Even though I have so many wonderful memories during the holiday season, this time of year also holds some painful memories of experiencing the bitterness of death and loss. Sadly, I know this is the case for so many people. For me, November is the month that my dad was murdered (actually it will be 11 years on the 17th) and the month my husband and I lost our first baby early on in my pregnancy. Those were times where I had to endure some pretty heavy emotional suffering. Even though I was a Christian during those times, the pain was still very real and I struggled in my faith. I had to constantly press into God’s truth and surround myself with other believers who loved me and encouraged me during those dark times.
Pain and suffering are not something any of us look forward to, but while we live here in this fallen and broken world, it is inevitable. It is so easy to get caught up in the storms of our life and lose sight of the hope that is available to us through Jesus Christ. He is the anchor in that storm and promises to never abandon us.
The suffering may not disappear, but the good news is that Jesus is right there with us to walk through it together. In the midst of the pain, the temptation is to give all of our focus on the battle we may be facing. I believe it is so important for us to keep a heavenly and eternal perspective when we are in the midst of a painful situation or even a painful season. We have to remember that our life here on earth is not all that there is to our existence.
There is a life to come where we are promised no more pain or suffering when we see Jesus face to face and when He returns in all of His glory. This is the glory that Paul tells us about in Romans 8:18:
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
If you are currently experiencing a trial that seems too much to bear, take that pain to the throne of God. He hears every cry; the Holy Spirit is our great Comforter. Also, fight the temptation to isolate yourself and try to find a friend whom you can share your heart with and confide in. God never intended for us to walk through the valley alone. He is always with you, and He will send someone to be a listening ear and shoulder to cry on if you ask Him.
I laid on the cold, sterile exam table feeling uneasy from the moment I parked my car.
I thought to myself, “Paul and I were just here 2 weeks ago. We got to hear the baby’s heartbeat for the first time and got pictures to show our family. Why did the doctor need to see me again for an ultrasound?”
I told my husband he didn’t have to come with me to this appointment since it would just be a quick routine checkup on the baby’s growth, which is what I was told. Since this was my first pregnancy, I didn’t think anything of it when I put the appointment on my calendar, but the closer I got to the doctor’s office on my drive there, I was starting to worry and question why I needed to be seen again so early on.
Within the first few minutes of the ultrasound, the doctor got very quiet and simply said, “Oh, I hate when this happens.”
“What?” I asked, my heart racing faster and faster.
“There is no heartbeat. I’m so sorry.”
That Kind of Faith
I sat up, tears streaming down my face and let out a big sigh. She asked if I was going to be okay.
With a shaky voice, I pointed her to the One that has always been near to me during times like these.
“I have been through a lot in my short life. I have had some serious valley experiences. My dad was murdered several years ago, two divorces ripped a part my family, serious family illnesses, anxiety, depression…but my faith in God has always gotten me through it. This will be no different. Jesus is faithful.”
She sat across from me still, nodded her head, and said “I’m glad you have that kind of faith. I will give you some time alone…just get dressed and come out whenever you are ready, and we will talk about our options.”
“I knew that I was not alone in my sorrow. God saw me in my pain and did not overlook it.”
Although this baby went on to be with the Lord early on in my pregnancy, Paul and I did not believe this would be the end of our story; we strongly believed God would give us a child, and we would rest and trust in His timing. God was faithful to us and we now have two sons. But do those two sons erase the pain of losing a baby? No.
Although God answered our prayers to have children, He still saw all of those tears and was with me as my heart and body healed. I looked to the only One who could keep me from being crushed under the weight of my grief. I knew that I was not alone in my sorrow. God saw me in my pain and did not overlook it.
“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”
Psalm 56:8, NLT
The same was true, years before, after I received the news that my dad had been brutally murdered. Honestly, my faith met at a crossroad during that time in my life. Instead of allowing the weight of that loss to completely crush me, I chose to look to Jesus. I chose to call upon the Lord and to stand upon Christ, my solid Rock, and believe He was good and He was in control. I chose to have faith in the One who is near to the brokenhearted.
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit”
My family and I are currently going through another valley experience right now, and we are choosing to stand upon God’s Word and cling to Jesus for He is our anchor in this storm. Just a couple days before Independence Day this year, my husband received the devasting phone-call that his younger brother was involved in a tragic drowning accident while he was on vacation with his newlywed wife and friends. These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of emotions and physical exhaustion. From the mere shock of this tragedy to consoling parents, friends, and relatives to responding to countless messages, texts, and phone-calls to the planning of funeral arrangements and the days following all of these events.
Although I felt the sting of this tragic loss, I watched my husband, his parents, and my sister-in-law experience the deepest pain imaginable – pain so difficult that it physically hurt. The night Paul received the news, I held him as we both cried, huddled on the couch. He kept grabbing his chest and saying, “I miss him so much. This hurts so bad.” We are all putting one foot in front of the other and walking through the pain with Jesus, trusting that He will continue to heal our broken hearts and believing we will see our precious brother again in heaven someday.
I don’t know if you have ever experienced so much emotional pain that you physically hurt, but in those moments, as humans, we struggle to bring real comfort and healing, whether to ourselves (self- help isn’t the answer, friends) or to others. We can offer our condolences, bring them food, send cards, pray for them, and hold them when they need a shoulder to cry on (all of which we have thankfully experienced these last few weeks), but truthfully, only God can help to bring the comfort, healing, and peace we need during times like these. After all, two of the Holy Spirit’s names are “The Helper” and “Comforter.”
“But the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will help you remember everything that I have told you.”
The mighty, all-powerful God who created the entire universe is the same God who draws oh so close to us in our brokenness and pain. The Holy Spirit (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) is our gift from the Father and is nearer than our very breath. Just like John 14:26 says, He will also help us remember what Jesus has told us in Scripture.
In this season of my life, as I ask for strength and grace to help my husband and our family walk through this valley, the Lord is doing so by bringing me to the truth of His Word. After a couple days passed after the news, I was finally able to take off my mom-hat for a few minutes and be alone and process all that had happened. I broke down sobbing in the shower. Although we weren’t siblings by blood, he was my little brother for the last ten years. The pain hit me like a tidal wave, and I cried out to the Lord like I had done countless times before when the heaviness was trying to overwhelm me.
Not only did I sense the nearness of God in the moment, the Holy Spirit brought a verse to my mind that flooded my heart with hope. As soon as I left the shower, I grabbed my phone to look up the Scripture. The Holy Spirit was reminding me to keep my mind fixed on eternity.
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”
What a beautiful reminder to all of us who might be experiencing pain right now! We may feel pain and sorrow, but that does not mean that we have no hope! Our life is only a vapor (James 4:14), and this place is not our home. We have a promise that one day every tear will be wiped away and pain will be no more:
“[Jesus] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
The Bible is full of truth about eternity and wisdom on how we should live our lives while we are still here on earth. Jesus doesn’t promise that we will escape pain here on earth, but He does promise that He will be with us always (Matthew 28:20).
In your pain and sorrow, cry out to the Lord and walk with the Holy Spirit. Allow Him to bring you true comfort and peace, all while guiding you into truth about the Kingdom to come. Soon and very soon we will be with Him forever, where His perfect love will be all we ever experience. Until then, keep drawing near to Him and He will faithfully draw near to you, just as His Word promises us.