The birth of our son last year was a joyous, tremendous occasion; however, it was a difficult birth and left me with a bit of emotional trauma from which I’m not sure I’ve recovered. That was an eye-opener for me—while I’ve had some suffering in my life, I had never physically suffered like that. During the aftermath, I didn’t respond in a way that pleased my heart, and I realized I just didn’t have a good theological foundation of suffering that I could fall back on when needed. So I started intentionally trying to build that foundation. I read books and created a file where I’ve stored more than 50 articles on suffering that have taught and encouraged me. And because I have a tendency to distrust happiness and to always be wondering when the other shoe will drop, I wondered and sometimes worried that God was preparing me for suffering in some way. Different horrible scenarios would run through my head, and I’d try to figure out how I would respond and if I were in a place of trusting God in the midst of each situation.
When we got pregnant again, I struggled with trusting my fears to the Lord—was my baby the other shoe? Was I going to be asked to suffer as a result of something happening to her? I couldn’t answer that question, so I started preparing myself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for another difficult birth. I desired a birth experience where I could draw near to God during the labor but also trust him and trust his goodness in the days that followed.
The pregnancy was high risk, and I knew the doctor would want to induce like he did last time. At my 39-week appointment, he communicated that he wouldn’t allow me to go much longer, so I anticipated that he would schedule an induction at my next appointment. An appointment that was scheduled for the exact time that my friend Kara would be in surgery in which the doctors would remove the tumors that held Kara’s fate. I had a difficult time focusing on my doctor that morning. Thankfully, Auntie Polly took care of Von so I didn’t have to worry about him as well. But several minutes into my appointment, the doctor had my attention—his concerns about our daughter were elevated and he was scheduling my induction for that day.
That afternoon as I made preparations to leave the baby and go to the hospital, my mind kept wandering to Kara. I prayed and prayed and prayed—for a miracle, for Jason’s peace of mind, for healing, for Kara’s heart. I had heard no news by the time we left for the hospital. I remarked to Aaron that was a bad sign—surely if the news were good, we would have heard, right?
As the nurse checked me in to the hospital, she asked if I would like them to contact my clergyman in the case of an emergency. I opened my mouth to answer, but instead, sobs just poured out, imagining Jason trying to comfort us while his own heart was broken.
The next day as labor was getting intense, my thoughts were on our son. I had never been away from him and I missed his little body, hearing his inquisitive “Oh this?” a thousand times a day, watching him “reading” his books in his crib, cuddling him before bed. With each contraction every two or three minutes for hours, tears would come. Even though he was in trusted hands, I couldn’t bear the separation and knowing that as wonderful as his aunties are, no one can replace mommy.
I think my attendants thought I was crying from pain (which I did indeed do later!) during those hours, but I was crying for the brokenness of our world. I was crying for my little boy. I was crying for mommies separated from their children. I was crying for the news about Kara I was sure would come. I was crying for her heart and the hearts of her babies. With my contractions, I prayed. Because of the physical exhaustion, my prayers were simple and childlike, but as I surrendered my physical pain to the Lord, I surrendered my fears over Kara’s situation. I surrendered her, trusting God’s love for her and her family.
We were in the hospital for two more days, during which I did not have internet access. I heard from Kara from her hospital room across the city, and still she was silent about her news. Aaron and I talked about the paradox of bringing life into this world just as Kara was finding out the providence of her own. I didn’t have the courage to check her blog until almost two days after I had been home; my fears and suspicions were confirmed. I looked up at Aaron from my laptop and couldn’t speak—the tears were coming too furiously.
When I started asking God about how to handle suffering biblically last year, I assumed I was headed for direct suffering. And I realize I am headed there eventually and inevitably. But short term, I didn’t realize that I would be asked to trust God with the suffering of someone I love. I didn’t know my suffering would be the painful result of watching a friend’s heart and body break. I was ignorant of the fact that my first battle would be one of fighting for faith, praying for mercy, and begging for hope.
I don’t know Kara’s story. I don’t know my children’s stories or even my own story. I have no way of writing a happy ending for all of us; and yet, my heart understands a peace that trumps my worst fears. For despite all I don’t know, I do know a God who loves passionately and who creates beauty and goodness from ugliness and brokenness, who will redeem his children from the excruciating pains of this failing world, and who promises his children blessings that will make our trials somehow worth it. He works miracles, extends mercies, and never leaves us alone. That is enough for me to cling to.
Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.