Even if

I don’t think I will ever figure out the relationship between prayer and faith and how God answers some prayers and others go seemingly unanswered.  I don’t think we’re meant to figure it out until Heaven.

The whole time I was pregnant with Maizie, I prayed for a healthy baby.  I prayed in the exact same way I prayed for a healthy baby during my pregnancy with Emerson.  When we found out Maizie had died, it was the first time we had learned that anything with our baby was not healthy. God doesn’t answer prayers differently than we hoped because we didn’t have enough faith when we prayed.

In prayer we lay the desires of our hearts before the Lord.  We ask for Him to move.  We plead for Him to have mercy.  We ask in faith, believing that He has the power to do whatever we are asking.  It takes faith to ask for God to do something that seems impossible.

“It takes great faith to say to God, ‘Even if you don’t heal me or the one I love, even if you don’t change my circumstances, even if you don’t restore this relationship, even if you allow me to lose what is most precious to me, I will still love you and obey you and believe that you are good.” – Nancy Guthrie in Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow

But it may take greater faith to say to God,  “Even if you don’t do what I desire, I will still love you, follow you, and trust your goodness.”

This is where I currently live and wrestle.  Even though.  Even if.

Even though you didn’t give me the healthy baby I prayed for, I still love you.

Even though you didn’t give me the healthy baby I prayed for, I will still follow you.

Even though you didn’t give me the healthy baby I prayed for, I will trust your goodness.

These truths.  On repeat.

Today I made a list of all my even though’s and even if’s:

Even though you took my daughter from me.

Even if it happens again.

Even if we never get another little girl.

Even if a third sonogram picture never makes it onto the fridge because we never get pregnant again.

third sonogramEven if my heart aches for a long time.

Even if my next pregnancy is really hard.

Even if JR and I struggle in our marriage through this loss.

Even if I feel unheard and unloved in my loss.

Even if some of our strained relationships never heal.

Even if Emerson is the only child I raise.

Even if I’m stuck in a battle with fear and anxiety when it comes to pregnancy for the rest of my childbearing years.

Even if people hurt my feelings with their insensitivity.

Even if everyone else I know seems to have easy pregnancies that work.

Even if all these things happen, I will still love you, follow you and trust your goodness.

God doesn’t owe me anything.  I haven’t earned extra blessings by years of vocational ministry.  I trust and submit to Him, even when it leads to my pain and my worst fears.

Isn’t this the example that Jesus gave us in the garden and then at the cross?

In Matthew 26 he prays these prayers in the garden:
“My father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39).
“My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42)

Jesus made his even if list.  Even if I have to go to the cross.  Even if I have to be separated from you.  Even if I have to endure torture and ridicule.  Even if I have to take the blame for sins I didn’t commit.  Even if you can’t take this cup from me.  I will still love you, follow you and trust your goodness.

He went to the cross with great faith that God would do what only He can do.  It lead to suffering, but it was out of God’s love and goodness.

I don’t know what fears, heartaches and trials are on your even though or even if list.  But they are probably the very things that could cause you to doubt God or give up on Him. They are probably the things for which you pray most passionately.  These are the areas where God is asking you to have even bigger faith.  Even if all of those things happen, will you still love Him, follow Him and trust His goodness?

Even if I never marry.

Even if I never have kids.

Even if I never get the promotion.

Even if my brother never conquers his addiction.

Even if my marriage falls apart.

Even if my parents die.

Even if I fight cancer.

Even if my child dies.

Even if my child is disabled.

Even if my strength or speech never returns.

Even if my kids are taken away from me.

Our situations do not determine the goodness or trustworthiness of God.

Even if all of your worst nightmares happen, God still loves you.  God still leads you.  God is still good.  He sees with an eternal perspective that is difficult for us to understand.  He let everything happen on Jesus’ even if list so that you and me could spend eternity with Him.  That is the greatest gift.

I know that God is good.  I believe that.  But honestly, He doesn’t feel good right now.  So I’m telling myself these truths on repeat.  He will work all things out for good for those who love Him.  Eternal good, not necessarily present-tense good.

Pain in childbearing

During my first pregnancy, I was never nervous or full of worry.  I looked forward to OB appointments.  Besides a pretty significant battle with morning sickness throughout the entire pregnancy, everything else was fairly easy.  I thoroughly enjoyed pressing the red button for more pain medicine during labor.  My daughter entered the world perfectly.  At the time, I thought I had escaped the whole “pain in childbearing” thing thanks to modern medicine.

Smith family birthMy second pregnancy started out similar.  Although, by this time I had more friends who had endured terrible pregnancy stories.  I wasn’t worried, but I also wasn’t naive this time around.  Then on December 6th, at 21 weeks pregnant, we found out that our daughter’s heart had stopped beating.  In an instant, I became very aware of the pain that can be found in childbearing.  Once we entered the second trimester, we felt free to dream and plan for this little life.  With the results of one sonogram, all those dreams and plans shattered.

Oddly enough, my greatest comfort over the past three months has come from Genesis 3.  When God created the world, He created it good.  He made Adam and Eve to be in relationship with each other and with Him.  However, Adam and Eve choose to disobey God and do things their own way.  God lays out the effects of their decision in Genesis 3.  To Eve he says, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children” (Genesis 3:16).

Childbearing.  Noun.  The act of bringing forth children.  Pregnancy.

I had read this section of scripture hundreds of times before.  I always thought it referred to labor and delivery.  But in late December as I studied the words, I realized it actually means all of it.

The longing for a husband to come in order to one day have kids.

The years of infertility and of trying to get pregnant.

The jealousy as others celebrate pregnancies and welcome infants.

The anxiety and fear over what if’s and questionable test results

The unplanned or unwanted pregnancy.

The abortion.

