As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them. Psalm 127:4, 5a
Miscarriages and stillbirths are common occurrences in this world of ours. After you have “entered the arena,” you soon discover just how many others have shared the experience. But however “common” it is, it is never common when it happens to you. How should a Christian respond when presented with this trial of faith?
I was about 12 weeks along when we were given the news that our baby had no heartbeat. On the heels of this, the doctor began to present options for “how to get rid of it” … even while I was still able to see the picture of our tiny baby on the ultrasound monitor. At that point, I was not ready to consider options—I did not want to choose any of them. I wanted to keep my baby. I needed a chance to grieve.
Is It Okay to Grieve?
Grief is a normal (not ungodly) and an expected response when a child precedes his parents in death. The end of that child’s life, whether he was three months or 30 years of age, always seems to be untimely. Jesus’ mother grieved at the foot of His cross. Jesus looked upon her heart’s need at this time when she must have felt bewildered and overwhelmed, in spite of her faith. He showed tenderness toward this woman who had cradled Him—God come in the flesh—years ago, and made certain that she would be cared for (John 19:25–27). The Lord Jesus understands the grief and heartache a mother can experience in the loss of her child. We can take our sorrow and pain to Him.
Why Don’t Others Understand My Grief?
It is important to understand a few things before evaluating the reactions (or lack thereof) of others. Some individuals simply do not know what to say. I used to be in this category. Now that I know what it is like to go through this trial, I wish I’d at least had the courage to pay a visit and offer a hug, even if I had no words of wisdom. Giving counsel is a good thing, but just a simple embrace and shared tears are precious to grieving parents.
There are others who do not acknowledge the need to grieve because “it wasn’t a baby anyway,” especially if you were not very far along, or if yours was not “technically” a pregnancy. It is hard for them to understand that in your mind a future had already been attached to your child. You may have just begun picking names or choosing a theme for your nursery. Your baby had begun to take a tiny foothold in your life very soon after you discovered him or her. It may be hard for others to understand, if you have other children, why this does not seem to lessen your disappointment. Some think that if you are young and in good health, the prospect of having other children should take your grief away. It is hard to be gracious sometimes in our responses. But try—and learn.
Your Post-partum Experience
Generally it does not seem to be the wise thing to do a massive “housecleaning” upon receiving your news. By this I mean returning all the new maternity clothes, putting away all the baby things— getting rid of everything that reminds you of your baby. You have spent time growing into a mother’s mindset (and body). It is not a healthful thing to withdraw yourself abruptly from it.
Try not to resent your post-partum experience, however limited it may be. This is God’s way of allowing you time to get used to your new set of circumstances. Your mind and emotions as well as your body need time to return to their pre-pregnancy state.
Guarding Your Mind
A mother’s heart and mind are particularly susceptible to temptation in the weeks following the loss of a child. It is very important to remember that our minds are just as fallen as our flesh is. Satan may try to attack you on this battlefront with questions: “Was this my fault?” “Does God love me?” “Is this a judgment from God?” “What if I had only…?” Our adversary is ruthless and cunning. He knows our weaknesses and how to target them when we are most vulnerable. Solomon said in Proverbs, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (3:5). Why?
The Bible has much to say regarding the natural state of man’s mind (Eph. 2:3; Titus 1:15; Matt. 15:19; Mark 7:21; 1 Cor. 3:20; Col.1:21). Because our minds are tainted by our sin nature, we must constantly be on guard. The way we think is like a car that is out of alignment. In order to keep the vehicle on its course, we must use our physical energy to keep the wheel turned to compensate for the error. Release the wheel, and the car takes its natural course— into the nearest ditch, or worse! In the same way, we must work to keep our minds going God’s way by consciously submitting our thinking to the perspective of God’s Word. If we let up, our thoughts will stray in an ungodly direction— depression, bitterness, anger. The Bible provides ample direction for those wanting to stay on course (Phil. 2:5; Eph. 4:23; 2 Tim. 1:7; 1 Pet. 1:13; Rom.12:2; Heb. 4:12).
When I was in college, we had periodic fire drills. They were often at a most inconvenient hour of the day (or night). What was their purpose? Primarily to ingrain a plan of action into our minds, so that in the event of an emergency (when we are given over to emotional responses) we could act upon what we had practiced. Those practices were designed to give us a rational course of action, ready-made. Rarely, if ever, is a purely emotional response a Biblically correct one, and God has given us His Word so that when we find ourselves in such a situation we can lean upon what we know of Him instead of relying upon our feelings.
One thing we can be assured of is that God has a plan in what He does. Nothing happens by chance in our lives. Also, God is omniscient—nothing surprises Him. Joseph realized this, in spite of his humanly puzzling set of circumstances (Gen. 50:20). Joseph had the unusual experience of having revealed to him, at least in part, God’s ultimate design in the series of trials with which he was presented. This is very much the exception. To be sure, beyond the tangible option of some physical complication, we can surmise many things about God’s purposes in the termination of a pregnancy. We cannot and do not dare to demand an explanation from our trustworthy and loving heavenly Father. It may be difficult for you to see how your situation could be “good.”
The believing mother may also know that God has a purpose, an ultimate goal in what He does. Romans 8:28 is often misused. People interpret it to say that the “for good” in the verse means whatever it is they want in their lives. The following verse is often omitted. The “good” that God wishes to accomplish in us is that we might be “conformed to the image of his Son,” and He promises the grace to make it through (2 Cor. 12:9). We may doubt this at times, but it is important to remember that Scriptural truths are not dependent on our feelings. God keeps His promises.
Homework for the Heart
Know that God is mindful of your heart’s needs at this time. Allow Him to reach out to you through His Word in private study as well as in the public preaching services you attend. Permit yourself to need the other members of the body of Christ. They are designed to complete you in your weakness. Look for an opportunity to use your experience “for good”—there may be someone very nearby who can benefit from what you have been learning.
Look for the jewels that have been tried by the fire. This can be wonderfully therapeutic and help you to realize a portion of God’s purpose in your life. One of the treasures from my experience was the realization that although our baby was born a sinner like the rest of us, his first conscious efforts to bring praise to God have had no contamination from the flesh upon them. His first acts, words, thoughts of devotion have been unsullied by the selfish motives, insincerity, and complacency that often typify ours.
Finally, encourage yourself with the fact that your little one is part of God’s quiver, is in the very best of care, and is looking forward a very precious reunion one day.
Diane Heeney is a freelance writer living in Farson, Wyoming, where her husband is the pastor of Eden Valley Baptist Church. After having taught the freshman ladies’ Personal Evangelism course at Bob Jones University for several years, she now exercises her teaching gift through various ladies’ Bible studies, church and camp speaking engagements, and most importantly, in her home ministry with her three children.
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