My husband and I have two little ones we believe are in heaven. We never met either of them. I carried each one in my womb for only a few short weeks and then the Lord took them home.
I remember it well, staring at the ultrasound screen, hoping, praying to see that beating heart, only to be informed by the technician that it had stopped.
Each baby was small, but I could see the form of his or her head and body. Each one was my son or daughter; yet each was a baby I would never hold.
As painful as those two miscarriages were, I can’t imagine the pain of a mother who has actually held her little one, only to lose him or her in the end. I can’t imagine what you must think and feel on Mother’s Day.
But many godly men and women throughout history can relate to your experience. Their writings—the encouragement they received from God’s Word—are compiled in a book called From Grief to Glory: Spiritual Journeys of Mourning Parents.
One of these men was John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress. He and his wife, Elizabeth, suffered the loss of two children. Considering their eternal future, he wrote:
“God comforted Rachel concerning her children that Herod murdered because of the birth of Christ. He bids her not to cry with the promise that her children would come again from the land of the enemy, from death. And I think this should be mentioned, not only for her and their sakes, but to comfort all those that either have had, or yet may have, their children suffer…. None of these things happen without the determinate counsel of God. He has ordained the sufferings of little children as well as that of persons more in years. And it is easy to think that God can as well foresee which of his elect shall suffer…in their infancy, as which of them shall then die a natural death. He has saints small in age as well as in esteem. And although I desire not to see these days again, yet it will please me to see those little ones…standing in their white robes with the elders of their people, before the throne, singing unto the Lamb.”
I pray this picture of your child’s joy in heaven may fill your heart with comfort and hope this Mother’s Day.
It’s almost Mother’s Day again. And for some of you, this can be a bittersweet holiday. You delight in the opportunity that this occasion affords to honor your own mother and all your friends who are mothers, but you also can be saddened by the reality that you are not yet a mother, even though you long to be.
Perhaps you are single and there does not appear to be any prospect for marriage in the near future. You are keenly aware, however, that the body clock is ticking. You may fear that the childbearing years will pass you by.
Others of you may be married and have been trying to get pregnant for months now. Maybe even years. But still no baby.
In her book, The True Woman, Susan Hunt, includes a story by a woman who faces this very struggle. Debbie Trickett from Atlanta, Georgia, knows the heart-wrenching challenge of infertility. But Debbie also knows the heart-changing power of savoring God’s presence and goodness. We got permission to share her story with you. We pray it will impart fresh comfort and encouragement to any who have an unfulfilled longing for children:
Children. I want children. Not just a baby. Not just a child. I want children. Three of them. If I were younger, I might want more, but at thirty-four three seems like a good number. Marrying a little late and moving across the country a couple of times as well as a long-running struggle to pay the rent delayed the real trying for a while. The trying has been going on for a long time now. Not as long a many of you, but much longer than most.
To no avail. No children. Not one pregnancy. I have never experienced that wonder of knowing that there is a life inside of me. Instead, there is a longing that will not be filled, that will not be diminished, that will not end this side of heaven without children to fill it.
Nothing else in my life has been as baffling to me as not being able to conceive a child. My emotions hide even from myself, spilling out in tears of sadness or anger at the most inopportune times. There have been no days of real clarity, no times when a light has come on to show the way—not even a little. But the mysterious and marvelous mercy of God has convinced me of one thing in all of this—it is dark because I am in that deep, hidden place under God’s wing.
Certainly, the inability to bear children to the glory of God is due to the sinfulness of sin and its effect on all of life. It is not that God punishes us by not allowing us to give birth to the offspring we most desperately desire. It is rather that we, along with all of creation, suffer the wretched consequences of the sin of our first mother and father, Adam and Eve, compounded by the sin of all the sinners who have come after them. And that, of course, is all of us.
Since this is so, I know that, as with all of life, I must not put my trust in anything other than God, even in the provision of a child. This does not necessarily mean that I may not use a medical intervention to try to conceive a child. It does not mean that adoption is not an option to pursue. Rather, I trust that God in His mercy has given us these means as part of His redemption from the effects of the Fall.
