Anyone who has been involved in a local church family knows that miscarriage happens often. I have hugged and prayed with many women who suffered from miscarriage. I knew from my friends’ experiences that miscarriage was painful and I was aware of the reality that one fourth of all first trimester pregnancies ended in miscarriage. It is behind this backdrop that when Vermon and I found out we were expecting our 4th child that we thought we were intellectually and emotionally prepared for the very real possibility of a miscarriage.
But two months into celebrating this new life that would be joining our family we miscarried. Even though we thought we were prepared for this possibility, we quickly realized we were ignorant of the deep physical and emotional pain that would follow. Often when couples experience the loss of their unborn child they grieve silently. Perhaps it is embarrassment, shame, or culturally a taboo topic to talk about. Maybe we enjoy working through difficult situations in the privacy of our own home. Regardless of the reason, miscarriage happens too often in church life to not explain what the experience is like and encourage the body to weep with those who weep.
Because few couples share the pain of their miscarriage, those of us who have not experienced one are often ignorant of the depths of pain and grief involved. I am confident that our capacity to truly shepherd and love couples in our church who had miscarried was handicapped by a lack of understanding of all that went into a miscarriage.
Medically or scientifically understanding that a miscarriage is a natural way God designed our bodies to expel a fetus that is not “viable” does not come close to comforting you in the midst of realizing you will not be carrying your child to term. To fully appreciate this, think about all the excitement that goes into rejoicing over the new life that is growing in your womb from the moment you realize you are pregnant.
For us, when we found out we were pregnant we stayed up late discussing possible names and began praying for this child’s future. I remember experiencing pure delight as I watched each of our children share in our excitement. For over nine weeks, we celebrated this life. When we went in for our first ultrasound and there was no heartbeat we were crushed. The joy that we had just experienced as a family quickly turned to incredible sorrow.
I have been told that this is a loss that mothers carry with them for their entire life and I believe that. It is difficult to imagine having a child that I will never hold, that I do not know the gender of, and that I never gave a name to. In the weeks that followed my mind was full of theological, philosophical, and medical questions.
As I struggled through the grief, it was God’s comforting word that assured me that this child was sovereignly allowed to form briefly in my womb for his purpose and his glory. My darkness and sorrow was pierced by beginning to reflect on the reality that God knows my child and that GOD had beautiful thoughts about them before time itself began.
I found deep comfort in knowing that God is this child’s eternal father and gave up everything for this child to be his own. The Lord knows this child’s name, even if I do not. Our baby was welcomed into God’s home by their creator and will spend eternity in awe of God’s splendor & glory, surrounded by God’s perfect love, majesty, and holiness. They will spend eternity with a new body and a perfect mind.
I was also comforted in realizing the grief I experienced was but a small taste of what God experienced at the loss of his own Son.
Often when we experience suffering we find ourselves asking God why he has allowed it. Those questions were not helpful for me. How could I ask God why he has taken me down this path when he has personally known the grief of a Son’s death that he loved for all eternity? The last thing my heart needed at that time was to stand as my Lord’s accuser. What it needed most was to find refuge in a Father who knows my pain personally and well. My Lord has already been accused by all my sin and found guilty; I do not want my grief to accuse him as well. The only solace my grief could find was by leaning into my gracious and precious Lord.
When you hear that someone in your church community had a miscarriage it is important to understand the many layers of loss they experience. Since many in our church family knew we were pregnant, we were forced to push through the cultural norm of suffering silently through our miscarriage and had to accept the gracious love of our church. There was nothing quite like experiencing support, encouragement, meals, and prayers from the saints. If I have ever doubted my need for our church family, the abundant and gracious love that was showered on my family during the most difficult weeks of our loss cemented in my heart and mind forever that I will not survive this Christian walk alone. I will never forget the small acts of kindness; the encouraging Scripture sent, and the hours (yes-hours) that people prayed over us. “Weep with those who weep” is now something we have experienced very tangibly from our church family. It was deeply humbling to be on the receiving end and to see families wrap themselves around us and weep with us. I hope and pray that the church can be a safe place for families to openly suffer, because it is only when our suffering is known that we can be deeply blessed by the love and care of others.