Where is God in our suffering?
How does God fit in with a diagnosis of Trisomy 18? Why didn't God heal my baby? Where is God during my suffering? These are all questions we ask when we receive a Trisomy 18 diagnosis for our child.
I don't think there is a simple answer to these questions, and I know that it is hard to hear the answers when our world has just been shaken by this diagnosis. But I would like to share with you some of my thoughts, from various parts of my journey, as I wrestled with these questions myself.
My husband and I have been Christians for many years, having put on Christ by repenting of our sins and being buried with Him in baptism, being raised to walk in newness of life. And we have lived our lives trying to remain faithful to Jesus Christ, by continuing to serve and worship Him as described in the bible.
So when we got the diagnosis, we trusted God with our baby's life. We felt that He was in charge, that He had created our daughter just as He wanted her to be (Psalm 139). Although it hurt immensely, we understood that it was about eternal life, not life here on earth, and as a result we never prayed for her to be healed. Instead we prayed for us to have wisdom to make good decisions and for God's will to be accomplished. This outlook was reflected also in choices for her care after her birth. To see how our faith influenced our decisions during those times, see Abigail's Story - Diagnosis and Preparation and Abigail's Story - Birth and Life.
It was Satan who brought death into our family, not God.
At Abigail's funeral, which we called a "Celebration of Eternal Life
", we truly did rejoice that she was in heaven. We shared some Scriptures
that were meaningful to us, and my husband Steve (a minister) presented a Father's Message
during the service that reflected our feelings. He indicated that we trusted in God and that it was Satan who had brought death into our family, not God. And that we would continue to worship Him because He is worthy of our worship, not because of the gifts He has given us but because of who He is: God, the Lord of the Universe.
As time went on, I continued to trust in Christ, but I was surprised to find several things. First, my faith didn't minimize the pain. I still missed my daughter immensely and my empty arms ached for her. I had thought faith would enable me to stand up straight with peace and praise God that she was in heaven - I just didn't know it would still hurt so badly. It took me a while to realize that the pain wasn't a result of a lack of faith but was actually a result of a very strong love for my daughter. Even Jesus hurt terribly as He hung on the cross, and He had the ultimate faith, so why did I think I wouldn't hurt?
At times, the difficulty of the grief was staggering and I didn't recognize God's hand.
I also realized after a while that it was a much harder spiritual struggle than I had anticipated
. I kept a grief journal
, where I wrote how I felt and at various times wrote about my faith at that time. The journal is divided by months, and discusses my journey of faith at various points. I can honestly say that I never doubted God's promise of the hope of heaven, given to us by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. But at times I felt very distant from Him, as if He was holding out that hope but making me get there on my own. I now know that's not true; He was doing a great deal to get me through, but the difficulty of the grief was staggering and I didn't recognize God's hand.
A few significant points in my struggle were
- Month 3 - A discovery of what faith really is.
- Month 5 - Where were you, God? - a look at Martha and Mary's grief at the Raising of Lazarus
- Month 10 - Starting to see the fruit of the struggle
- Month 12 - Realization that I was angry with God and how I began working through it
- Month 13 - A getaway alone, with much prayer and reflection - a real "turning point" for me
I was also given the privilege of presenting a lesson for our Ladies Inspiration Day
at our church in April, 2004. The subject was dealing with struggles, and I used examples from the book of Job as well as my own experiences to share some of what God has taught me about grief and suffering
. I have presented it on this site in 4 parts:
The beginning of the struggle which introduces my struggle and explains that there is a large element of grief in every struggle. It also introduces the concept that grieving is the process of getting our heads (what we know) in balance with our hearts (what we are experiencing). It introduces Job's struggle and looks at how he initially responded (with his head), how his wife first responded (with her heart), and how I first responded (the conflict between my head and my heart).
The depth of the struggle which examines the struggle Job was experiencing in his heart. Although his head said the right things, he was still struggling deeply in his heart. It looks at just how difficult and how long his grief lasted, and it points out some of the honest emotions Job had as he questioned and petitioned God. I have also added my experiences in as well.
The help of friends looks at how Job's friends helped him greatly at first and gives examples from my experience of how friends can really help. It then looks at the things his friends did that weren't helpful, and what he says he would do if others were grieving.
The fruit of the struggle addresses the end of the struggle - when the butterfly breaks out of the cocoon and flies. It shows the reward that Job received after the suffering, and I talk about the gift that I have also received because of the grief I have experienced.
Through this experience, God has taught me many things, things I knew in my head but now I really know because I have experienced them. Such things as that God is faithful. That He is in control, not me. That God comforts us through his word, songs, and other people. That God was preparing me for this experience my whole life, and that this experience is preparing me for service to Him. That there is a hope of heaven that is too wonderful for words. That there is joy, deep joy after grief. That God can change us and use us as He wills. Praise be to God!
"I will sing of your mercy that leads me through valleys of sorrow, to rivers of joy." (The Valley Song ~ Jars of Clay 2003)