At times the knowledge that God has given His covenant of grace to believers and their children makes not being able to have a child even more difficult to understand and bear. God has rescued me from such a desperate place and has given me such a glorious glimpse of Himself that I want, with all that is within me, to see this passed on to the next generation of my family, my children.
My heart cries out, “Why, O God, will You not answer this prayer? Why will You not do this simple thing for me and for Your own name’s sake? You do it for so many so easily. Your marvelous grace. Why not to me?” With thoughts like these, it is easy to fall into deep despair, and at times I certainly do. When this happens, God in His time and His various graceful ways, comes to me to remind me that I am not alone.
He does not, as so many do, tell me that “my time will come.” He does not say that if I will just relax and not try so hard, everything will be okay. He does not say, “If you adopt a baby, you’ll get pregnant.” He does say that He is with me. He weeps with me as Jesus wept for Lazarus. He reminds me that He is good and that He can be trusted with my heart. Any doubt of that was wiped away at the Cross.
He has given His best to me, His own beautiful, beloved Child. Will He withhold any good thing from me? No, never. Is Jesus enough to make up for this aching void in my soul? I do not always feel that it is so. But it is. Jesus loves me—this I know.
Taken from True Women by Susan Hunt, (c)1997. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois 60187, www.crossway.com.
Grief, fear and questions abound in the wake of yesterday’s horrible shooting at Virginia Tech. Only in God’s Word and the saving message of the gospel can comfort, hope and answers be found. The following are some biblical resources we hope you find helpful as you interact with unbelievers, or maybe even grieve for a loved-one or comfort someone whose family was affected by this, or any other tragedy.
To equip you to discuss the problem of evil in the world today, we want to encourage you to listen to yesterday’s Albert Mohler radio program entitled “Tragedy in Blacksburg: Explaining Evil in a Morally Confused Age.” Here Dr. Mohler provides the biblical answer to the question everyone is asking: “How does something like this happen?”
Even if we aren’t personally affected by the Virginia Tech tragedy, events such as these can have a troubling effect on our souls. If you are tempted to fear or doubt, learn from the prophet Habakkuk in this audio message from CJ, third in a three-part series called “When Life Doesn’t Make Sense.”
Maybe some of you know families who are living through this tragedy—or another difficult trial. John Piper’s 21 suggestions for how to comfort the hurting (first posted after 9-11) is an invaluable tool as we seek to care for those we love.
Please join us in praying that the God of all comfort would comfort those who are grieving and that the saving message of the gospel would go forth in the midst of this tragic event.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16)
I went to one of my favorite places for lunch today: the Lancaster County Dutch Market. Every Thursday through Saturday a group of Amish from Lancaster, Pennsylvania make the trek to Germantown, Maryland where they make and sell the most delicious food. My customary hang out spot is the soft-pretzel stand where you can watch the Amish girls twist the dough for my favorite cinnamon-sugar pretzels.
This afternoon, as I was placing my usual order, the man who owns the stand engaged me in conversation (yes, he knows me). He informed me that the sister of one of the young women who works for him was one of the little girls shot in the tragic Amish school shooting two weeks ago.
“Did she survive?” I asked him. He told me her life was mercifully spared. She is hopefully leaving the hospital today! I told him we were praying, before he moved to help the next customer in line.
My heart broke for this little girl and the horror of her experience, and all those affected by this tragedy. Initially, I felt helpless, wishing there was something I could do to comfort them and ease their pain.
However, it was a fresh reminder to me of the truth of Ephesians 5:15-16. The days are indeed evil. Therefore, I am to strive to live every day with wisdom, “making the best use of my time.” And my heart can rest in the certainty of God’s sovereignty over the evil found in this world and the hope of the gospel for all mankind.
Where were you on the morning of September 11, 2001?
