Six months after the passing of our son Josh, my wife was pregnant again. At eighteen weeks she was again experiencing pre-labor. That resulted in a two week hospital stay while doctors tried to stop the contractions. Though the contractions had subsided they didn’t stop entirely. The hospital discharged her with strict instructions. We were terrified at the prospect of the car ride home as movement brought on the contractions. By God’s grace, we made it home.
This part 3 in the three part series “If God is Love Why Did They Die”. Please follow the links below to part one, or part two if you have not already read them
At twenty two weeks we had a crisis. Contractions were steadily increasing to the point where they were under a minute. We knew there was no hope for our child if she was to be born at that time. I was on my knees beside the bed praying and on the phone calling for prayer support. “Pray now”, if God does not intervene, we are having the baby right here right now and she will be dead in minutes.
I hung up the phone and called out to God in desperation. The contractions immediately began to subside. For five months my wife had to lie on her side without moving. We named our baby girl after John the Baptists mom Elizabeth, who was in seclusion herself for five months.
Luke 1:24; “Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months.”
Our baby girl was born by c-section, the exact same time as her brother Josh was, at 16:18. She was healthy and happy at 7lbs 10oz. That was a tiring five months for both of us, but now all we had to do was enjoy our baby girl and thank the Lord for her life.
Two weeks later my wife and I were enjoying a walk around the local lake with our baby girl. My wife had been complaining of pain in her abdomen and it was getting worse, so we went home. She was not looking well at all. It was late but I took her to the hospital in case she had developed an infection from her surgery. The doctor decided to keep her for observation over night. The hospital we went to did not have 24hr tech staff because it was smaller and further out of town. The hospital’s emergency rooms were experiencing extended waits due to enormous lines, up to eight or ten hours, so we went there in hopes she might be seen faster.
I was not comfortable waiting and began praying and had a sense of urgency come over me. We needed to get to another hospital. I asked the doctor for an ambulance transfer to the hospital we usually attend, but he said no go, the ambulances were being turned away due to the overcrowding. So, I grabbed my wife up and took her there in the car. One hour later she was under the knife again, having an emergency appendectomy. The doctor said the appendix burst in his hand taking it out. If she had remained at the other hospital overnight, it may have burst in side her and she may have died, she was lucky he said. Luck had nothing to do with it, I am certain it was God and prayer.
Another One On the Way
A year and a half later we got the news the stork would be back again. This pregnancy was smoother than the last two, the contractions were lighter and less frequent for which we were thanking God.
Thirty two weeks was a milestone, we were in the clear. Babies born after thirty two weeks have an excellent survival and long term prognosis. Up until then, we could not look more forward then the day in front of us. We can breath; finally we could allow ourselves to get excited about our new arrival. My wife was able to throw herself into shopping for baby clothes and we could now dream about life with our growing family.
I can remember walking through Toys R Us, pushing my daughter in the stroller and stopping, I looked back at my wife who was very pregnant, happily going through baby clothes and thought, it had been so long since we had felt this free and hopeful for the future. I will never forget that moment.
Thirty four weeks meant another check up. My wife’s regular doc was not there so her replacement did the exam. “I am a little concerned” she said, then asked us if we wouldn’t mind going across the street to the hospital for a test. My wife said of course. We were not expecting any real issues, we were in the clear.
Sitting in a small room joking with my wife the doctor came in with a face that stopped my heart. I am sorry to tell you your baby is the size of a twenty four week baby and we have to do some more tests. We were informed that the normal abdominal measurements that had been recorded from past appointments were due to an over abundance of amniotic fluid, not the babies growth. Further tests showed our little girl had a chromosomal problem and would not live out the day of her birth. We were devastated.
I am not going to go into the weeks that followed, or the day of Sara’s birth, other than to say, we were blessed with forty five minutes with our baby girl Sara Rose, who died in my arms as I rocked her.
We went from the highest mountain top two weeks earlier, to the the deepest valley. How could God have allowed this after what we went through with Josh? How could this happen again, when I was covering my wife and daughter with prayer?
God saw fit to allow Sara to go home to be with him and he was not giving me any answers as to why, but I am not alone. God didn’t answer Job either after losing his entire family. He only reminded Job that he is the Almighty who sees the beginning from the end. He is the creator of all that exists and we have no wisdom with which to confront God with. We have no basis for which to demand answers from the one who holds the entire universe together by his power.
Job 42:1-6; “Then Job replied to the Lord: “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
God’s plans are grander than one person’s perception of a single event. Each of us live in our own very isolated world compared to the grand scheme. It was not God’s plan that Job’s family die, and it was not his plan that Josh and Sara die either, it is much larger than that.
People tend to be arrogant, demanding answers to perceived injustices that God allows in our lives. Do we dare judge God himself, by our own sense of morality and justice, which we ultimately received from him. Humankind is after all made in his image and that image, is not physical appearance as some may believe. Who we are is not our appearance; we are spirit, like God, who by nature are full of pride and arrogance. Myself included.
