Thoughts on working through a miscarriage

It was a Tuesday night around 9pm.

The doctor strode in to our room at the ER and announced to my wife and me, “I’m sorry, you’ve had a miscarriage.” Heather had already known; she had felt it in her body and her heart. I was holding on to hope, not wanting to believe, but with the matter-of-fact words of the doctor, the case was closed. It was over. We had joined the ranks of the 1-in-4 pregnancies that end in miscarriage.

She was ten weeks along, and though we had shared the news with a few people, we were waiting to let people know until we had ultrasound pictures to show. Now, instead of announcing the joyous prospect of new birth, we found ourselves having to share news of death.

In the wake of this shock, we knew we needed time to grieve, to process, to heal, but we didn’t know what to do. We felt we needed to get away, but didn’t have the money to do so. In God’s Providence, one of our congregation provided a Pastor’s Appreciation gift that enabled us to afford to drive to see family in Virginia, where almost the entire clan from my father’s side were visiting.

In the last sermon I preached before that fateful day, I shared this encouragement: “maybe your struggle is helping someone else grow strong.” Who would have guessed that that thought would end up being for me.

I never want to rush through something that God has allowed for a deeper purpose, and as I work through this new chapter in my journey, I wanted to share some thoughts God has put on my heart in the midst of this trial, in the hopes that they will encourage and strengthen you for yours.

– – –
I find myself alternating between strength and sorrow, between holding things together, caring for Heather and Bradley and the other facets of our life, and letting myself go into grief, embracing the ice-cold waves of sorrow as they rush without warning into my soul.

This back-and-forth experience is healthy, but it is hard. It is good, but gut-wrenching, this journey into the deeper layers of human experience in a broken world. For that is what this is, simply our turn on the merry-go-round of loss and pain, and like any merry-go-round, I know this, too, will come full circle in its time and bring us back to joy again.

I find myself frustrated because I know that grief is something you can’t simply rush through, but I have a family to take care of, a job to do, and a church to lead. In my more reflective moments, I have to admit that I don’t want to enter fully into the pain, because I am afraid of what it will do to me.

Yet, I have to face that fear. You have to face that fear.

– – –
I realize that for me, it’s still so early in the grieving process that right now I’m simply falling back on what I know to be true. I am clicking into auto-pilot to try and cope, and to hopefully bring something good out of this tragic moment.

Yet, at the end of the day, we are not the ones who bring light out of darkness, God is, and He will do so in His way, and in His time.

In the meantime, I cling to three things that give me hope. To share them with you doesn’t mean that I have it all together and figured out, but simply that I’m choosing to hang on to what I know is true, even as I realize that I’ve still only weathered the first few waves of grief in the onslaught of emotion to come.

– – –
First, Heather and I don’t blame God for visiting this pain upon us, nor do we believe He had nothing to do with it at all. Both of these extremes lead only to despair, and neither have any claim on the God of the Bible.

No, God did not cause our loss, but neither was He powerless to stop it. Instead, He stood by us and stands by us still in the midst of the pain. He has allowed us to go through this trial not because He doesn’t love us, but because He loves us enough to let us be tried and forged in the fire so that we might come out stronger and brighter than before.

Today we choose to not blame God.

– – –
Second, we don’t blame ourselves, because we know in the long history of a world marred by sin and marked by its repercussions, the day of heartache will come to us all.

In this world of death and loss and tragedy and pain, each of us is allotted a cup of suffering. Though we would nearly all choose to let it pass without partaking, that is not our decision to make. Rather, our choice is how we will drink it: with bitterness and resentment that God would dare allow pain into our lives, or with the strength and courage of Jesus, whose prayer in His hour of trial was, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39)

Today we choose to not blame ourselves.

– – –
Third, we remember the Gospel, because moments like these are precisely where the glorious light of the Good News shines through!

If Jesus has indeed conquered the grave, then though our hearts may hear its bitter laugh in this moment, we choose to weather the pain in hope because we know death will never have the last word, and we will get to meet our unborn child someday.

If Jesus has indeed completely atoned for the penalty of sin, then though the weight of grief is strong, we choose not add to it the weight of guilt that this is in any way our fault. This is not God’s punishment for some failure; it is His providence for our future, a gift wrapped in darkness that still contains a seed of light.

If Jesus has indeed secured our position of favor with the Father, then not only can we take courage in knowing that “this too shall pass,” but we can also take heart in the truth that the Almighty God of the universe is not only with us in the storm, but is working it into a grander story than we can possibly imagine, a story with a sweeter and more glorious happy ending than our mortal minds can conceive.

Today we choose to believe the Gospel.

– – –
So there they are. Three truths and three choices that help us cope with loss and suffering and pain. Three truths and three choices that are Biblically correct and spiritually sound.

