I'm currently reading Patricia St. John's autobiography entitled An Ordinary Woman's Extraordinary Faith (which I highly recommend...its an amazing story of a woman who was a missionary nurse in Morocco and lived an incredible life!). In one section she details the difficulty of losing her brother to cancer after praying and praying for his healing. Her words come as a great encouragement to anyone who is hurting....
"Answer to our prayer may come in our body, our mind, our spirit, our circumstances, or in blessing sometimes long delayed, or even on the other side of death, and usually in our sorrow we fail to think much about that amazing final healing" (p.265).
"But I am glad that Jesus wept. He knows that it is almost impossible at first to see through the mists of sorrow to the glory beyond. We just have to believe it is there" (p.267).
During this difficult time God gave our family an additional blessing. Our sweet niece Ruthie was born just two days before her PaPaw passed away. She is a sweet reminder that "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die...a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance" (Ecclesiastes 3:1,2,4).
On the heels of these changes in our extended family, there was also August 5. August 5 was a day I had wondered about for many months. Would I anticipate it as it got closer? Would it be hard? Easy? Would I remember? You see August 5 was my due date.
Last fall and winter we experienced a difficulty that was new to us: the loss of two pregnancies. The first was October 1 and I was around 6-7 weeks pregnant. The miscarriage happened at home. I saw the sac that had encased the tiny life, but I had not known I was pregnant. The difficulty was experienced later, as I realized I had basically flushed a pregnancy I didn't even know existed. But God is gracious and as quickly as I could begin to feel guilt over this lack of awareness, He reminded me that He was there. He knew. He cherished that life for the few short weeks it existed.
And then, the evening of December 25. We were a little over 8 weeks pregnant. I'd been praying for this little one for weeks. Anticipating the new addition. Considering how our summer calendar might need to change as we prepared to welcome a new child into our home. And then I began to see the tell-tale signs of a miscarriage. All day, all night, those signs. For 3 1/2 days. I prayed. I called the doctor. I put myself on bedrest. I waited. But when the contractions became painful and my trips to the bathroom became every few minutes I knew things might not be turning out as I had expected. And then, in the sanctuary of my own bathroom, God invited me in to the "secret place" of Psalm 139. As I stared through my tears at the tiny life in my hand, no bigger than a nickel, I sensed God holding me in His own hand.
As I looked at that tiny, still-forming body, floating inside a clear sac, I sensed God's deep love. His care. His concern. That He would spend time creating such tiny little arms and legs on a life that would last for only weeks is amazing. And I praised God. I praised God for the gift of seeing this life. I praised God for His gentle reminder that He is always in control. I praised God for my husband who wept and prayed with me. And I praised God for my three children sitting in the living room, waiting to celebrate the most important child ever born: Jesus Christ.
The weeks that followed were difficult. I felt like I was caving in on the inside; like I was falling apart and no one even knew why. No one had known we were pregnant, so it wasn't until after the miscarriage that we announced both the pregnancy and the loss to our families. I missed the baby. I was tired of making trips to the doctor to check my hormone levels. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. And then God led me to tell a handful of people. The grace and the love and the tenderness and the personal stories that began to pour in were amazing. God used these sweet sisters in Christ to comfort me and help me heal.
And over the months, the difficult things became less difficult. My eyes were opened to the pain of those who have waited at the obgyn office, watching smiling faces and pregnant bellies come and go, but held back tears because their visit involved pain, heartache or difficulty. My early loss led me to grieve more deeply and pray more fervently for those who have lost babies later in pregnancy, or shortly after birth, or weeks or years into life. My loss, even 7 months later has already opened doors for me to minister to others.
I'm reminded that God is not blind to our pain. When He allows difficulty in our lives, He uses it for good. He has a purpose and a plan, and we can trust Him.
The wonder of it all is that as I sit and type this, reflecting on the past year, I am currently pregnant again. I have felt this baby move and kick. And only God knows its story...how long it will live, if it will be healthy. But I know that regardless of what happens in this life, God is good. And I don't just say that because I am pregnant again. Regardless of whether babies are born or pregnancies progress; regardless of whether cancer is healed; regardless of the circumstances of our lives, God is good.
And when He chooses to allow difficult things into our lives, He holds our hand. He walks us through. He leads us on.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)