No doubt each of us remembers with perfect clarity. CJ and I were eating breakfast at a restaurant in Chatham, Massachusetts, when we noticed that people were gathering round the television in the lobby area. My husband went to check out what was capturing everyone’s interest. His face was grim when he came back to our table. “You’re not going to believe what has just happened,” he told me. “A plane has crashed into one of the buildings of the World Trade Center.” Of course we now know that was only the beginning of the horrific events that unfolded that day—a day that has forever changed our country.
Evil and suffering of this magnitude raises another, far more weighty question:
Where was God on the morning of September 11, 2001?
How do we understand 9/11, or any tragedy for that matter, in light of the sovereignty and goodness of God?
Pastor John Piper offers the biblical answer in three recent radio broadcasts. These programs entitled: “In a Terrorized and Troubled World, Where is God? Part 1”, “Part 2” and “9-11 Q & A” help us to “reconcile the existence of God with the existence of suffering and evil.”
May the truth of God’s Word bring clarity and comfort to your heart this remembrance day.
Today we want you to hear—and learn—from Debbie Demi, a member of our sister church, Covenant Fellowship in Philadelphia. “Afer regeneration, one of the greatest miracles of grace, is the Christian who rejoices in the midst of suffering” my dad has said. This family is truly a miracle of grace. Here is Debbie’s answer to our question, “tell us about a circumstance in your life where you now see God was working ‘behind the scenes’ for your good?”
Recently my family has been going through the toughest trial of our lives. Twenty-two weeks into my pregnancy with our eighth child, an ultrasound revealed that our unborn baby girl had a condition called holoprosencephly. At 6–7 weeks, her brain did not divide and therefore, it was determined that she was missing the front part of her brain. The doctor gave us the grave news that her condition was fatal (lethal as she called it). She expressed her condolences and said that they would not stop labor if it began early and that they would not do a c-section to save her life.
To most onlookers, it appeared that there could not possibly be any good to come from such a diagnosis. In a doctor’s report, he called it “an unfortunate pregnancy.” However, with eyes of faith and an eternal perspective, God by His grace has allowed us to see that, “He works all things together for our good.”
Three weeks ago, Destiny was born alive. The joy we experienced at her birth was unlike any other. Death was looming in our minds and every indicator prior to birth seemed to confirm that Destiny would not survive the birth. Therefore, to us, her birth was miraculous. She was born with the condition that she was diagnosed with. She has a cleft lip, a cleft palate, suffers from seizures and multiple other conditions that we have yet to experience. However, we are so grateful for the opportunity to have Destiny in our family and to care for her – even if her time on earth is short.
Even though the trial is not over, we can by faith believe that God is working for our good and look for ways God is working even in the midst of the most trying times knowing that nothing happens by chance. We don’t know the extent of how God is going to use Destiny for our good and His glory, but here are just a couple ways that we’ve seen him work so far.
1) We believe that He’s teaching our children compassion as they care for a handicapped child; growing their faith by allowing them to see us glorifying God in a trial and seeing God answer our prayers; teaching them to care for others as they see the body of Christ caring for us. By faith, knowing the character of God, we know that He is doing an eternal work in their hearts through this trial.
2) As my husband and I have walked through this together, I’ve grown in love and admiration for my him. I’ve seen strengths in him that I would never have seen otherwise as I’ve experienced his care and marveled at the way he has shepherded our family.
3) We’ve experienced the care from the body of Christ in a way that we never imagined, teaching us how to serve others and bearing testimony of the Gospel to our unsaved family members and neighbors. They will know we are Christians by our love.
4) It’s been an opportunity for us not to waste our suffering, but to use every opportunity to glorify God in what He, by His loving hand, has allowed into our lives. God has allowed us to experience Him in a deeper way, to experience His faithfulness in a difficult situation, to ponder what He has done for us on the cross, to draw closer to Him. How much greater good could we receive than to know Christ our Savior more?
“Let this text produce patience, ‘All things work together for good to them that love God’ (Rom. 8:28). Shall we be discontented at that which works for our good? If one friend should throw a bag of money at another, and in throwing it, should graze his head, he would not be troubled much, seeing by this means he had got a bag of money. So the Lord may bruise us by afflictions, but it is to enrich us. These afflictions work for us a weight of glory, and shall we be discontented?” All Things for Good by Thomas Watson pp. 61 – 62
Last week we received two powerful answers to our book club question on the life of Ruth. We saved these answers to share with you this week. These two women are both enduring unimaginably difficult circumstances. We hope their faith and hope in God will encourage you to see the goodness of God in whatever trial you might be facing.
First, we will hear from Kriscinda Davis, who, along with her husband Luke and their three children are much-loved members of Covenant Life Church. Brian and I have observed this couple prosper spiritually in the midst of the most significant of trials. They are actively trusting in God’s wisdom and goodness. May we all emulate Kriscinda’s example of faith in our Savior.
“Nothing happens by ‘chance,’ but God is always behind the scenes, working all things together for the good of His people (Rom. 8:28). There is no such thing as ‘luck’ or ‘fate’ for believers.”
Given this truth, tell us about a circumstance in your life where you now see God was working “behind the scenes” for your good?
I read Ruth with much anticipation. I love the book of Ruth and couldn’t wait for the question, as it would provoke my heart. Provoke it did. Our family is in the midst of a difficult situation. Heart ache and suffering have been present for the past 8 months as my youngest son, Micah was diagnosed with a very rare brain tumor, ATRT. Our little man has undergone 2 major brain surgeries, 6 rounds of high dose chemos and been in and out of the hospital at least a dozen times. So when I read Ruth and then the question that followed… tell us about a circumstance in your life where you now see God was working “behind the scenes” for your good? I was dumb founded. I couldn’t think of how God was at work behind the scenes and this bothered me for I knew he was and is at work. I talked with my husband and some ladies in my care group and as we talked my eyes were opened. I had been so focused on the current trial that I had taken my eyes off the cross and forgotten all his goodness. I was able to thank the Lord and by his grace remember and see glimpses of how he is at work for good in this present trial. Let me share them with you…
-He is at work in our hearts for good, teaching us to trust Him, showing us that grace and mercy are truly new each morning. He is molding and shaping us.
-He is showing us great love through himself and others—giving strength that is not ours.
-He is at work in our kiddos for good. Micah is becoming a tender little man (I think because of all he has gone through). Braeton is learning to care for others in difficult times.
-By his grace the gospel is going forth and seeds are being planted.
In years to follow I am sure we will look back and see more of the Lord’s goodness and sovereignty in this situation, but until—we will seek to remember and remind ourselves of all his wonderful benefits. He truly does work all things for good even when it is seems hidden from our eyes. And thanks be to God for the many faithful examples we have to look to… one of which is the wonderful example of the Bowers family. To God be the glory in each and every path for therein lies abundant grace and goodness.
“I forgot how hard it is,” I told Mom the other day—referring to the nausea of course. My doctor predicted this. “The maternal desire in women is an amazing thing,” he said. “You all endure months of sickness, severe pain in childbirth, and even suffer serious complications. Then, you turn around and do it all over again!”
Go figure. We as women all suffer from the same unique variety of amnesia. Maybe they inject something in the hospital IV that erases the pain from our memory. Or maybe it’s just one look into our baby’s eyes. Powerful stuff.
I have so much to be grateful for. I know the nausea will only last through my first trimester. And I know that “morning” sickness is a good sign. And at the end of this yuckiness, Lord-willing, is a long-awaited blessing. I’m smiling.
But being sick is hard. There’s no denying that. And it turns my thoughts to people I know who really suffer…friends and family who live with chronic pain or illness. How do they do it? I wonder. How do they joyfully live with constant pain, never knowing when it will end? Of course I know it is only by God’s abundant grace. And feeling sick myself reminds me to pray for them.
One of my all-time favorite authors, David Powlison, has recently written a wonderful primer on praying for the sick. It’s addressed to pastors, but very instructive for us all. Here are a few lines to convince you to read more:
“Sickness, like any other weakness and trouble, should force us to stop, to face ourselves, and to look for the Lord. It’s a chance to find sins we have been too busy to notice and…a chance to find a quickened need for Jesus’ mercies and a deepened delight in God.”