The stillborn child in the third trimester.

The early miscarriages.

The premature infant with disabilities.

The newborn who only lives a few minutes, hours, or days.

My child who left me at the halfway mark.

The lack of care and empathy from others as you suffer in one of these areas.

There is much pain in childbearing.

I’m sitting here thinking of my own pain and the stories of all the people I know.  Over the past three months, I’ve heard so many stories of loss and pain when it comes to pregnancy.  So many of my people have bleeding wounds or scars due to this area.  Many of you reading this know this pain well.  I honestly don’t know how to respond when people share about their new pregnancy right now.  Good Luck? I don’t think I’ll want to hear congratulations in the future, maybe simply a promise to pray for God to be near.

The comforting thing about Genesis 3 is that God tells us the world is going to be this way.  Pregnancy is the area for women where we are going to be very aware of the brokenness in the world.  God is not surprised by our longing, worry, sorrow, pain, heartache or disappointment.  In fact, He has a purpose for it.

Our pain in bringing forth children is supposed to be what makes us long for redemption, for a Savior.  It is supposed to be what makes us long for a new way of living and for a new earth.  It is supposed to make us yearn for Jesus.

There are a lot of things I don’t understand about this form of suffering. There are so many why questions that go through my brain.  But there is something comforting about knowing that God was prepared for this.  I may not have known it was coming, but He did.  None of it was a mistake, especially not her little life.

God wants me to want Him more.  As my longing and wanting for my daughter increases as the day approaches when I thought I would hold her, I am praying that my want for Jesus would be even deeper than the pain.

Pain in childbearing is part of His plan for the redemption of the world.  I don’t understand it.  It is not my plan.  But, I’m going to trust Him.

 

To anyone who is currently enduring this type of pain or has in the past, I am so sorry for your heartache.  I wish I could wipe it away.  But, I do know the One who promises to make all things new and who will wipe away every tear from your eyes.  He is the one who remove mourning and pain.  My prayer is that your pain will push you more towards Jesus.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart; I have overcome the world” – John 16:33

 

Glimpses of joy

This week has been one of the hardest for me.  It has been a can’t-stop-crying-please-don’t-make-me-get-out-of-my-pj’s-I-can’t-accomplish-anything week.  The closer we get to April 18th, the bigger the difference is between my dreams and my current reality.  I thought at this point it would feel like we are three months out from the loss.  Instead, it feels like it all hurts even more.

Part of the hurt is from my perception of some of my prayers being unanswered.  For 21 weeks, I had no idea that there was anything wrong with the child inside my womb.  I prayed each day for a healthy baby.  That did not happen.  With any loss, there are prayers that we feel are unanswered.  It is easy to question if we have been forgotten or simply ignored.  In these situations it is hard to reconcile what we know to be true from the Bible with what we are experiencing.

Tuesday was a particularly terrible day.  I remembered one of my friends had told me to listen to a specific song the day before but I hadn’t taken the time to do it yet.  I pulled it up on spotify and enjoyed it.  Then the next song came on, “Sovereign” by Chris Tomlin.   One of the repeating lines: “God whatever comes my way I will trust you.”   As I listened to the song, I realized I recognized it.

For our rehearsal dinner almost four years ago my amazing mother-in-law had put together a photo slideshow.  As the song played, I started seeing the photos in my head.  This song played at the end of the show as photos of JR and I together flashed on the screen.  I remember sitting in that moment – in a room full of people that I love, the night before my wedding – thinking, “Yes, God has worked everything for good.  Whatever comes my way I will trust you.”  It seemed so clear then in a moment of joy that everything in my life up to that point, including past heart break, had led me to that moment marrying JR.

As I sat crying listening to the song God seemed to whisper to me, “What you believed about me in the best of times, is still true about me in the worst of times.  As you trusted me then, you can trust me now.”

Prompted by the song lyrics, I came to a point of surrender.

All my hopes.  All I need.  Held in your hands.

Two daughters close in age, a healthy pregnancy, a big belly this spring.  Peace, joy, energy, good health.

All my life.  All of me.  Held in your hands.

My health, my well being, my blood.  My desires, my thoughts, my faith, my passions.

All my fears.  All my dreams.  Held in your hands.

This repeating again, no more kids, miscarriage, depression, problems getting pregnant, being forgotten, never feeling joy again.  A big family, a loving family, intimacy with friends and family, feeling healthy in ministry.

God whatever comes my way I will trust you.

God and I have wrestled this week.  It has not been fun.

Emerson and I made plans to go to the zoo today with a good friend and her son.  For the first time in awhile, I felt free this morning to ask God to give me glimpses of joy today.  I am so tired of being sad.  There hasn’t been joy here in awhile; not in me, not for others.

And this happened today.

Feeding birdsWe were randomly asked if we wanted to do the junior ranger program for free so they could train new staff.  We had a backstage pass to feeding animals, petting animals and setting up their habitats.  For a few hours as I watched my daughter and her friend enjoy their special treatment, I forgot about my pain.  There were glimpses of joy.

Junior rangerThis grief stuff is messy.  Some of you know it so much more intimately than I do.  It’s a heavy backpack that you are carrying regardless of what you’re doing.  It steals your energy and your laughter.  It puts you on edge.  It makes sadness, anger and apathy your best friends.  It makes you wrestle with God and with scripture and with what you’ve always thought to be true.  It can convince you that there will never be good days again and you will always feel this terrible.  It tries to tell you that God doesn’t hear you or see you or remember you.

But today I’d like to call grief a liar.  In little ways, God is reminding me that He seems me.  He has heard every prayer.  He will not forget me or cast me aside for another.

toddler plantHe sees you.

He has heard all of your prayers.

He will never forget you.

He will not cast you aside for another.

Toddler hands