About a decade ago there was an engaged couple who lived a few towns over from ours. And on the very day of their June wedding, as the bride and her bridesmaids (the grooms sisters) were driving to the ceremony, their car was struck and they were killed upon impact. All of their hope, all of their excitement, all of their dreams for not just the day, but their whole life ahead…gone forever. In a single moment of impact.
This is how it feels when a baby dies right before birth. I have thought about this story a thousand times since we said goodbye to our sweet Charlie James. Because being pregnant is so very much like an engagement. You find out you’re pregnant and you immediately begin to hope and plan and dream about your new life together. It hurts beyond words to lose a baby at 37 weeks at the height of anticipation and hope.
And now we have a new hurt. Having an early miscarriage is like a broken engagement months before the wedding would have been. It isn’t like losing your love on the very day of the wedding, but to lose someone you had hoped to have a lifetime with…still hurts so very much.
My heart hurt a lot today as I took my kids to the pool and VBS. The usual Mommy joy I feel at watching them splash in the pool and sing songs about Jesus…is tangled up within all of the deeper sorrow we now carry in our hearts. Between all of the newborn babies and all of the pregnant women around us, simple summertime activities have become a constant reminder of all that is missing from our lives. Of dreams shattered. Of hopes deferred. Of hearts broken and sick.
And our hearts are broken. But it isn’t just the brokenness that makes life hard right now. The hardest part is actually the mirage of “wholeness” that presses in all around us. Weddings and babies are incredible gifts that really are some of the sweetest parts of life. Even people who don’t believe in God and acknowledge Him as the Giver…still see the goodness in such precious gifts.
But have you ever noticed how reality shows about weddings and babies always seem to end with the gift? Most rom coms end when the bride and groom finally say “I do.” Most baby movies end when the chubby, cooing baby is brought safely home. We, both as a culture and, dare I say, the church, have made these gifts the end.
And perhaps even worse, we have made them the proof. The proof of God’s goodness. The proof of His favor and love. We don’t usually say it like that, but we still say it. We say that “God is good” or it’s “God’s grace” when something wonderful happens. I’ve noticed that these words get thrown around an awful lot at weddings and baby showers, but we get strangely quiet about them in hospitals and cemeteries. I know it’s usually because people just plain don’t know what to say. But our silence kind of betrays our lack of trust.
Is God not good when tragedy strikes? Is God’s grace not abundantly present when you are finally brought to such an utterly soul-decimated place that you no longer have anything to cling to and to hope in but God and His sustaining goodness and grace?
It’s easy to sit in an ivory tower and speak lofty theological sentiments when all is well with the world…but when you’ve buried two babies in five months, I promise you, words are not enough. You need proof. Proof that isn’t wrapped up in more things that could end up being lost. No matter how long a wonderful marriage lasts…it still ends when death do you part. No matter how many healthy babies you bring home…there’s still a goodbye that awaits every single one of earth’s sweetest relationships.
And no matter who you are and what you have…it only takes about one devastating minute for you to suddenly, have-not.
Proof of God’s goodness, the kind that is wrapped up in things that can never, ever be taken away from us, comes only from God. Who God is. What God has done for us. Not just in our temporal realm of love stories and weddings, and pregnancies and babies…but what God has done for us in the eternal realm. What God has done for every single one of us who have been bought with a price, and belong forever to Him. When we can see this…then the world is no longer broken up into the neat categories of “the haves” (those who get to enjoy Valentine’s day and baby showers) and the “have nots.”
When we really see God’s goodness and grace as being all about the kind of Giver we have…then the world becomes about one thing alone…the “eternal haves.” Those undeserving people who have experienced the unmerited forgiveness and love of Christ. Those who have Him. And then suddenly, life takes on one simple purpose…fighting for that in both our lives and the lives of others.
Since very few people (and probably wisely so) would venture to wax poetic on God’s goodness to someone who has just suffered as much as we have, I’m going to say it myself: God, is so very good. His grace is so very evident. I believe it. And I see it. Even as I still struggle so much with what God has chosen for our story. Even as the tears fall daily as these pages are being written about Him, through us. We ache, and we hurt, and we wrestle with every single word He is writing through our lives right now.
But I am going to die on this hill…our God, no matter what He does, is so incredibly good.
In even the darkest valley of our entire lives…the Lord is a loving Shepherd. In the absolute pitch black of sorrow…His goodness and mercy still surely do follow us (literally “wildly pursue us”) all the days of our lives. And in the most wild display of His goodness and grace…we will someday dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
I sit here on one of the darkest nights of my life, and I can honestly still say that God is so very good. And I really believe that this dying, aching, sin-sick world is going to believe this only when we who know Jesus, can sincerely, with broken but honest hearts, still say that this is true. When we can say it no matter what.
And I am so very thankful for the man who said it first…
“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”
We owe so very much to Job, for standing up at the funeral of his ten kids and saying, “God, I believe, that no matter what You chose to do in my life…You are still good. You are still grace. You are still God. And I trust You, no matter what.”
He didn’t say this in chapter 42 when all was once again “right” with his world. He said it in chapter 13. He said it right smack in the middle of his chapters of heartache and brokenness and loss. He said it when so much of his story was yet to be written. He said it…when he had not.
This…is proof of the goodness of God.