I read the email explaining the fertility paperwork and a thousand emotions bubbled up from within. “This is so overwhelming. I don’t want to do this!” I lamented and tossed my phone onto the ottoman. My husband kindly reminded me, “We don’t have to.” “We do have to! I’m not ready to stop trying, but I don’t want to do this!” Tears filled my eyes and my voice raised with every word.
I retreated to the bedroom crying monstrous tears. Squeezing my eyes shut, I burrowed my face into my pillow as if to will away the pain. It’s so easy for most people. Why is it so hard for us, Lord?
That thought echoed in my mind for some time. I knew all the truths to apply and the thoughts to cast away, but can I be honest? After losing three babies back to back to back, some truths feel less than comforting.
When Good Theology Becomes a Truism
“This is for your good. God is teaching you something through this.”
I continue to cling to the truth that God is using the death of our babies for our good and his glory. When God leads us down hard paths, he promises to use them to refine us and bring about sanctification. (Psalm 23:3; Romans 8:28) This is a correct theology of suffering that every Christian must understand. But I fear sometimes, “for your good” becomes “your suffering is good,” and the death of my unborn children is not good, in and of itself. We don’t need to call bad things good. Jesus came to conquer sin and death because of how not good it is.
Furthermore, I believe there are things to learn in every station, which of course includes the difficult circumstances we face. But boiling suffering down to a simple lesson we must learn doesn’t give a fully biblical picture of trials. Take Job for example. He was a faithful man of God, and he was thrown into a sea of suffering because of his faith.
And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” (Job 2:3 ESV)
Satan tests Job’s faithfulness (with the permission given by God) by taking away his children, fortune, and health. And Job’s response?
“Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:10b ESV)
Job’s suffering was not a mere lesson to be learned. Did God teach him something through it? Certainly. But that wasn’t the point. God used Job’s faith in his trial to glorify himself and accomplish his holy will. Think how many have benefited from reading the story of Job’s life—something I’m sure he never thought would happen. Sometimes, God wants to use our suffering to accomplish things we couldn’t dream of.
There must be a more comforting truth for those in the midst of deep grief than only the promise of sanctification.
Truth that Comforts
I finally opened my tear stained eyes and saw the sign hanging on the wall, directly in my line of sight. “It is well with my soul.” Blurry eyed, I stared at it, repeating it in my head. It is well. It is well. Oh God, help me believe it is well.
Sometimes it’s easier to say all is well in a trial’s beginning. But as reality sinks in, and numbness wears off, it becomes a fight to bring our flesh into agreement with the Spirit. That’s when we must beg God, I know this is for my good, I know you know best, I know you are faithful. I believe, help my unbelief. (Mark 9:24)
Eventually, our hearts will surrender to these beautiful truths in our suffering. And they will console us once more. But here in the death of a baby, a cancer diagnosis, or a broken marriage, is there a truth that really comforts the soul?
Yes. Not just a truth, but the Truth. (John 14:6)
We Get More of Jesus
I’ve found the most life-giving promise in scripture is that God draws near to the brokenhearted. (Psalm 34:18) Jesus is gentle with us. He doesn’t hand out platitudes, simply reminding us “it’s for our good.” Yes, he calls that promise to mind but going further than that, he enters in to our suffering by weeping with us. (John 11:35; Isaiah 53:4) He comforts us. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) He carries us as a Shepherd carries his sheep. In our grief, we receive more of Jesus.
He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40:11 ESV)
Maybe suffering is equally about growth in Christ-likeness as well as God giving us the best gift he could give: more of himself.
Now that is a comforting thought as I bring my sorrow from losing our sweet babies to the God who gives and takes away. (Job 1:21) When he takes, he gives abundantly more than we could imagine. He gives something better—a treasure whose worth far exceeds all things. He gives himself.