When I came home from work yesterday, I was happy to see the new Stepping Stones newsletter had arrived in the mail (Stepping Stones is a newsletter published by Bethany Christian Services specifically for those affected by infertility). I started to read the cover story and stopped only a few paragraphs in, and I had no intention of reading the rest. My reaction surprised me because I always read the newsletter cover to cover and then often re-read it throughout the month. Why was I so opposed to this particular story? I have learned in this journey that my reaction is far less important than the root cause of the reaction because is at the root cause of the reaction where learning and healing can actually occur.
So, what caused my reaction? I hadn’t found anything particularly inaccurate in the article. It started by sharing that the root to many women’s questions surrounding infertility is the question of why. Why me/us? Why hasn’t God done something yet? We have all these questions surrounding the cause for our infertility and/or loss. Actually, I don’t even know if the article was referring to loss or just infertility, (I didn’t read that far), but I was definitely reading it from a loss perspective. I had heard some devastating news that morning: A friend of mine posted on Facebook that her little baby had gone to be with Jesus. She was due the same month as me and I am heartbroken for her and her family. Every loss is unique, so it would be unfair of me to say “I know what she is going through”, but I have suffered a loss before and I know how fragile life is and how quickly an unborn child is loved with all of our being. So, while the article may have been focused on infertility, I was focused on loss. As I began to read the article, I reminisced at my ‘why’ question from after my loss “why did God allow me to get pregnant with a child that He knew would never be born here on earth.”
As I continued reading, the author started discussing possible reasons for suffering. This is where I got hung up. As I have shared in the past, part of my depression was that I didn’t care what the reason was for my loss was…no reason would have been ‘good enough’ to warrant God giving me a child that He had no intention of growing…especially after all we had gone through to get pregnant. I pictured me sitting with God in a room at that time in my life and as He laid out His brilliant plan for my life in an effort to get me to ‘understand’ how important my suffering was, all I can imagine is me responding with “Yeah, but I don’t care…you don’t mess with the life of my child no matter what you’re trying to accomplish in/through me.” Harsh – yes. Would it have ever happened that way – no. I do realize that if I were actually face to face with God then all that cynicism would immediately disappear as I stood in awe of His glory. But, if I am to be honest, this is where I was at this time in my life…and this was another piece of my puzzle. I recognized that there was a time that I didn’t care about the reason for my suffering because no reason was good enough. I also recognized that I have moved forward from that point and no longer feel that anger toward God. To my surprise, I concluded that I had no intention of reading about all the possible reasons for suffering because I still didn’t care about the reason for my suffering.
I wondered how I could have the same reaction of “I don’t care to know the reason for my suffering” but it be attached to two totally different emotions – previously one of anger and now one that is closer to genuine indifference. I truly do not care why God brought me through my valley. I don’t want to ask Him. I’m not searching for an answer. I’m not still angry about it. I just don’t care. Why don’t I care? I contemplated that it could be related to the fact that I’m so happy with my daughter that any road to get to her was fine with me, but then realized that explanation was too close to a ‘reason’ and that it really wasn’t what I was feeling. Yes, I love my daughter…but in my heart of hearts I knew that wasn’t why I didn’t care about the reason for my suffering. I was stumped.
This morning I was thinking about the dynamic and the story of Job came to mind. Throughout the whole book, Job begged to plead his case before God. He had the entire list of why questions and He wanted answers. I related to the hurt and frustration, although I obviously had a different reaction in that I wanted to go before God to give Him a piece of my mind about what is acceptable and not regarding unborn children, not to gain a reason for my suffering. Same root cause (heartbreaking loss, feeling abandoned by God etc), but different reactions. Since the cause is the important piece, I continued my line of thinking in that perhaps there were more similarities to be found. At the end of the book, God presented Himself to Job. Instead of laying out all the reasons for Job’s suffering (there is no reference to the events that unfolded in Job Chapter 1), God began exclaiming who He was as evidenced by His actions. He was the God who created the universe. He had ultimate power and control and who was Job to question Him? Humbled, Job fell before God and His glory. I thought about my own experience that triggered the upward swing after my valley. I had come to realize/accept that this God who allowed me to suffer was indeed the same God who had protected and loved me my whole life. Not rocket science, but this was my breakthrough – the realization that God is God, that He never changes, and that He not only will always be there for me, but that He genuinely loves me with all of His being.
I began to realize that we can contemplate the why questions all day long, but the answers will always leave us empty. Perhaps that is why God never shared them with Job. God knew that they didn’t matter…that they had no bearing on Job’s healing. What matters is that God is GOD and if we really saw Him, even for a moment, for who He truly is then nothing else would matter. We don’t need answers. We need Him.
End of story? Of course not. That sounds too much like a Christian platitude for me to leave it at that. I also thought about how God allowed Job to suffer for some time prior to approaching him. As soon as Job started questioning his lot in life, God didn’t jump in with this great reminder that He is God and that Job shouldn’t question Him. Instead, God allowed Job to be in his valley. Job is heralded as one of the great men of God, who endured His valley without losing his faith in God. But, through a valley Job did go. We’re told of how he wept and tore his clothes, he was in great pain. Although he had great faith in God, he still suffered emotionally through his trials. He didn’t put on a happy face and parade around like all was well. His picture of faith is the exact opposite – he was hurting and it showed. His wife knew, his friends knew, everybody knew…which is provably why he was receiving so much unwarranted and unhelpful advice. He didn’t stay strong through his trial knowing that it would all be for the best in the end. He grieved until it was his own time for healing. I really believe that grieving is an important part of the healing process. Yes, God is God, but knowing that restoration will occur sometime in the future does not negate the pain we feel in the midst of our suffering. I remember telling my husband that at any time I knew I could ‘choose to be done suffering’. He loved that idea and was disappointed when I told him I wasn’t choosing that anytime soon. He thought it was strange that I wanted to fully experience my valley. I was so afraid, though, of coming out on the other side of the valley and not having learned all I could through the process…that and I was just truly still in agony over what had happened. I had desperately wanted that baby and I was hurting that I would never know that child here on earth. I was grieving and I needed to grieve. I held fast to the knowledge that I would eventually be out of my valley, that my relationship with God would be restored, and that my heart would indeed be healed. I didn’t know how long it would take, but I knew it would happen…and it did happen just over year after our loss. I am so thankful for the patience of my husband, friends and family during that time. I am thankful that they allowed me to go through my valley without too much pestering to ‘be well’ and I am thankful for all the prayers said on my behalf when I had no words to speak. Most of all, though, I am thankful for God’s unwavering patience and love. I can’t imagine how I would have gotten through this valley if I had the pressure of having to maintain my relationship with God, if my relationship with God was dependent on my feelings toward Him. I know of no other religion that says “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38-39) This freedom of knowing that I can never go too far from God’s reach was liberating and enabled me to grieve with the full knowledge that it would not affect my status as a child of God. Now, as I have come out of my valley it makes me love and appreciate God even more. After all, until we have seen a promise in action we often cannot understand the depth of that promise. I think I utilized this promise to its fullest during my valley where the closest thing to a prayer I had as “I’m still mad and not talking to you.”
In the end, I guess what I’ve concluded today is that God is God and no reason for suffering will negate that or cause us to experience the same level of healing as that fact. Grieve during the valley and know that God is not only waiting for you on the other side, but right along beside you in the process…whether you like it or not.