The second occasion that I was aware of God rewriting the text of my life came in 1986, two years after I was married. Alan and I were keen to start a family and had been trying to have a baby for some time. We had had a few false alarms and I had consulted a couple of doctors when, in early 1986, we found out that I was pregnant. We were overjoyed. We began to look forward to having a baby.
But it was not to be. Seven weeks into the pregnancy, I had a scan and the doctor could not find the baby’s heartbeat. I had to stay in hospital for a few days. Then I began to bleed. The bleeding steadily got worse. The hospital ward was understaffed so I was left behind a curtain for most of the time, with no medical staff near me – bleeding and crying over the loss of our baby.
In the next bed was a lady who was in hospital to get sterilised. The doctor came round to see her and through the curtain I could hear him discuss the procedure with her, making sure she understood that this was irreversible and she would not be able to have children after it. How ironic as I lay in the next bed, losing the baby I had longed for!
Alan came up at visiting time and found me behind the curtain, breaking the news that we were losing our baby. It was a hard time for both of us. Our baby had died – and with it our dreams. Of course I had only been 7 weeks pregnant – some would think it was hardly long enough to call the life within me a baby. In medical terms it was called ‘the products of conception’ and was incinerated within my hearing. But any mother will know and understand that, although just 7 weeks old, that little scrap had been my baby.
Would we ever have another baby? We didn’t know.
What we did know, however, was that God was in control, and we clung to that fact. I remember the next morning being filled with the sense that God loved me. So, I reasoned simply, if God loves me He has allowed this to happen in love. I don’t know why – and I don’t know if I’ll ever get pregnant again – but it’s enough today to know that He loves me. Somehow God gave me a supernatural sense of His love which carried me through those days.
Returning home wasn’t easy and then facing everyone with the news that we had lost our baby. I remember being surprised by the different reactions we had from different people. One man acknowledged to Alan that he, as the husband, had also lost our baby. That was helpful because so often the man is left out of the equation when the baby is lost so early in the pregnancy.
Someone else said to me something like this: ‘Well, the Bible says we are to give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for us’. What? The advice was well-meaning but the effect was cruel. How could I give thanks that I had lost a baby?
I don’t believe that God intends for us to be thankful in the face of death. Death is our last enemy and even Jesus wept when someone He loved had died. Nor do I believe that God wants us to deny our negative feelings or squash our disturbing questions. Larry Crabb deals with this subject in his book, ‘Inside Out’. He says this:
‘The tendency in most of us us to look for a way to wrap the painful question in pretty paper. We want to provide answers that settle things on a positive note, or, when that seems out of reach, at least closes down an uncomfortable discussion. There are biblical truths that deal with the tough questions. God’s demonstration of love at the Cross should end all doubt as to whether God is for us. The fact of His sovereignty requires us to finally be still. But when legitimate truth is offered for the purpose of shutting down hard questions, that truth becomes a cliche. Sincere questions spoken from a heart of pain must be allowed to open the door to confusion. To slam the door shut, and in so doing to assert that honest confusion has no place in our pursuit of God, leads to a forced, mechanical trust rather than to a real and vital confidence.’
God can take all our questions. He can cope with all our negative feelings. When He has rewritten the text of our lives and we are thrown into confusion, He wants us to be honest with Him, to work through the confusion and allow it to bring us to a place of renewed trust and confidence in God.
Crabb says: ‘There is incredible resistance – more in Christian circles, I think, than in secular – to owning internal pain. Even a glance in the direction of discouragement and fear violates our idea of what a victorious Christian should be doing…..To deal with what’s really going on inside is disturbing, too uncomfortable; so we hide the truth from others – and from ourselves.’
I remember during a period of great discouragement in one of the churches we served in, one of the other leaders said to me, ‘Don’t be discouraged’. I guess he meant to encourage me – but somehow it sounded like I was not allowed to be discouraged, I should not voice my discouragement. We are afraid of owning our pain – and we don’t want others to own theirs. Better to keep it all under the surface and pretend it isn’t there.
But is it? Crabb contends: ‘Keenly felt disappointment in the present supplies the energy for passionate hope for the future….Hope is the antidote for disappointment and the demandingness it creates. With confidence in the Lord, we are free to love, to risk more disappointment, to face the inevitability of frustration, to embrace that frustration as a stimulus to a more passionate hope. Feeling disappointment puts us in touch with a thirst that only hope can satisfy.’