If I am to be perfectly honest, I was angry, who wouldn’t be. God did not do what I asked him to do. I would like to say that because of my deeply spiritual walk, I was able to come though this quickly with wisdom and understand, but I can’t. This really hurt and was contradictory to the God I thought I knew. It is precisely this dilemma of a good God versus evil and suffering that pushes many from God.
I found it very difficult to pray. Was God listening, did he love me, was he angry with me about something, were the questions driving distance between the Lord and myself. Our relationship was in a crisis because he was not who I thought he was. Again, this is one of the main driving forces causing many to leave the faith altogether.
Praying and worshiping were tough for me. It is difficult to explain but though I had let go of God for a time, he never let go of me. His grace allowed me the room to learn and to figure out who he is because, the God I thought I knew was not the God I was experiencing.
Promise Keepers is an organization built around Men and their devotion to God, family and purity and they came to town one day. My friend asked me if I wanted to go and I reluctantly said OK. I did not particularly want to sit through teachings about Dad’s and family as the pain was still a little raw, but I did.
At one point the speaker called all fathers to stand with their sons as he led us in a prayer of bonding and protection. I began to break as the thoughts of my son who I had been unable to protect flooded my mind. I tried desperately to hold it together while I was dying inside. As the tears began to make their way down my cheek the pain of the death of my son was as strong as the day he passed.
I can’t explain it, but I believe God spoke to my heart at that moment. I did not hear anything; it was an impression like thoughts going through my mind only they were not mine. He told me he knows the pain I was in. He said, I was experiencing a little of what he experienced when he lost his son. With that revelation, the sting of the pain was gone and I felt a peace come over me. God does understand. I am not alone in this. I realized that the God I thought I knew, was not God at all. I did not really know him as well as I thought I did. The God who met me in my grief at that conference is not a God of indifference.
It occurred to me that I had heard that voice before. I would have deep periods of grief and sense of loss about my brother’s sudden death when I was in my twenties. When in church one day the pastor was speaking about brothers and like at the conference, a wave of grief overtook me and a voice in side me said, he was your brother, but he was more to me, and with that the grief subsided and I have never had a bout of deep grief since.
I had a lot more to learn about who God is and what he wants of my life. The problem is I keep getting in the way. It seems when strife occurs, we walk closer to God, and then when he blesses our socks off, we forget him as life takes up all our time. Then when life hits us in the face again we are unprepared.
Our daughter was growing strong and life was getting better for us. In fact, we were pregnant one last time. Now my wife is in her early forty’s so we were amazed that this had happened, we were not expecting it. At about thirteen weeks I woke up to my wife crying, she had just had a miscarriage.
We had gone to a geneticist after Sara because they wanted to do some testing to try and gain some knowledge about her condition. The doctors could find nothing wrong with either of us genetically that would explain Josh, Sara or our last, Jonathan.
Decades ago, long before Josh was born, I had a conversation with someone whose friend had lost a child. His question to me was if God is love, why did his child die? I shared with him best I could how sin and decay has brought pain, death and suffering to all of us. I told him I did not have an answer why God allows pain into our lives, but I did know he is not the purveyor of suffering. There will come a day I said, when God will make all things right and we simply cannot know the reasons for everything that happens in our lives.
Little did I know, there would come a day, when I would know all too well, the pain this fellows friend had experienced. From time to time I think about that conversation long ago, I would not change a word I said. I would only confirm what I told him I believed then.
Yes, we have been through what no parent should have to but God shows no favoritism among those he loves, and he loves each and every one of us. In those who love him God shows his mercy, not by taking away the awful events that shape our lives, but by showing up personally when they do. He gives us strength even when we have no strength left. Often we mistakenly claim his strength as our own and miss his presence. God is merciful and just, and we can trust ourselves and our children to his care.
Death and Suffering
Many of us see death in a very different way than God does. To the atheist death is the end but for those who know God, we are home and it is the beginning of our real lives. Death is not the end.
1 Timothy 6:19; “In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
Matthew 10:28-31; “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the one who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. Even all the hairs on your head are numbered. So do not be afraid; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”
We simply do not know what God knows. We do not know what actions affects whose lives and what forces are in play at any given time. We do know we have an enemy and his name is Satan. He wants nothing more than to destroy our lives and steal our faith. He could have been successful through the deaths of Josh, Sara and Jonathan if it were not for the hold God had on me when I was unable to hold onto him.
John 10:9-10; “I am the door. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved, and will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.”
It was my arrogance and pride that demanded an answer for my pain and loss. Why have you done this to me I asked? What about the life lost to my child and what has been stolen from us? God did answer Job when he demanded answers but he was sorry he asked.
Job 42:1-6; “Then Job replied to the LORD: “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me. You said, ‘Listen and I will speak! I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.’ I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.”
In a sense Satan has stolen our time with our children here on earth. Through his deception there is now death, disease and decay. Who am I to say whether or not my children would have been better off with me here than with God in heaven? He is the one who created each of us, our true home is with him and we will have an eternity with them when God makes all things right again.
1 Peter 5:5-11; “And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. And God will exalt you in due time, if you humble yourselves under his mighty hand by casting all your cares on him because he cares for you. