Thursday, June 22, 2017

a request for prayers, for all in the midst of grief

My dear husband has written a letter and we would like if you would read it.

Dear friends in Christ,

Jamie and I would like to request your prayers. Specifically, we ask that you pray for comfort, and for the Lord to renew us in the strength of His Word.

On May 13th, Jamie learned that she was blessed to be with child. The news was received with joy, for we trust His Word, that children are a precious gift. And yet, large families are not always easy. There is the stress of life, the cost, the fear of our inadequacies, as well as the awareness of living in a world that fails to see an additional child as such a gift to be received with joy. The joy of life was diluted, in some way, by the weakness of our own flesh. Faith delighted in the Lord’s gift, while at the same time, our old Adams wondered if it really would all be good.

Soon after, Jamie and the kids traveled to Tennessee. During that wonderful visit she had an appointment with her OB/GYN. She hoped to confirm the pregnancy, but also to find out why she had started spotting. The visit was productive. Indeed, she was pregnant. About 4 ½ weeks along. But, a hemorrhage had been discovered as well. We would need to keep our eyes on things. This bleeding could go away, and everything could end up proceeding as normal. However, this could also be an indication that a miscarriage was likely.

Unfortunately, the bleeding never did stop. After a week or so, it worsened. It became so consistent that, just after midnight on June 6th, Jamie headed to the ER about 25 minutes away. I stayed at home with the kids. A few hours later, Jamie returned home, having had the doctors conclude that she was likely miscarrying. On the morning of June 8th, she had an ultrasound in a neighboring town and it was confirmed that, in fact, she was suffering a miscarriage. This life, which was given from above, had now died after six

weeks of development. “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).

At first, I think both of us were a bit numb. After all, Jamie had yet to develop those motherly signs which every expecting mother looks forward to with equal joy and dread. The first ultrasound tech had even intentionally avoided calling this child a baby, or a life. What God had begun to form together was called “a ball of cells.” I just wonder what the LORD might think of that description. It certainly only exasperated our frustration, for our desire to act in accord with our confession was real. We wanted to hurt, and to grieve, for we know, without a doubt, that it is the LORD who gives life. And He had done so. So why didn’t it hurt like it would if we had already heard the child’s heart beating, or changed a diaper or two? Of course, all those fears being relieved through this death only made us feel even more guilt. This was a child. It was the child God had given to us. Why didn’t it feel like a loss? “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24)!

Of course, on top of this all, we didn’t know who to tell. The children hadn’t known Jamie was pregnant. And they would have been so thrilled. They always simply assume another one would be coming at some point. That’s the life they’ve always known. Thanks be to God they simply receive God’s gift of life with joy!

Unfortunately, additional burden would come from those who, for a variety of reasons, wonder why we hadn’t already chosen to stop having children. Some voice this concern to us; others only express themselves to others. But the truth is – thanks be to God! – Jamie has never had any complications with any of her previous pregnancies. And isn’t God the giver of life? Who are we to tell him when and where He should do that? Which of our children should we look at as a mistake because we should have chosen when “enough is enough”? It wasn’t so long ago that the voices who see large families as an unwelcome burden today were enjoying their own large families. But I digress. Suffice it to say that the pain and burden is real. Not only is there the loss of a child, but there is the burden of guilt for not feeling the loss, to go with a world that doesn’t understand, all the while trying to figure out how to let our children know what is going on. “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12;10).

 After multiple visits to the doctor for mommy, the children were asking questions. We decided to tell Naomi and Micah. They, we reasoned, were old enough to wrestle with the situation. Of course, as we told them the events of the previous few weeks, we saw the expected joy on their faces when they learned mommy had become pregnant. But then, that joy was snuffed out as we reported the miscarriage. But “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God” (Romans 11:33). For both of them were quick to trust God’s promise. They now had another sibling, as they had always expected they would, but now they had a reason to pray for the Lord Jesus to return. They now wanted to meet that sibling. And there was no doubt in their mind that they would. Would that we would all trust God’s promises “like a child” (Mark 10:15, et al).

At some point, we decided also to tell Hannah and Abi, who also exhibited the same course of emotions: joy turned to sadness. But that is what death will do. At least, that is what death will do…for a time. For even death cannot end the gladness of those who trust God’s certain promises. And so, just as was the case with their older siblings, Hannah and Abi joyfully looked forward to meeting their new sibling. They only wanted to know if they would have a new brother or sister, and other additional questions. Once again, there was simply more reason to pray. “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20)!

 The doctor recommended that Jamie have a D&C, and that she shouldn’t wait for too long. I had been planning to attend a conference in Wisconsin, and Jamie didn’t want me to cancel. So, on Tuesday, June 20th, Jamie had the surgical procedure. The kids were blessed by a neighboring pastor, his wife, and six children, and spent the day playing. This allowed me to tend to Jamie. And thankfully, the procedure was without complication. She came out of the anesthesia just fine. She relaxed in a quiet home, and I tried to tend to her needs the best I was able. Wednesday, another loving family took the children so Jamie could rest again. But because Hannah had her last T-ball game, I had to be absent from a meeting at church that evening.

It isn’t normal for me to be absent from a meeting; especially not a meeting of the Parish Planning Council. I needed to offer an explanation. I was going to have to tell them what had happened. Of course, this brought back to the surface those insecurities connected to how others would respond. Would they understand? Would they confirm the fears of our weak flesh? Would they also think we were foolish? Would they understand why their new pastor couldn’t be present for the meeting?

I should have learned this long ago from the other congregations I’ve been blessed to serve. For every response we have received thus far has been both understanding and comforting. I guess the words our Circuit Visitor (a pastor for pastors) shared with us are really true (duh!): “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort” (2 Cor. 1:6-7).

And still, it hurts. In a way I didn’t experience at first, but somehow hoped it would, it hurts. That there is so much confusion about the gift of life, and the terrible consequence of sin called death, only exasperates the pain. But strangely, now that a few others know the burden through which we’ve been suffering, it has allowed us to hurt. There is no more hurting and hoping nobody will notice, or that it won’t affect my (or our) work. We can grieve. And it is okay to grieve. In fact, it is right that we should grieve. After all, the Scriptures reveal: There is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecc. 3:4).

We don’t understand why the LORD has chosen, in His infinite wisdom, to give and to take away. To attempt to answer that question is to attempt to search into the hidden mind of God, to engage in speculation, and to be left without the comfort of what He has actually revealed. And what He has actually revealed is that He is merciful. That He delights not in the death of anyone. To be sure, this little life had inherited the sin of Adam, but we give thanks that through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, God has reconciled the entire world to Himself. We have no other choice but to trust. “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).

At some point, as St. Paul writes, we will all now be able to offer comfort to others who themselves have suffered in this way. I pray that this present suffering would serve to make me a better pastor for such people, and a better husband and father as well. Having had five children without any hiccups, Jamie has now been given a cross to bear that places her among a host of faithful women who themselves have suffered such a loss. What comfort they will all be able to draw from one another. And the kids. Well, they won’t always be so happy about it. In fact, there have already been a few moments of tears. But we will do for them what we endeavor to do for them in whatever circumstance we find ourselves. We will search the Scriptures. We will point them to Jesus. And we will teach them to cling to the clear and certain promises which we have in Him, even as we ourselves cling to them as well. And we will pray. We will call upon the name of the Lord in this, the day of our trouble (Psalm 50:15), and the Lord will deliver us just as surely as He delivered His Son, Jesus Christ, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Cor. 15:20).

So, on behalf of Jamie (and the kids), we simply ask for your prayers. But not only for us. Rather, pray for all who struggle to rejoice in the gift of life; who have suffered the burden of death; and for the promises of God in Christ – who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification – to be our joy in the midst of grief. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

With joy in Christ Jesus,
Greg

5 comments:

Susie Buetow said...

Amen. Praying for peace and comfort.

Connie B said...

Thanks for sharing. We will be praying for you. It is a hard thing to discuss even if it is number one or two. How do you open a conversation with...by the way, I had a miscarriage this week. This seems to be a burden for so many women in our society now, so praying you can be a powerful witness to them.

Unknown said...
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Susan Hamilton said...

Dean and I will continue to remember you in our prayers.

happy sewer said...

Praying for you and your family. Our daughter experienced such loss at least twice before she had other children.
God will give you all strength and comfort.
Ramona Stevenson