The Loss of a Child: Resting in God’s Sufficient Grace
I had never had morning sickness before, not like this. I was now pregnant with child number 3 and could barely keep most things down.
I’m sure that many that will read this can relate. And I’m sure that many will read this that have lost a baby, if not more than one. Our stories are certainly all different, but I hope to share with you the Lord’s faithfulness to me and encourage you, whoever you are, that the Lord is faithful to all His children no matter the trial.
During the next several months my husband, Jake, would do most of the cleaning, cooking, and caring for the kids when he got home from work. All while studying for the CPA exam. He did not complain to me, but would often express his desire to help more and be able to take away my nausea. I knew Jake was a selfless man, but watching him care for his family like this made me love him more and praise the Lord that He would give me such a husband.
On August 21st, 2013, a dear sister in the Lord, Linda, invited me over to her home for some pool time, lunch, and fellowship. That week I had been reading the gospel of Mark and that particular morning a verse caught my attention “And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, "Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 "Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all." (Mar 10:13-15 NAU)
The thought crossed my mind that I wasn’t sure what happened to babies when they die, I had never studied it before. Later that day at Linda’s home I asked her what she thought. If there’s anything I can say about Linda, it’s that she knows the scriptures, and I have often gone to her when I have questions. She told me that she was at peace knowing that the Lord rescues babies as she took me through a mini Bible study pointing out various verses that brought her to her conviction. She said that she wrestled with this issue when someone in her family had lost a baby and had read “Safe in the Arms of God” by John MacArthur, she said she would try and find the book and let me borrow it. Other than that, we discussed many things.
The next day was beach day with several ladies from our church. After leaving the beach early because I wasn’t feeling well, I put my boys down for a nap but I was unable to rest. I had a burden to look up verses on God’s sovereignty and meditated on this verse:
“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
After the boys had woken I took them to my friend’s (Jenica) so that I could attend my 17 week appointment.
At the doctor appointment, they asked me to meet with their Midwife/Nurse Practitioner because the doctors were very busy that day. She used the doppler to find my baby’s heart beat but was unable to right away (they had a hard time finding last time so I wasn’t worried). After about 5 minutes of trying she moved me to the ultrasound room. She put the cold jelly on my belly and up on the screen came my beautiful child. I was gazing at his face and told her “Seeing that face makes all the sickness in the world worth it, the providence of God is amazing.” I had been asking about her spiritual life and she had commented that she lost her fiancé in a car wreck a year ago. I expressed to her what heartache that must have been. After some conversation and finding out a little more about her, I asked her how she did that all without a church, the people of God for support. She stated it was very hard and that she needed to find a church. We continued back and forth for some time while I was praying for the Lord to open a door for the gospel. Little did I know, as I was so occupied with ministering to this lady, that they were never going to find my baby’s heartbeat. I saw no movement in the monitor but it didn’t even cross my mind that he had died. Even when she said the words to me “Let me go get the doctor to see if he can find the heart beat” I was still not grasping what was going on, I was still praying for her. Then the doctor came in and immediately threw his clip board and said “I hate when this happens, this is the worst part of my job!” I looked at him in shock, “What was he saying?” I still was not completely grasping until he said “If your baby is dead you need to deliver it as soon as possible.” DEAD? The word echoed in my head as I felt a tear stream down my face and my body going numb.
The doctor and midwife then left the room to set up delivery. Those 5 minutes alone felt like an eternity and my mind and heart went into battle with my flesh and I had to flee to Christ. The words that I had read earlier about God’s sovereignty filled my heart and mind. God was in this, though I didn’t understand why this was all happening, He was there. I felt a peace knowing none of this was a surprise to Him. I did not feel alone in that room. I recalled John MacArthur saying God sends angels to watch His children going through difficulty and when they find strength in God, they worship and praise Him.
“They [Angels] watch us to see manifestations of God’s wisdom so they in turn can worship and praise His name.” John MacArthur
The nurse practitioner entered the room and looked at me and just said “I’m so sorry.”
The very things I spoke to this woman, God would use to remind me of His undeserved grace and mercy to me. I did not have to walk this trial without the Lord and His people (the church), and the Lord was already showing me this.
I called Jake and asked him to come get me so we could go to the hospital and let him know that we had lost the baby.
I had also let my dear friend, Jill, know what was going on and her husband, our pastor, offered to pick up our boys from Jenica’s and meet us at our home to talk. A reminder to me of God’s kindness to us.
