Monday, March 9, 2015

A Christian response in suffering.

Yes, I know that a blog is for words. But this blog post is going to be less about written words.

In thinking through the grieving process and what the Bible has to say about it, I shared yesterday three ways that the truth of the Bible needs to impact our grieving / suffering.

1) Truth needs to define our suffering
2) Truth needs to limit our suffering (defining the limit)
3) Truth needs to relieve our suffering.

Those are just the key concepts. I cut off part of the introduction of the message when I recorded, but here is the bulk of it.

"Christ's Sacrifice: A Help in Our Suffering"

Just a reminder to keep looking up in all of life's circumstances.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The greatest gift in sorrow - permission to grieve

Our week has had its share of ups and downs. The downs center around the loss of our unborn baby. The ups have been much more varied:
       God's love and goodness have been repeated ups.
       The love and kindnesses expressed by friends and family in word and deed.
       Seeing God's hand at work.
       Knowing God's peace.
       The assurance of faith (The substance of things hoped for - Hebrews 11)
       Some 'down time' to spend together. 

But the best 'up' I have enjoyed is the permission to grieve. I have often heard people say "It's OK to grieve," "You can be sad, you know," or "You just need to cry it out." Those words, in and of themselves, do not give a person permission to grieve. It gives them a verbal declaration of their approval, but it communicates to the mind instead of the heart.

Permission to grieve comes in so many forms, it is hard to identify. It comes from sadness expressed by friends and acquaintances. Something so simple as an "Aw, I'm sorry" said with genuine concern, to people who say "I don't even have any words to say" have communicated that permission. Permission comes in the validation of feelings. Not telling me how I should be feeling, how long I should feel it, how I should move on, or even what I should expect. Just the simple communication that it is OK to feel what I feel. No one has told us we are doing it wrong. No one has told us we should be in better shape, or in worse shape. No, we have been loved. That love has given us permission to grieve and we are thankful. Our friends and family have lived out Job's advice in Job 6:14 - "To him that is afflicted pity should be shewed from his friend"

Though we still feel we are walking in uncharted territory and don't know how we are supposed to proceed, we are glad for the leeway to proceed as we feel is right for us.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Miscarriage: On the loss of a child. . .

I have been tempted to write a post since yesterday, but keep procrastinating as I am out of the blogging rhythm. The theme of my blog has echoed in the circumstances of our lives this week, and it was only a matter of time before the post was written.

Jen was about 4 months into her 10th pregnancy this past week when some signs of trouble surfaced. We have 8 beautiful children, and have lost another to an early miscarriage. After the signs of trouble surfaced we made some calls to get things checked out. Before the tests could be run, things got worse, and our Dr. told Jen she wanted to see her in Labor and Delivery at our local hospital. By 2 am Tuesday morning, we were in the hospital and waiting for an ultrasound. The hospital staff was wonderful. We were concerned, but kept our hopes up.

The ultrasound technician was wonderful, but we could see between the lines and read that something was wrong. We didn't ask, knowing that her job was hard enough that morning and she probably wasn't allowed to say anything anyway. We got back to the room and soon found out that the baby was not as old (by size) as the pregnancy. The baby had died several weeks ago, and Jen's body was starting the process of delivering the baby.

Since not many people talk about it, we were not very well equipped to make decisions. Did we want the body? Would we have a funeral? Did we want to bury our child? Were we supposed to be sad? Were we allowed to be sad? Should we side with the easy feelings or grapple with the other feelings that were surfacing? Should we shrug it off or were we allowed to grieve.

We know what we believe - a baby is a person the moment of conception. That biological process starts off a chain reaction of cell division, reproduction, differentiation of cells and tissue and organ development that just 9 months later ends in the birth of a fully developed baby. Most of the time. Not this time.

The baby was delivered in the amniotic sac intact. The doctor told us she thought the baby was a baby boy. At the moment of decision we were both low on sleep, confused and decided that we were not prepared to see the baby. We did not want to bring the body home. I didn't realize that I would never be prepared to see the baby but would soon want to see the baby. I didn't realize that holding the baby would be something I would not only want to do, but would be a good step in grieving, in processing what had happened. I cannot undo my choices and I am not stopped from grieving. I am just missing a precious opportunity I had.

It is now a little over 2 days after the delivery of our baby that died several weeks ago. I still don't know much more than I did then, but I have learned a few things.

The things I have known all along:
        1) God is good. He always is good.
        2) God has blessed us in so many ways, more than this blog can hold.
        3) All life is precious.

The things I have learned:
        1) Grief is good. Not just in the "Consider it all joy" sense, but in many ways.
                  Grief has allowed me to feel God's goodness expressed through friends and family.
                  Grief has allowed me to place a value on our unborn child.
                  Grief has allowed me to set aside my pride and accept the love and service of others.
                  Grief has allowed me to sense God's comfort.
                  Grief has allowed me to focus on my hope as a believer.
        2) God's love is enough. As much as I appreciate the love of my family, my
             wife, my children and my friends, God's love is on a whole different level.
        3) Hope is a choice. I've known this, but I have learned it in a deeper sense
              this week. We are saddened with our loss, but are not devastated. We
              have questions in our minds, but are not disillusioned with God. I still
              know God is good.
I know, what this post is missing is a verse. A whole verse. But I want to post 2 chapters. Wednesday evenings we have been studying the Psalms. Last week we studied Psalm 127, this week was Psalm 128. If I was disillusioned, I might feel that God was playing some sort of harsh trick on us. But even in the timing of viewing these Psalms, I see God's perfect timing and God's goodness.

Psalm 127-128

127 Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.
Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
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: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.
128 Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord; that walketh in his ways.
For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee.
Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table.
Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord.
The Lord shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life.
Yea, thou shalt see thy children's children, and peace upon Israel.

The Psalms speak of God's goodness. Goodness I can see and feel even in the midst of our trial. That's about it from this end. Keep looking up!