I know from experience that having faith after suffering loss can be very challenging. During my 30’s I miscarried four children. One of our baby girls passed away when she was already full-term and ready to be delivered. Last week, as I was just about to turn 50 years old, I realized I was feeling a similar kind of challenge that comes after consecutive losses, though these were different types of losses, they were nevertheless very painful. As I began reflecting on what helped me overcome the hopelessness back then, I sought to apply these lessons in my current neediness.
The stress associated with being pregnant after the traumatic loss of children was challenging to overcome, emotionally and mentally. Scott wasn’t sure it was even worth it to try again. We already had two healthy children before we experienced the last three miscarriages and several interruptions in trying to adopt. So, he proposed we stop trying altogether, cut our losses, and enjoy the two children we already had. He wasn’t sure that either of our hearts could handle more trauma or hope deferred. At the time, I was sensing God calling me to remain hopeful in Him, and to consider that these were common sufferings being faced by many worldwide. We had become part of the one fellowship we never wanted to join: what the Bible calls the “Fellowship of the suffering.”
One of the fellowship’s members was an African mother from northern Uganda whose painful, gut-wrenching cry I had heard when her young child was stolen and taken as a child soldier into an unworthy terrorist war. Though I had witnessed her pain with my own eyes and ears, it wasn’t until I lost my child just before her crowning that I genuinely felt this woman’s pain in the core of my being. In the crushing in that hospital room where my keening cry arose, I could hear that mother’s ache intertwined with my own, like streams flowing into one vast ocean of sorrow and filling up the sufferings of Christ’s body on earth.
Faith may be the key that unlocks the spiritual realm of grace, but hope empowers the hand that turns that key. Hope is critical to hold onto in such difficult times, and it is also what wills us to stretch out our hands to grasp the One that can pull us up and out of the miry clay. I am grateful that Scott and I decided to hold onto just enough hope to try again. I cannot even imagine not having the two little girls that came from our next steps of faith. God used the birth of our daughter Leah to restore the joy we had lost, so we named her Leah Joy. Then, because we stepped out in a kind of extreme faith to try yet again, and in my 40’s no less, we experienced the blessing of another little girl we named Annika Faith, meaning by grace through faith. I am not exactly sure how God had endowed us with enough hope to step out in that faith. But I do recall a moment of significance, when my mother had flippantly said, “You’ll have more.” Her words were the opposite of what my fearful heart was feeling or had even considered possible at the time. So, before her words could dissipate into the air and be lost forever, I grabbed onto them in the spirit realm and said in silent prayer, “Make it so, Lord! Please, make these words come true.” Her words that were captured by my last shred of hope did indeed come true, by grace through faith.
Now, as I was about to turn 50, I found myself feeling a similar kind of sadness, not about my age or my children, but about the losses we’d experienced in work that we had put our hands to over the years. These losses were much like miscarriages to me. They were the deaths of earnest endeavors birthed through partnership and which required the wombs of our creativity, a great deal of nurturing sacrifice, and diligence in the hidden gestational stages of these works becoming. I did not want to get stuck in the stress of the trauma of these past losses and remain so afraid that I was unable to step out hopeful in faith. Therefore, before the calendar told me I was 50, I chose hope and faith and made my requests known to God just as I did back then. I can feel myself becoming hopeful again in prayer, and I do believe by faith in the joy that is yet to come.
My prayer is that what comes next will be like Leah Joy and Annika Faith were to us in my latter birthing years, images of joy restored and grace through faith. I praise the Lord for the new measure of empathy He has implanted in me for others who have been disregarded, disrespected, disenfranchised, and wrongly dismissed in their work and creativity. I see how the number of oppressed people is only growing in this dark world: domestic violence, human trafficking, abusive language, bad work practices, unjust divorce, child slavery, and the like. I am grateful God is opening my eyes to the connections between my story and the story of others for whom I am called to care. He has also ministered to me through the lives of lesser-known Bible characters like Zilpah and Bilhah, the maidservants misused by their mistresses but still chosen by the Lord to bring forth four of the great tribes of Israel: Gad, Asher, Naphtali, and Dan. Even though the efforts of individual human lives are often deemed lesser by the power players of this world and based on temporary power differentials it does not negate the truth of what God sees and chooses to reward for the obedient service done as unto Him for His glory.
As I was now coming into my jubilee year, feeling a bit defeated, perhaps like some of you may be feeling, unsure if your heart can handle the loss of more creative “off-spring,” I invite you to choose with me to hold on to the words of my mother, which the Spirit has brought to mind, “You’ll have more.” From my study of the Bible, I see that this is God’s way in His creation. As long as we are alive, we are given seeds to plant and plants to tend. But we must be willing to receive and believe that perhaps the sufferings of the past can better prepare the soil of our lives to produce a more bountiful harvest in the future. The devotional I read today was indeed timely. It says, “I have not called you to greatness as the world counts greatness. Yours is to be plowed under, the seed that falls into the ground that life may spring forth. My life in you requires a corresponding death in yours… When I lead you “from glory to glory,” you will know and recognize that the glory is Mine and the blessing of it is more than all the world could give.” – Echoes of Eternity, Hal Helms.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12