Pastor Marc arrived with our children and we got them ready for bed as he waited in our living room. After sitting down with Marc, my eyes immediately noticed the little blue book that was in his hands. The very book that Linda had mentioned she would try and find for me, just the day before. My mind immediately started piecing together all the ways that God was ministering to me through this: The verse in Mark, meeting with Linda, meditating on verses of God’s sovereignty, reminding the nurse practitioner of the blessing of being in a solid biblical church, etc. I knew that the Lord had ordained all these things, even the death of our child. He was calling me to walk through these dark waters, but He was with me supplying the strength and grace. We spoke with Marc for a while and prayed before he left.
That night I didn’t sleep much. I remember laying in bed holding my belly softly crying. I remember thinking that I wouldn’t hold him much longer, wondered when he had actually died and trying to grasp the idea of delivering my dead baby. The battle lasted throughout the night as I strived to take thoughts captive and dwell on God’s kindness.
The next day my parents arrived from Nebraska to help out. Friends stopped by to offer prayer and support. Emails began flooding in from our church family. My dear friend, Kristen, who had lost many (8) babies to miscarriages sent me an email filled with verses that have ministered to her through difficult times. I pulled up that email so many times through this trial to remind myself of God’s word, what a blessing that was to me. One of our elders emailed me and one of the things he wrote I will never forget “Jesus' pure and eternal love for you has prepared you for this very time. And He will do His sanctifying work in you as you yield to Him.” The words “as you yield to him” kept rolling around in my mind. I could not simply “Let go and let God”. I needed to trust Him, I needed to yield to the power He is ready to pour out to me, I needed to take thoughts captive and not believe the lies that were constantly crouching at the door for me. I realized I could fight against the Lord here, and I could hinder His purposes in this trial; to strengthen me and conform me into the image of Christ.
I listened to this song over and over that day and need to share the lyrics with you:
Shall I take from Your hand Your blessings
Yet not welcome any pain?
Shall I thank You for days of sunshine
Yet grumble in days of rain?
Shall I love You in times of plenty
Then leave You in days of drought?
Shall I trust when I reap a harvest
But when winter winds blow, then doubt?
Oh let Your will be done in me
In Your love I will abide
Oh I long for nothing else as long
As You are glorified
Are You good only when I prosper
And true only when I’m filled?
Are You King only when I’m carefree
And God only when I’m well?
You are good when I’m poor and needy
You are true when I’m parched and dry
You still reign in the deepest valley
You’re still God in the darkest night
So quiet my restless heart
Quiet my restless heart
Quiet my restless heart in You
(As Long As You Are Glorified, by Sovereign Grace Music)
The elder who wrote me was right. God had prepared me for this. The Lord had sent us to a church that upholds and ministers His Word to us. I had been sitting under this teaching for a couple years now and I was being tested. Would I believe all the biblical truths I had been taught these last couple years? Or would I believe the lies? The lies that I don’t deserve this, God can’t be trusted, God is not in control, God has forsaken me, there is no purpose to this trial, that I am being punished, etc. Ultimately Christ did not deserve taking my punishment on the cross for the sins I committed and one day I will be in the presence of Christ. What I have here on earth is never punishment but God’s love, mercy, and kindness to change me and draw me closer to my Lord and Savior. I could not do this without Christ, none of it. I knew where my source of strength and hope was, it was in the Person of Jesus Christ, the one who laid down His life for me. The One who walks beside. The One who carries my burdens. Could I see that God was using this to answer my prayers of Him strengthening my faith and separating me from loving this world and the things of the world? Would I be found fighting against my own prayers?
"God sustains our faith not by keeping it away from trials, not by making sure it’s never tested. God doesn’t protect us, hold on to us, keep us enduring continually, holding fast by making life easy. He does the opposite. God sustains our true faith by putting it through hard times. He sustains our faith by means of trials. If you ever live with doubts and fears, it’s wonderful to know you’ve got the real thing. It’s wonderful to see its capability to survive disaster. In fact, I have found in my life that the more severe the trial, the stronger my faith is, the more my confidence in God rises." - John MacArthur
On August 24th, I was admitted to the labor and delivery department of the hospital. The moment I walked into the room and saw the bassinet where they place the baby after it’s born, was a difficult moment for me as it reminded me that I was not going to walk out of here with a baby in my arms. By God’s grace my friend was working that day at the hospital, she came up with us and prayed. Once the doctor arrived he told me that he had viewed the ultrasound again and thinks the baby died a couple weeks earlier and that I could now have a D & C surgery. We opted for the D & C and had to wait several hours for an operating room to open. Moment by moment, I had to hand all this over to Christ. I didn’t know what was going to be around the corner, but I had to trust Him. Waiting there I prayed and listened to a sermon on Philippians 4:4-8 (spiritual stability series by John MacArthur). I prayed for opportunities to proclaim the gospel with those I would come into contact with, I prayed that the Lord would give me the peace that passed all understanding, and I prayed for the strength to endure and respond with thanksgiving.