And it’s really, really hard to actually live them out.

Please don’t think that because I share these things, I’ve fully figured them out and am doing just fine. I’m not. We’re not. We are angry and hurt and confused and knocked down – but not destroyed.

This is hard and painful and disorienting and just plain bad – but it is not the end.

Today we choose to trust Jesus and take it one day at a time, and so can you.

– – –
What does this mean practically? It means we take time away to heal. We do not rush through the hallways of the house of mourning, or else we may find ourselves circling back though them longer and later than we would like or need.

No, we take them at their own pace, each turn at whatever angle and speed it requires to truly move past it to the next. We write. We cry. We pray. We cry some more. We talk. We listen. We cry again.

We remember our past dreams and by faith begin slowly to build new ones, starting simply with the dream that someday, somehow, this blood-red thread in our life’s tapestry won’t be so prominent in our view, and will simply be folded in to the background as our life begins to feel normal again.

–Pastor Phillip

God will lead you through the storm

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Psalm 77

GOD WILL LEAD YOU THROUGH THE STORM

Your way was through the sea, Your path through the great waters; yet Your footprints were unseen.  You led Your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.  (Psalm 77:19-20)

Life can often feel like a raging storm.  Confusion, conflict and chaos are all around.  The clouds and rain block your view of where you’re going and it feels like the wind is taking you out of control.

Then one day the storm stops.  The clouds lift, the wind stills, and you wonder, “How did I finally get here?”

It was God, of course, but you couldn’t see Him working because of the storm.  His hand was invisible, His footsteps unseen, but know this: He was there the whole time.  You couldn’t see Him, but He was still watching over you, because you are His and He loves you.

In whatever season you find yourself, hang on to this truth.  God will lead you through the storm.

-Pastor Phillip

Jesus is your overflowing grace

God’s Hope for Your Heart from 1 Timothy 1

JESUS IS YOUR OVERFLOWING GRACE

And the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  (1 Timothy 1:14)

Paul killed Christians, yet Jesus gave him overflowing grace.  Paul opposed the name of Christ as strongly as he could, yet Jesus gave him overwhelming mercy.

Why?  Because that’s the kind of savior Jesus is!

Is your faith weak?  Come to Jesus.

Is your love cold?  Come to Jesus.

Is your obedience lacking?  Come to Jesus, and let Him work His power in your life.

Whatever the state of your heart, Jesus can make it holy by His blood.  So, trust and obey Him today and let this truth be your motivation: Jesus is your overflowing grace.

-Pastor Phillip

Jesus is your guard against all evil

God’s Hope for Your Heart from 2 Thessalonians 3

JESUS IS YOUR GUARD AGAINST ALL EVIL

But the Lord is faithful.  He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.  (2 Thessalonians 3:3)

Jesus warned we will have trouble in this life, but trouble and evil are not the same thing.  He told us we would surely face persecution, but persecution and evil are not the same thing.

If you’re in Christ, then you also have an enemy.  Satan wants to bring pain into your life so that it drains your hope and eclipses the glory of God.  This is true evil, not just pain, but pain that hinders the purposes of God.

Here’s good news, though.  In Christ, nothing can stop God’s purposes for you!  No suffering or setback can derail His desire to bless you with a meaningful life that brings true joy to you through bringing glory to God.

This means that in Christ, you may have pain, but it has deep and lasting purpose.  You may have sorrow, but it need not steal your hope.

In Christ, your life matters.  You matter, and no plan for evil can ever take away God’s plan for good in your life.

In whatever season you find yourself, take courage in this truth: Jesus is your guard against all evil.

-Pastor Phillip

God chose you for glory

God’s Hope for Your Heart from 2 Thessalonians 2

GOD CHOSE YOU FOR GLORY

God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.  To this He called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)

Christian, never forget that God chose you.

You did not draw His attention by your efforts; He simply loved you by His grace.

You did not earn His favor by your merit; He simply called you by His mercy.

You did not convince Him with your potential; He simply pursued you because He loves you.

This means that in Christ, there’s nothing to earn, nothing to prove, and nothing to fear!

Not only that, but God saved you for a good purpose and a great destiny. He chose you to become not a slave, but a son or daughter, not a laborer, but an heir of the Kingdom.

So, if you’re in Christ you can rest in this liberating truth: God chose you for glory.

-Pastor Phillip

God will make you worthy of His call

God’s Hope for Your Heart from 2 Thessalonians 1

GOD WILL MAKE YOU WORTHY OF HIS CALL

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of His calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by His power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.  (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)

You were called to a life much greater than your own.  You were called to the life of Jesus, the life of the Kingdom, a life that no longer focuses on its own glory, but strives for the glory of God.

Yet, on your own merit, you are simply not qualified for that position.