I’m glad for this fleeting nausea, this reminder to stop and face myself and look for the Lord. I pray God will help all those who are suffering—really suffering—to do the same.
A young mom in our church recently learned that her unborn baby has a serious neural tube defect known as Anencephaly. Barring a miracle, the baby has no chance of survival outside her womb.
The following are some recent ponderings she has graciously allowed us to post. Her extraordinary faith and eternal perspective will surely turn our eyes heavenward. Together with her, we long for the day when “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4
We found out at our last doctor’s appointment that we are having a baby boy! No names as of yet, but we will keep you posted. C was very active in the womb, but nothing compared to this little fellow. As I lie awake at night from his fierce kicks, elbows and jabs, I imagine that he is going to be strong. I imagine that just like his big brother he is going to love to dance and run and kick the ball. I love to imagine him running, unlike C constrained by mama’s words of, ‘no street, son,’ or ‘hold mama’s hand,’ or the fence in our backyard, I picture him running in fields so vast and beautiful—beyond my imagination. Colors so vibrant and alive, too beautiful for my meager mind to comprehend. I picture him dancing to a melody never heard before by C or me. A melody so sweet, so fragrant, so amazing, breathing life into his soul. I imagine his smile (will he have a dimple like his brother?), will his eyes glisten, be blue?!? I imagine him worshiping and dancing from day one, something that has taken C a year to figure out…this little one will be doing from the very beginning. I imagine the day when I will be able to dance hand in hand with my son… not on his wedding day…but on a day more glorious and more special…the day when we will both be face to face with our Savior!
It breaks my heart to imagine how frail and weak my little boy is now within the womb. But when he kicks me with such strength, I am reminded how in only a few short months he will be made new…no deformities, no weakness!!! I imagine how the Lord is going to use my son’s strength for his glory and his purposes in Heaven. What even brings me more delight is to know that the strength of the Lord truly is going to be his delight each and every day. How precious these moments are for me as a mommy, to feel my son within me. My love for my new son grows stronger with each and every kick. I know that far too soon I will long for these days again (as hard as some of them have physically been). I am blessed with this time now that he is in my womb, for I know until ‘that day’ comes when I will see him again, this is my time with my precious little boy! Please pray that I cherish each and every one.
We hope you have benefited from the Suffering and the Sovereignty of God excerpts we’ve posted this week. A special thank you to Justin Taylor and Crossway Books for allowing us to share this material with you. Please take time to read through this final installment from David Powlison. I pray that those of you currently experiencing severe trial will find encouragement in his words…
“How does God meet you in trouble, loss, disability, and pain? You probably already know the ‘right answer’. He does not immediately intervene to make everything all better. Yet he continually intervenes, according to gracious purposes, working both in you and in what afflicts you….
How does God’s grace engage your sufferings? We may know the right answer. And yet we don’t know it. It is a hard answer. But we make it sound like a pat answer. God sets about a long slow answering. But we try to make it a quick fix. His answer insists on being lived out over time and into the particulars. We act as if just saying the right words makes it so. God’s answer insists on changing you into a different kind of person. But we act as if some truth, principle, strategy or perspective might simply be incorporated into who we already are. God personalizes his answer on hearts with an uncanny flexibility. But we turn it into a formula: “If you just believe____. If you just do____. If you just remember____.” No important truth ever contains the word ‘just’ in the punch line.
How does God’s grace meet you in your sufferings? We can make the right answer sound old hat, but I guarantee this: God will surprise you. He will make you stop. You will struggle. He will bring you up short. You will hurt. He will take his time. You will grow in faith and in love. He will deeply delight you. You will find the process harder than you ever imagined – and better. Goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life. No matter how many times you’ve heard it, no matter how long you’ve known it, no matter how well you can say it, God’s answer will come to mean something better than you could ever imagine.”