Jake never left my side. He was there to read me scripture, pray with me, and point me to Christ. His faith was unwavering.
After the surgery, in the recovery room, I recall coming out of the medicine and not being able to open my eyes, and yet my heart was filled with peace. I was overwhelmed by God’s grace to me. I couldn’t open my eyes but nurses were talking to me and I remember saying “The Lord has filled my heart with peace!” and going on and on about the Lord’s kindness. I remember thinking that I need to call Jake somehow so he can get my gospel tracts to give to these nurses. Well, they may have thought I was a lunactic, and for all I know I might not have made any sense to them. But that memory still makes me smile.
For the next few hours I would be in another patient room, until they discharged me. While the nurse that was on call that night walked in, she asked me “How are you?” to which I responded “God’s grace is sufficient.” She smiled at me and nodded and went about her business. Many from our church were still texting me with verses, encouragement, and asking how I was doing so I sent out this update to our church family: “Please let everyone know how appreciative we are of their prayers and how the Lord has just poured out His peace and comfort to me after the operation. I am very overwhelmed by His grace. I was nervous about how I would feel afterward but I was certainly not expecting this. He is so good and kind. I know that I may have some ups and down still afterward, but my heart is so encouraged as I am resting in His sovereign care.”
It wasn’t too much longer when it felt like a dark cloud was coming, it felt like slipping into despair. I asked Jake to read me the scriptures and to pray for me as I was getting fearful. Within 5 minutes of this the nurse came in and told me I need to try and walk. As I got out of my bed and held on to her, she told me that I ministered to her earlier when I stated that God’s grace was sufficient. She had a bad attitude of coming into work and that reminder made her realize her bad attitude was to what God had ordained for her that day. She asked me about losing our baby and before I could finish she started to quote scripture to me, I recall being amazed at how well this nurse knew the word of God. She quoted me Romans 8, she reminded me how much God loved me and how He was here for me. That no trial could separate me from His love. I can’t remember all that she said, but I can tell you that the Lord sent her at the right moment, and the Lord knew exactly what I needed to hear.
“I’ve always said that suffering is like a little splash-over of hell, reminding us of what Christ rescued us from—like a tiny taste of what life could be like for all of eternity, were it not for God’s graciousness…. Splash-overs of heaven are when you find Jesus in the splash-over of hell.” – Joni Ereckson Tada
These words from Joni rang true for me. I was seeing Jesus in my splash-over of Hell. I was seeing Him walk with me and never forsaking me.
During this trial, I understood even more the importance of being in a good church. I recently attended a conference on the church where a speaker/pastor, Paul Lamey, stated how critical it is on where we attend worship and sit under godly leadership, “Don’t expect your shepherds to be wise in the world. Don’t expect them to be supermen, popular, or hip to the latest trends. However, do expect them to know, lead, feed, and protect the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Encourage them to demonstrate spiritual fortitude. Rejoice when they unfold the Scriptures without shrinking back. Be thankful when they love the body of Christ through selfless sacrifice. Let your heart rejoice when they eschew worldly affirmation for the pleasure of God. Take comfort that when you walk through the valley of death’s shadow, they will be there with you.” Perhaps I will save my thoughts for another post for why I love the church so much, and how much I am thankful for our leadership. But I will say that the church surrounded us during this time, selflessly pouring into us.
These are the times we are tested. When life squeezes us God shows us and exposes what we are really trusting in and finding our contentment and pleasure in. If you are walking through a trial and struggling, Christ is enough. We are not guaranteed comforts and pleasures this side of Heaven. If anything, Christian, we are guaranteed trials and difficulties. But take comfort, God is at work. He never makes mistakes and this trial you are now walking in is hand-crafted for you, ordained by your loving Maker to perfect you.
We must all saturate ourselves with the Word of God, so that WHEN (not if) trials and difficulties come, God will use His Word and Spirit to strengthen, comfort, protect, and guide you.
The following verse brought much comfort to me through that trial, realizing if I responded rightly (by God’s grace) that He could use me to comfort another as I had witnessed Him using His children to comfort me:
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort."