The following story shows how an expectation for answers can kill faith, if we let it. Four years after Emily and I married, we were blessed with two sons. Four years later, God blessed us with a baby girl. On December 18, 2008 Isabella Grace graced this world… unfortunately she was only 21 weeks old. In the hospital room we held her lifeless body and bitterly wept.
I remember this time as a blur. Within a week we had the funeral. Then the medical reports arrived… showing stenosis of the umbilical cord which was highly unlikely to occur in more than one pregnancy. The cause was unknown. A depressing sort of mental and emotional fog marked those painful days.
Two months later Emily became pregnant again and, in spite of our nagging fears, our anticipation and excitement grew… and our fog slowly lifted. This time, we were having a boy—Joseph Michael. Yet, this too was short-lived when 19 weeks into pregnancy… just as before… the sonogram revealed no heartbeat. The diagnosis—stenosis of the umbilical cord.
Like a battering ram, the barrage of questions was brutal.
Why did God allow it?
What did we do wrong?
We had no answers and my faith was being challenged at its core. I felt emotionally closed up because I didn’t know how to grieve a new loss when I hadn’t even finished grieving our first.
We were very concerned about another pregnancy; however, while Emily was undergoing testing at Vanderbilt our third pregnancy took us by surprise. We received extra medical care and cautiously hoped again. I found comfort in my belief that surely God would not allow a third loss… not after all we had been through. Hope slowly grew as we finally reached three months.
One week later, Emily miscarried the baby after serious hemorrhaging at home. Following emergency surgery, her doctor ordered a hysterectomy and, with it, absolute finality of ever bearing anymore children. Emily was only thirty two years old.
We were numb and disoriented over the next weeks and months. Literally drained of tears and unable to talk about what happened, we were confused, angry, sad, and utterly disillusioned.
We were in the depths of our dark night—God seemed silent and answers were nowhere to be found.
To be honest, I don’t know how we made it through those two years. We simply crawled, limped, and stumbled onward. We never felt as alone as we did in those days.
Even still, our grief and suffering continued in different ways. Prior to, during, and after our losses, I was enrolled in a grueling Ph.D. program, trying to complete a dissertation (ironically, on the nature of Christian faith). After Emily’s hysterectomy, I faced a year and a half of unemployment which was immediately followed by a serious house fire forcing us to move in with family for four months. Less than a year after moving back into our home, we relocated to another state due to the job market. Directly after the move, I lost my job and faced six more months of unemployment.
We were clearly in the midst of an exhausting storm.
I can’t point to a day when the clouds lifted but I remember when the currents began to shift. It was when I realized that answers were never what carried us through those difficult days. As trite as it sounds, it was our faith.
Trust me; this is no testimony of model faith. We really struggled. We felt faith and hope slipping away… until we stopped focusing on the present and began looking back… then we remembered the past faithfulness of God in the long view of our lives. It was in recalling our “life story” that we could finally see again the innumerable examples of God’s compassion and provision ever marking our journey of faith.
Even though I still have many unanswered questions, I have found there is really only one question that matters most. Do I believe God is trustworthy? Despite our pain, grief, and frustrated hopes and dreams we must answer this question.
Either God can be trusted or not. If he can, then we must refuse to allow a lack of answers to cloud his faithfulness. Here, we find afresh the power of his presence lodged in our souls and a faith freed from the tyranny of addiction to answers. With a regained sense of childlike trust, it is enough to know that he is with us. We continue building on this theme next week as we look at the relationship between God’s presence and our need for answers.
What Do You Think?
What was your darkest night and what questions seemed so critical for your faith to survive? What stories of God’s faithfulness mark your life?