In my last post, I spoke of the necessity of taking to God even the smallest of issues, asking for His help in all things, no matter how trivial. For someone like me, this has not always been easy. For most of my Christian life, I have struggled with a fear of rejection, especially in my relationship with God. I have struggled with believing that God REALLY loves me, and part of this struggle has often caused me to attempt to earn God’s love through my works and keep myself distant from Him, emotionally. The last thing I would have ever done, until relatively recently, was to take everything in my life to Him in prayer. What if I prayed that God help me find my shoes, and He didn’t?! Wouldn’t that just prove to me that He didn’t love me? What if this happened over and over again, wouldn’t it reduce my confidence in Him to nothing? Obviously, one could make the argument that if God had not let me down then my confidence in Him would have increased, but I wasn’t about to take that risk. And so, I lived my life treating God as if He were someone to be appeased and asking from Him as little as possible.
This began to change after a dramatic series of events that started in May, 2007. I was pregnant with my fifth child and we were getting ready to receive some furniture from my husbands family. As we were moving furniture, making room for new things, I noticed that I was having some minor bleeding. I was only a few months pregnant at the time, and I immediately took to bed rest. For the next two days, I vacillated between fear and faith. Each time I started to feel the demon of fear curl itself around me, I would pull out every scripture I could find regarding healing and pregnancy and recite them to myself. Eventually the fear would dissipate, but although I was standing on God’s promises, I was not actually praying for His intervention in this situation. I was terrified that if I put my trust completely in God and believed wholeheartedly for a miracle, then the pain in the end if it didn’t happen the way I expected it to would be worse than if I accepted now the fact that my baby might die. I knew that true faith would not allow me to brace myself for the worst. My fear of God letting me down was too great for me to trust Him this way. And so I continued to quote scriptures to myself without ever really entering into prayer on behalf of my child.
Soon, however, the full force of what I was doing hit me. While scripture is powerful, and I believe that voicing scripture out loud is particularly powerful, I realized that it is only through our relationship with God that we are fully able to stand on His promises. I knew then that if I wanted my baby to live, I was going to have to trust God with his life. For the first time in my life, I met my fear of rejection head-on. I made a conscious decision to trust God with one of the most important things in my life. I decided that I was not going to live in fear of being hurt, instead I would hope and believe and EXPECT God to work in this situation. I decided that if things did not turn out the way I was expecting them to, I would deal with whatever pain that caused later, but for NOW I was going to put my trust fully in God and believe with all my heart that He would do what the Bible said He would do. I would expect him to save my child.
For the next few days, I was filled with a constant peace as I drew closer to God. At one point, I even mentioned to my husband how odd it was that I simply COULD NOT feel afraid. Fear had been completely removed from me and I experienced “a peace that surpasses all understanding.” For the first time, I was praying in faith and for the next two days I spent my time praying and fellowshipping with God as I had never done before. I was completely at peace.
All that changed on the fourth day.
I was lying in my bed when I began to experience an intense cramping sensation. I called my husband into the room and he was praying over me when I suddenly realized that these were contractions. I began to pass a tremendous amount of blood and I knew that my body was working to expel my precious child. For the first time in days, my faith left me completely as I was caught up in that horrifying moment. It felt that there were demons surrounding me and I was terrified. No words can describe what I went through during that time and for hours afterward. I just knew that I had lost the baby. I spent hours that night, after my husband had gone to bed, grieving – sometimes in quiet shock and sometimes with heaving sobs. I kept going back to God’s word, crying out “WHY?! How could you?!” I quoted scripture to Him, not in faith this time, but in accusation.
I went through every scripture I had previously stood upon, asking Him over and over again why He hadn’t kept His promise to me. I pointed each of them out to Him, reminding Him of what He’d said in the Bible, reminding Him of His inability to lie. And a funny thing started to happen as I brought these scriptures before God. Though I was accusatory in my application, a seed of faith started to grow inside of me. It wasn’t long before I was once again flooded with peace that left me completely unable to grieve any longer. Somehow, despite everything, rising in me was the inexplicable belief that the baby was okay. I cried out to God “Please don’t allow me to believe that the baby is fine if he isn’t! I want to grieve if he‘s gone. I NEED to grieve!” But I couldn’t. The peace continued and I simply could not believe that we’d lost our precious child. Suddenly, a scripture verse came to my mind:
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
Isn’t this what I was experiencing? Everything in my body, so far as I understood it, seemed to be saying one thing, but somehow I BELIEVED something else. The next morning I told my husband what had happened and after a few moments, he said “I think the Lord wants you to read Psalm 18.”
