In the Midst of Suffering
I still remember vividly the first time I suffered. The first time I felt real loss. It was summer time. I was coming home from a long day playing in the summer sun. Two friends by my side. Everything was perfect. The day of our annual town parade. All sorts of expectation for what was to come. My little world so safe. So protected. I walked to my front door to see my whole family gathered on the stairs. Eyes wet, faces drawn. Grace, you need to stay home. Grammie has died. Words a 12 year old can hardly stand to hear. Grammies aren’t supposed to die. Don’t they live forever? My sweet Grammie with her white hair and wrinkled skin, her pearl earrings, her crackling laughter, her soft hands, her lovely smile…Gone. And so I felt pain. True pain entered and crippled my heart. Pain I can never forget.
One year later we had moved from my childhood home. Years of memories washed away. Surroundings unfamiliar. School had always been easy for me. I am well loved and I walk on the naive cloud of youngest self confidence. Everyone loves me. Or so I think. Then my little 13 year old world is shattered. My friends turn on me and tell me some of the cruelest words I have ever heard…hopefully ever will hear. Pain, heart ache…personal loss. Loss of who I am, loss of friendships. He was beginning to shape me.
I remember leaving to move South. 1000 miles from all that was familiar. I stood in our driveway and waved goodbye to my two dearest friends. Their little faces peeking out the back window. Tears streaming down their faces. Tears streaming down my face. Goodbye to the two girls I loved the most. Only 13. How could I make sense of this loss? My soul sisters torn from me. Suddenly I am alone. He was continuing to shape me.
Fast forward. I am 18. I am in love with my high school sweetheart. I know we will get married some day. But then my little world shatters. One day I realize that we will never be. It’s not meant to be. Grief so deep, heart ache so wide…I have never felt this before. My world shattered. My heart stomped into the ground. Goodbye to the boy I loved. And I’m not longer a girl. In one shattered moment, I have become a woman. Now I need Him in a way I have never needed Him before. Only he can repair this heart.
And so time goes on. Years have gone by. Different heart aches along the way. Struggles, trials, tears, disappointments. Many things seem not as they should be. But I have pressed on with Him faithfully by my side.
But recently I have suffered a heart ache that is beyond what I could ever have imagined. Something I have dreaded since the moment I first conceived Cora. The loss of a child.
Early November we found out we were expecting our third child. I skipped, I danced, I jumped up and down, up and down when I saw the two pink lines. I screamed and laughed. Cora giggled too. Although she had no idea what mommy was dancing around the house for. My heart soared as it always soars when those pink lines appear. Thank you Father. Another gift from you.
And so the anticipation began. The imagining of what would come in July. A third baby? Oh what a blessing. But always in my joy there was something unsettled within me. I just felt like things were not right. My sickness came on strong. Early. Maybe I am having twins? Twins do run on my mom’s side of the family. And so I wondered.
About 6 weeks into the pregnancy I started feeling sick. I thought maybe I had just caught a stomach virus. After all…it’s that time of year. But a few days later something didn’t feel right. My sickness lifted and my body felt empty. So empty. So sad. I didn’t know my body could feel sad. But it did. I started to worry. Justin I’m afraid something has happened. I just don’t feel pregnant anymore. My emotions soared up and down. But deep down I just knew.
Saturday I was alone in our kitchen. The grief and loss I was feeling was so deep. I lay face down on the floor and prayed. Lord, if this baby is alive give me your peace. If it is gone…prepare me. And a voice within me…I guess it was his whispering to me said, It’s gone. The baby is gone.
So I waited. Waited for my appointment. One day away from being 9 weeks…oh why had they scheduled it so late? I sat in the waiting room dreading the inevitable. No peace. No excitement. Just dread. The midwife called me back to a room. We talked. She assured me all my weird pains, all my discomfort…normal for my place in pregnancy. Just my uterus stretching. I tried to cling to her words…but still, no peace. We went back to the waiting room. Our name was called. I told Justin later, I felt like I was waiting for a death sentence. And I was. In dread I undressed, in despair I lay on the table. And so the ultrasound tech came in.
So this is your third pregnancy! Are you hoping it’s a boy?
Yes. We are. Of course.
She started her examination. And there it was. A black cave. Lifeless. Dark. empty. Oh wait, not empty. I tiny little body just floating to the side. My baby. My precious baby. I knew it was dead. Before she could tell me I said,
It’s gone right? There’s nothing there. I knew. I knew.
Death and life are so different looking. Life it vibrant, it moves, it has a heart. Death is dull, it floats, it is still and silent.