Your natural resolve is not for good, but for evil.  Your natural works aren’t ones of faith, but of selfishness.  The name you most naturally want to glorify is not the name of Jesus, but your own.

However, if you’re in Christ, everything changes!

In Christ, your work can be guided by faith and your resolve can be driven by good.

In Christ, your goals can stop being self-centered and instead become God-centered in every way.

In Christ, God’s call for you to glorify Him is no longer an unattainable goal.  Instead, it is an increasing reality.

Don’t look at your life and despair over how far you have to go.  Rejoice at how far you’ve come in Christ, and let this truth give you hope confidence to keep going: God will make you worthy of His call.

-Pastor Phillip

God will surely make you clean

God’s Hope for Your Heart from 1 Thessalonians 5

GOD WILL SURELY MAKE YOU CLEAN

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.  (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

The world leaves its mark on everyone.  Broken by sin, stained by rebellion, it has a way of creeping in to even the most faithful heart.

But God always has the last word.

God calls His children to be holy and pure, sanctified and set apart, not isolated from the people of the world but insulated from its darkness.  Yet, He doesn’t expect us to make it happen on our own.

Here’s good news.  The same One who called you to be holy is also the One who will build that holiness within you.  Because He is perfectly faithful, He is perfectly trustworthy to finish what He starts.

If you’re in Christ, it doesn’t matter what sin or struggle you’re dealing with right now; you can still have hope!  All you need to do is surrender to His work and respond to His Word to you and you can rest in the hope of this truth: God will surely make you clean.

-Pastor Phillip

When you focus on Jesus, He steadies your heart

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Psalm 75

WHEN YOU FOCUS ON JESUS, HE STEADIES YOUR HEART

When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars.  (Psalm 75:3)

Our world is full of instability.  From economies in turmoil to civil unrest, discord in the workplace and division at home, sometimes it can feel like the whole thing is getting ready to tumble down.

Yet, there is hope for the believer.  There is a promise for all who are in Christ, that even though everything around you may be shaking and unstable, you can have a steadfast peace in the midst of it all.

When your world feels insecure, remember and apply this powerful, hope-building truth.  When you focus on Jesus, He steadies your heart.

-Pastor Phillip

Jesus will welcome you home

God’s Hope For Your Heart from 1 Thessalonians 4

JESUS WILL WELCOME YOU HOME

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.  (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

No matter how dark, painful or just plain frustrating your life is, in Christ there is a future hope for you.

No matter whether you live long or die young, in Christ there is a perfect hope for you.

Jesus died to give you life abundantly right here, right now, but there are still times that the life He gives us doesn’t look the way we’d like.  Even so, in Christ there is always hope for you.

No matter how good or bad you feel about this life, it is ending day by day.  Yet, this doesn’t have to be a source of sadness.

In Christ, you are not getting closer to death; you are getting closer to true life.  In Christ, each day of your life, whether filled with pleasure or pain, brings you closer to where you truly belong.

One day, when you fill your lungs for the last time with the stale air of a broken world, your eyes will finally be opened either through death or rapture.  Then, as you breathe in the air of eternity for the first time, at last you’ll be greeted with the source of your hope: Jesus will welcome you home.

-Pastor Phillip

God’s love is the source of your holiness

God’s Hope For Your Heart from 1 Thessalonians 3

GOD’S LOVE IS THE SOURCE OF YOUR HOLINESS

And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.  (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13)

Love comes from God.  This is a basic foundation of the Christian faith, that God is love, therefore the kind of self-sacrificing, others-centered, God-honoring love that truly matters can only come from Him.

So, a prayer for God to help us love others better is really a prayer for Him to simply pour more of His love into us so that it overflows.

Holiness is required by God.  Over and over in Scripture, we see that to be called AS a son or daughter of the King is to be called TO the life of the kingdom, a life that is set apart, a life that honors God.

All too often, though, we make two fundamental mistakes in the arenas of holiness and love.

First, we try to pursue holiness through our own efforts and moral goodness, but this will always fail because our human effort can never be good enough for God.

Second, we feel as if God’s love for us depends on our performance in holiness, so we slip into despair as we realize we just can’t measure up on our own.

If you’ve ever felt either of these things, here’s good news: they’re all wrong and upside down!

God’s love for you doesn’t depend on your character.  It depends on His.  Your holiness doesn’t depend on your effort.  It depends on His!

The road to God’s love isn’t about getting rewarded for your good deeds and the pathway to holiness isn’t about living rightly on your own.  Both of them are about simply receiving God’s love as a gift through Christ.

That means once you receive more of God’s love for you, you will abound in love for others, and the overflow of that love will result in a holy life, because of this hope-inspiring truth: God’s love is the source of your holiness.

-Pastor Phillip

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