I sat on the edge of my bed looking out the window at the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. It was a beautifully sunny July day. The sky was blue with big puffy white clouds. There were cows grazing just across the street in the distance. It was so quiet. If I close my eyes I can go back to that day, to that week… the week our second baby slipped away to heaven.
I remember the vast void and the raw agony in my heart. I remember the fear, the questions, the doubts, and the dreading. We had just done this… just 10 months earlier. I remember the hot tears streaming down my face and the way I laid my hand across my belly wishing it wasn’t so… wishing there was a heartbeat under my palm. “I want them back,” I told the Lord.
Then as quickly as I allowed myself to feel it all — the full weight of the suffering I had been granted — I shut it off. “I’m not doing this again, God. It’s too much too soon. I can’t go through another season of grief… it will take too much from my soul.” I shook my head in denial, got up, and refused to let myself experience the valley that the Lord had asked me to walk through.
Two weeks later we took a trip to the beach for our second anniversary. We pretended nothing had happened and enjoyed our week. When we came home and unpacked our bags I went through the motions of life as if there was no change. When pregnancy announcements or baby shower invitations came in the mail I refused to cry. I also never smiled over them. They went in the trash. I built a wall of stone around my heart to keep out any pain. It also kept out the love and joy and grace that God wanted to shower over me.
Six months passed like this. Six months of robotic faith, denial, and refusal to let God work on my heart the way he wanted to. Then, in January (just weeks after learning we wouldn’t ever be able to bare children), I sat in a pew and heard a message that changed my world. I don’t remember all of the words, just a few. Full surrender to Jesus. A father (and our dear friend) who had just buried his two year old son a year earlier stood before us and proclaimed that it’s all about more glory to God. Everything in our lives goes to him… the good, the bad, the agonizing, the jubilant. That’s what we live for. More glory to God — more joy in God alone.
I wept. I repented. Walls came crumbling to the ground and I opened my hands and I traded my dreams. “Take them, Lord. I place it on your altar. This is my gift… my sacrifice… a broken heart. It’s all I have. Do with it what pleases you.”
Then I went home and grieved as I should have six months earlier. I cried, I hurt, I let myself feel what God was asking me to feel. I gave him my questions and trusted him with the answers. A surprising thing happened in my suffering — I fell more in love with Jesus. I found God to be a faithful God. I found joy in knowing him and a comfort in sharing in the sufferings of Christ.
We grew stronger. Stronger in our marriage, in our faith, and in our understanding of Christ’s work on the cross. We grew more compassionate and loving. My broken heart made me long to love those whose hearts were broken. I started to see that my plans were earthly minded but God has eternity in mind as he writes my story. I learned that his promises are true. I discovered that suffering is a gift… one that was entrusted to me. I could reject the gift or accept it and share it with others. I chose the latter. I chose joy and God has honored my choice more abundantly than I could have ever imagined.
Christy Nockels has a similar story of suffering. She chose to give it to God — to trust him. She began writing her song “Glory Baby” after they lost their first baby and she finished it after they lost their second. She speaks briefly here about the gift of suffering and what it’s meant in her life. It’s worth the five minutes…