Beware the Bitter Fruit of Comparing Hard Seasons
When my eyes awakened to the morning light after another nearly sleepless night of pain, I immediately realized it would be a rough day. I slowly turned over, bringing my knees together in my venture to leave the bed. With every inch of movement—deep, sharp pain. My weak body popped and crackled, causing my face to grimace. Limping to the bathroom, I thanked the Lord I could still walk today, though every step ushered in pelvic pain.
All Grass Has Brown Spots
If I’m honest, though our losses have given me a perspective I know I’d have lacked before regarding pregnancy, I still have moments where my physical endurance comes up short. I haven’t shared fully about the struggles this pregnancy has brought to my body because I never want to tempt anyone’s heart toward bitterness. Nor do I want others to assume I’m ungrateful. Truly, I’ve learned what a beautiful gift it is to be able to carry a child in the womb which enables me to face these things with joy even if I am weary of shots in my sides and Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (look it up) which causes deep pain with every movement.
Even after our struggles with recurrent loss, I knew a healthy pregnancy would bring its own set of struggles too. Maybe I’ve just learned that the grass on the other side always has brown spots too. Every season—even the ones we deeply long for—will bring its own challenges.
Often, I hear women boldly proclaim “I would give anything to have the morning sickness she’s complaining of!” It causes me to cringe a bit. Though I understand the pain which causes these statements to erupt, when we think or voice them it’s clear we don’t know how fickle our hearts are (Jeremiah 17:9-10; Mark 7:21).
I think of the Israelites and their immediate return to grumbling after every miracle passed before their eyes. Are we so prideful to think we’re any different? We have within us the same human hearts which are prone to wander into complaint against our good and holy God. Our flesh cries out against him saying, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger,” (Exodus 16:3). God frees us from slavery and we longingly look back at it as if it were better to have those shackles around our neck. Apart from the grace of God, this is who we are. Fickle is our middle name.
Fickle Roots Produce Bitter Fruit
As I wrestled my way with God through recurrent pregnancy loss, there were times when I wrestled with the complaints of pregnant women around me. “I’d love to be ‘fat’ like she keeps claiming to be due to pregnancy weight gain,” I’d think to myself. I had hoped to see my belly grow like hers. In these moments, I had to take myself out of my own grief-worn shoes and remember that even the good gift of a child can bring struggles. My body issues came from my lack of ability to sustain a pregnancy; hers came from the flourishing of her child within. Both were hard for both of us.
While a dose of sensitivity toward those who are suffering loss or infertility is needed in many cases, we all must be sure to guard our hearts against pride and bitterness. Miscarriage is hard. Morning sickness is hard. Infertility is hard. Pregnancy can be hard. Comparing hards is usually sinful and rarely helpful. There will always be someone who is walking through a fire more blazing than yours and someone whose fire seems more bearable. But it’s still hard for them. And if we were in their shoes, it would probably be hard for us too. We mustn’t isolate others simply because they have what we want.
Doing so reveals our pride and that pride gives us unwarranted permission to be bitter and resentful. This is the bitter fruit of comparing our hard circumstance to another’s.
Jesus Suffered Most
Jesus suffered more than any of us by taking upon himself not only the physical torture of being crucified, but also the anguish of the sin and shame of his people, and the wrath of the Father. And yet, he weeps with us in our suffering. He carries our burdens which are much lighter than the cross he carried to his death.
This is the Jesus we’re called to imitate in our suffering whether big or small. His grace enables us to carry the burden of our sister’s pregnancy woes even as we grieve our lack of a filled womb. And that same grace enables us to grieve with our sisters as we rejoice over the life in our womb. It’s not easy—it’s unbelievably messy. But by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can fight bitterness and allow others to be honest about their suffering, even if it’s caused by the beautiful gift we ache for most.
So next time you hear a woman lift up her lament of fatigue and nausea, rather than believing she’s ungrateful, emulate Christ by laying aside your pain for a time to encourage her in her hard circumstance. This is what humility calls us to. And to my pregnant sisters, let’s also be sure to remember the gift it is to carry a child and that this gift is something others long for, but are still waiting to receive. May we all be sensitive to each other’s burdens and seek to serve rather than be served. May we be like Jesus.