What was I saying…nothing there? There was something there. My beautiful baby. My tiny little baby. Alone. Dead. Cold. And right there, something in me died. And I cried as I have never cried before. A mother’s grief. Something I had never felt before. This beautiful bubble of motherhood I have so much enjoyed gone. Crashing down around me. Babies are not supposed to die. Not my babies. They live, they grow…they have fat cheeks and pudgy thighs. My babies are rocked by me, and kissed by me…and loved by me. They don’t die.
And so my midwife had me come to her office and she looked at the pictures. She was confused. She went to talk to the doctor. Then she told me the even harder news. There were two eggs that implanted. One hardly lived at all and the other lived to 6 weeks. Two babies. Oh Lord. No! I have lost two babies. But see I knew. I knew there were two babies. And somehow by His grace he let me know I would never see those two babies. But knowing is not like experiencing. But still. He prepared me as much as one can be prepared. Oh taste and see…He is so good!
So on Thursday I went to the hospital. The same hospital where I delivered our Elinor. I went to the same registration. I walked the same halls. Only this time instead of going to the right “labor and delivery” I walked to the left “day surgery.” And there I waited. Feeling hollowed out and empty…
And so they took the babies from my womb. My dead womb. And I suppose they were put in a trash bag and thrown away. Discarded as though they were nothing. Not what a mother would desire. Ever. But see, I have something I can cling to as a believer in Christ. They are not nothing to him. They are certainly not trash. They are not a dead fetus. They were spared life on this earth. They went straight to heaven. Straight to the arms of Jesus. They are already whole…before they ever had the chance to grieve or mourn or wail or laugh…they went to be with Him. They are safe. They are being held in arms far more loving than mine could ever be.
Often life does not give us what we want. So we cling desperately to Him. He is the author and perfecter of our faith. He is all we have. Amidst this pain and loss. Not once have I thought he doesn’t love me. Didn’t He promise me I would suffer with him? Isn’t it an honor and a joy to suffer with and for him? Isn’t he faithful? Isn’t he good? Yes. He is always good and he is forever faithful. Before I got the news I already knew I prayed that I would honor God no matter what the results of my appointment were. I refuse to be like Job’s wife and say “Curse God and die!” I will be true. True to my God. For he deserves my faithfulness always…even in the darkest of times. For if I believe that he is God. Then I believe that he is good. No one can comfort me like him during this time. For his comfort is deep within. A comfort that is from heaven. And so I get to experience the hardest grief I have so far had to carry but yet…He carries me. I feel his love so deep within. The only thing that can fill the emptiness.
And so I cling to his word. It’s all I have right now. And it’s more than enough.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for the darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden for you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, because like him in his death. and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
“For our light and momentary trouble are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:17
While I was laying in blackness and heavy sleep having my babies taken from within me. At the very same time, one of my very best friends was bringing beautiful and sweet life into this world. And isn’t he faithful like that? Her baby delivered in safety one week early, mine being taken from me 30 weeks to soon. While the darkness of death hovered so did the light and joy of life. A baby I have prayed and prayed for. To wake from my grief and see that little face in a picture. Healthy, perfect, beautiful like her mother. See He is good! He still gives life and joy! Light in darkness. And I am thankful for his timing. She is my sister in Christ…my soul sister. And he brought life and joy to her and all of us, amidst death. He is faithful!
And so I feel like I have aged 100 years. I feel dried up and empty. As though someone came and wrung me out. The tears flow freely. Sleep doesn’t come. But as I reflect on my 28 years. I look at all the suffering He has brought me through so far and I am sure. I am sure that it has always been for my good. From the time my Grammie died, to the loss of our babies. He has done it all for my good. It has always conformed me to his beautiful and perfect image. His love has never left me and it will never leave me. It is mine forever. And I remind myself of Job’s words,
Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?
If he snatches away, who can stop him? Who can say to him, what are you doing?…in his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.
Job 9:12; 12:10; 13:15
Lord, I thank you for your faithfulness. For every trial you give me. Thank you that I can suffer with you. For you are worthy of all our suffering. You are worthy of all our sorrow. You are worthy of all our praise. May I never curse you, when you take from me. May I never not trust that you are good. I thank you for this sorrow. For in it, you are making me more like you. You are doing your promised sanctifying work. As I bleed the blood of death…help me to remember the blood that your son shed. The blood of life. The perfect blood shed on the cross for my sin. That i can share in this blessed and holy relationship with you. You are perfect. You are good. You are loving. Amen.
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised. Job 1:21
And finally, I am so thankful for music. Sometimes it says exactly what we can’t express. Like this song by Sara Groves.