I asked him what Psalm 18 said and he told me he didn’t know, but that he’d had a dream about it. I admit that I was skeptical, but decided to look it up anyway. Immediately tears flooded my eyes. Here is a excerpt of what that Psalm has to say:
“The pangs of death surrounded me, And the floods of ungodliness made me afraid. The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the LORD, And cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, And my cry came before Him, [even] to His ears. Then the earth shook and trembled… He bowed the heavens also, and came down With darkness under His feet… He made darkness His secret place… He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, From those who hated me, For they were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, But the LORD was my support. He also brought me out into a broad place; He delivered me because He delighted in me. The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me.”
In that moment, I just knew that God was speaking to me and that my baby was fine. I had a kind of faith I’d never had before. I experienced a closeness to God like never before. For the first time in my life, I knew without a doubt that God loved me. I was ready to ask Him for anything. I was ready to expect Him to rain down miracles upon me and my family. For the first time, I really saw him as “Abba.” Not a dictator to be feared, but a loving Father ready to move heaven and earth on my behalf. For the next few days I rode a wave of euphoric emotion.
A week later, I was still bleeding. Two weeks later, I was still bleeding. In all, I bled for over a month and I was forced to face the truth of my situation.
Despite everything I’d felt and believed, my baby was gone.
My faith was shattered. I had cried out to the Lord and not only did I feel utterly rejected, but also betrayed. I felt that God had given me a hope that I simply couldn’t understand. I’d asked Him to let me grieve, and yet he’d buoyed me with faith. He’d even given me scripture that I’d felt sure was telling me my baby was fine. But my baby wasn’t fine! He was dead! It was the worst kind of slap in the face. I’d believed Him, trusted Him, and I’d thought God had performed a miracle, but instead it had all ended in disaster.
For months, I was simply numb. Hope was restored to me for a brief time after I took a positive pregnancy test, only to be dashed again when we went for the ultrasound and were informed that this was a new baby. It’s not that I wasn’t thrilled to be pregnant again so soon. I even felt that this was God’s way of restoring to me part of what had been lost. But what I couldn’t fathom was how I was ever going to trust Him again. How could I ever come back from that kind of loss? How could I EVER stand on God’s promises and believe Him again? My worst fear had become a reality. I had trusted God only to be wounded in the worst possible way. I felt abandoned and rejected and worse: betrayed. I’d never felt so unloved.
For the longest time, I was incapable of praying. When we found out that I had a medical condition called placenta previa, I had absolutely no faith that God would do anything about it. How could I possibly trust God for a safe delivery of this child, when He’d allowed my last baby to die? I expected the worst in every situation.
And yet, through all of this, there was one thing that I held on to, one tiny scrap of faith I could still cling to. It was a quote from Bill Johnson from a book called When Heaven Invades Earth. In it, he said:
“If people are not being healed, I will not supply a rationale so that all those around me remain comfortable with the void. Instead, I will peruse the healing until it comes or the individual goes to be with the Lord. I will not lower the standard of the Bible to my level of experience. Jesus healed everyone who came to Him. To accept any other standard is to bring the Bible down to our level of experience, and deny the nature of the One who changes not.”
I clung to this statement. Deep inside of me there remained the belief that God was not a liar. Eventually I understood that if I was to go on as a Christian, I would have to make a choice. Would I exalt my own experience above the Word of God? Would I manufacture an unbiblical explanation for why things didn’t work out the way I’d thought they should? Or would I choose to trust God and continue to take Him at His word? Would I move past my desire to understand, or would I water down the Gospel in a desperate desire to explain away what had happened, and answer the question: why?
In time, I chose to move forward. I chose to take God at His word, despite my own experiences. I continue to believe that it was not God’s will for me to miscarry – that it is not God’s will for any woman to miscarry. I continue to believe that God heals everyone, without exception. I still don’t understand what happened to me, but I am learning to live more comfortably within the mystery of it all. I will not allow my experience to deny my faith. I will not exalt it over God’s Word. And so, after my miscarriage, I started to pray more often. I decided to take whatever risk was necessary in order to stand on the Word of God. I made the decision to trust Him, regardless of the outcome. When a friend, pregnant with twins, called only a few months later to tell us that she was in the hospital due to a placental blood clot threatening to cause a miscarriage, I prayed in faith along with my husband for the protection of her unborn children. I pulled out all those verses in scripture that had held me up during my own crisis and I spoke with to her about God’s power to heal and take care of her babies. She went on to deliver two healthy baby girls.
We, too, went on to deliver a healthy baby boy. By the time we delivered him, the placenta had moved so far up the uterine wall that even our doctor was surprised. We named him Gamli’el, which means “recompense of God.” And eventually we held a little service in the backyard for the baby we had lost. As I prepared for this, I opened my bible once again to Psalm 18 and a verse leaped out on the page before me:
“The LORD was my support. He also brought me out into a broad place; He delivered me because He delighted in me. The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me.”
*Over a year after writing this article, while working on another article, I happened to google the name Gamli’el and found the following definition: “Hebrew name meaning ‘God is my reward/recompense’ indicating the loss of one or more earlier children in the family.” We’d had no idea.