in opposition to faith. I am also learning that it is okay to give yourself permission to busy yourself on other days. It is not about distraction, but it is about remembering to show up for the people around you and the calling before you.
4. What are You Waiting For?
Loss seems to expose that which our hearts cleave to. Be it prospects of marriage, motherhood, career advancement, or [insert the strivings of your heart], there is something about unmet expectations that illuminate those things that formerly remained concealed. I have found myself returning to James 5:7; “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord.” Notice we are indeed called to wait, but not for our dreams to be realized or our potential reached. We are ultimately called to wait on Jesus. Wait on His promises to break through, His peace to transform, His return to earth. The desire to be a mom-for instance-is a good thing, but it must remain as that; a good thing, not an ultimate or necessary thing. In our patience in the midst of loss, let’s not miss the opportunity to recognize those places of our hearts that we have set to wait on something else. The thing about waiting on that which is not found at the Cross is that it will ultimately let you down. This life offers few guarantees, so it is important to consider where you hope to find yours. Though it be painful and trying, I can attest to the freedom that comes in bringing your heart back to God.
I trust that not one heart yielded to His will ever be ashamed.
I pray that good comes from these fragmented, somewhat scattered bits of writing I have been sharing. I hope it brings a little light and certainty to that which is dark and uncertain. I think it is also important for me to say that, though I am learning much and will continue to, there will never be an answer this side of eternity to lift the loss that we will carry for the rest of our days. God holds all the answers, and will lead us in guidance and truth, but I do not believe I could comprehend the fullness of those answers in this lifetime. And so, I will lay down my desires, hurts, and confusion before Jesus in faith that our lives will somehow be all the more effective & glorious & powerful & missional for it.
Only at the Cross can the seemingly greatest defeats be overcome in the sweetest of victories.
Still clinging to this one.
“But we have this treasure in hearts of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-9