It was the spring of 2007, and I was a newly married twenty-four-year-old when I found out I was pregnant with my first baby. I was glowing with anticipation and the colors surrounding me were as vibrant as my excitement. Months passed and fall arrived. As the leaves blew from their high places down to the ground below and the air turned cool, our lives changed forever. Instead of a blissful walk down the halls of labor and delivery, we walked a funeral procession to the room in the back corner. Our son was stillborn one month before his due date.
We were devastated when Owen died. Our whole world crashed down around us.
This year finds me twelve years older, a mom of seven — four in my arms and three children just out of sight. The grief over our missing children has not lessened in twelve years. In fact, it seems at times more confusing to share our grief and struggles as the years go by, and as the number of children in our arms outnumbers the children we have in heaven.
As a Christian living in the Bible Belt, I sense a powerful obligation to numb the hard in favor of something more positive, something that brings others more happiness and comfort than what hard can offer. Whatever our struggle, there is a tremendous amount of pressure to gloss over the hard so we don’t hurt our witness. I think there is a lot of confusion surrounding suffering and grief because we falsely believe that it shouldn’t be so hard.
It shouldn’t be so hard if you just trust Jesus . . .
If you believe God is sovereign . . .
If you place your cares at His feet . . .
I knew these phrases well before Owen died; I believed them as well.
But what if there was a different way?
What if hard is a part of the plan? What if God gives us good gifts in the hard? Will we be able to see them if we shut our eyes and our ears when things get hard? What if hard gives us gifts far more beautiful than the false comforts of fluffy precepts that life gets better, that hard times won’t return, that time heals all wounds, that victory in this life means life will be easy?
Hard can bring more hope than we ever thought possible. Hard will lead us to true hope when all our positive thinking has run out, when a time comes that we’re not victorious over struggle and sin, when life keeps coming with brokenness after brokenness.
Hard will lead us to Jesus nailed to a cross.
As a bereaved mother who is also called to be a pastor’s wife, I have seen firsthand what can happen when we gloss over pain and struggle in hopes of pointing to the hope of heaven. What we’re actually highlighting when we do this is our own discomfort of hard, not the comfort of hope. We do not need to throw the blanket of God’s sovereignty over the hard and pretend that our pain and struggles are not so bad. Life can be terribly hard, and God can still be good.
Hard colored everything in my life black and white for years. Unable to see anything else, dull gray tones masked all other colors. I was angry and heartbroken, and I asked so many difficult, seemingly unanswerable questions. I had so many friends who simply did not know what to say or do for me. It can challenge us to our to core not knowing what to do when someone we love is suffering.
I have found that if we want to offer a hand to hold to someone in the midst of pain, we must be prepared for uncomfortable and hard. The enemy will whisper lies that sound like truth, and it will feel easier to give into the false comforts of this world. But we must take a deep breath and look to Jesus’ example. We must keep our eyes lifted up and keep a firm grasp.
One lonely day about six months after my son’s death, a friend dropped by my apartment. She sat at my doorstep and gently knocked for about ten minutes. I would not or could not answer the door that day. Finally, she called and left a voicemail, “I’m here,” came her voice on the message. “You don’t have to answer the door, but I’m here.” Her words acted like a tether to my aching heart. I felt seen, loved, and grounded from those two simple sentences. My friend chose to brave the uncomfortable, and in return I have carried her words for eleven years as an ebenezer stone of comfort.
In the midst of broken things, broken lives, broken bodies, broken relationships, we can stand firm in the hard and call out to others, Come. God has not abandoned you. Come stand with us. Come lie down and rest. Come, just come. I can hold on for the both of us right now. Though the way is hard, our greatest hope is unchanging. Our hope is sure and lasting. Jesus is coming again, and nothing can separate us.
Though the way is hard, our greatest hope is unchanging. Our hope is sure and lasting. Jesus is coming again, and nothing can separate us. #grief #childloss -Elizabeth Manley: Click To Tweet