“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
I’m learning what this verse means.
It’s been 25 days since I learned that my child, Avelyn, died in the womb. It’s been more like 30 since she actually passed. And I’m still pregnant. Pregnant with a child I will never get to meet on earth. Just waiting, and waiting, and waiting for something to happen…
Olivia‘s entrance to the world was actually similar. I’ve been going back through my journal and reading- trying to remember what God has done for us in the past. There was a whole long piece that I wrote sometime in the endless week after Olivia’s due date had passed but before I had gone into labor.
It was the looooongest stretch of time. I could hardly bear it. I felt big, round, and miserable. I felt forgotten by God. I literally wrote that I felt like one of the Israelites wandering in the desert, grumbling against God because I just couldn’t see the bigger reality.
Sometimes (ok, more like often) I question if I’ve grown- made any progress- in my walk with the Lord. Reading that journal entry is proof to me that I have grown. What could be more arduous than waiting and waiting and waiting for your sweet baby to be born? Maybe waiting for your sweet baby who you already know is never going to take a single breath.
Enter Romans 12:12. It’s been my verse this entire miscarriage.
First, when the doctor’s told me that there was definitively no heartbeat where there once was one, I began to understand what it means to be “joyful in hope.” Do you know, I read through several online forums about moms who suspected a miscarriage, and every single one advised the struggling moms to assume the worst. Prepare for bad news. Don’t get your hopes up.
I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty much were I live 99% of the time! Assume that the worst is going to happen. Bad things are right around the corner. It sounds like such solid advice- the argument is that you will then be able to protect yourself from pain, and you might even be pleasantly surprised.
But the Lord spoke to us and told us to be joyful in hope. We’re supposed to live there. Full of hope. Full of expectancy that we serve a big huge God who can do anything. He can raise the physically dead to life. He can also raise my still, cold, sinful heart to glorious Life.
Guess what? This may or may not be news to you, but bad things happen. You are not going to escape it! You are going to experience hurt, pain, failure, grief, anger. But we are not made to live in pessimism and fear of those difficult circumstances!
I know for a fact that joy is much better place to live than fear. After that first ultrasound, I made a decision: to have faith in God’s ability to heal and joyful hope for a miracle. Not live in a total state of denial (I know that is a stage of grief). I mean live with the understanding that God can do all things. Sometimes he chooses to work miracles. Other times he chooses not to. In either case- he is choosing to refine our hearts to receive greater Glory.
I could have chosen to wallow in misery and pain, doubting that God could or would do anything to reverse the situation. But I didn’t. I chose to live in joy. And you know what? That second confirming ultrasound 2 weeks later was really, really painful. But I realized something: it would have been painful either way. Had I been living in gloom for two weeks or in joy for two weeks… that was a hard, hard thing. But at least I had spent two weeks with a lighter heart than I would have otherwise.
And I am still choosing to live in that place. Joyful in hope that God can work something beautiful out of these ashes. Joyful in the hope that he has a brilliant plan to work all things together for my good. That plan isn’t derailed or thwarted. In fact, his plan is being perfectly fulfilled. Avelyn is walking into the fulness of her calling. I can’t even begin to fathom what that means.
Yes, the shadow of death is dark and heavy around me, but he has led my heart to still waters and peaceful pastures. He has taken the yoke of heaviness and darkness, and given me his much lighter and easier yoke.
All this is not to say that I have not been and am not still grieving. I am, after all, still carrying a yoke. And I can’t even describe to you the depth of pain my heart feels as it floods with the reality of what has happened.
So, while being joyful in hope, I am also learning to be patient in affliction. I am waiting, waiting, waiting, like I waited for Olivia. Like an Israelite in the desert. Patient as I carry the infant that will be stillborn. Patient while days, weeks, even months slip by that put a greater distance between my living daughter and her next living sibling. Patient while nothing seems to be happening.
Oh God, this was NOT my plan.
Sometimes waves of anger, sadness, grief, and confusion wash over me with so much force I feel like I can’t breathe. I imagine myself on the steps to the throne room of heaven. It’s quiet and dark and empty (at least it feels that way to me…) I’m pounding the marble floors with my fists, but it’s not making enough sound. So I start beating my fists on a giant cymbal. Why doesn’t anything seem loud enough for heaven to hear me? I’m so mad I even start throwing things-anything- at the throne itself. At Jesus still and quiet, letting me get all of my rage out.
These episodes always end with me, finally exhausted, throwing myself into his arms to weep and weep and weep. It’s sweet: he’s not offended or afraid or even hurt by my rage. He’s just there waiting for me to finally just let him hold me close, and closer still, until every last tear left in my body has been shed and the tranquility that follows an intense emotional outpourings overcomes me.
Does anyone know what I am talking about?
The grief is real, but he has given me grace to walk out my affliction with great patience. To endure what he has given me. And the reason I know I am living this out is that my heart is alive. It is open. It is feeling something. Lots of somethings. It is not shutting down. It is not in denial. It is struggling, sometimes raging, but definitely growing.
And in all these things- faithful in prayer. Open lines of communication. The good, the bad, the ugly. Splat. Right there on the throne room floor.
And the most fervent prayer of all? God, help my heart to grow and understand you more and more. Give me patience to endure my affliction. Give me joy as I put my hope in you. Make me to know your ways, and to walk in them. Amen.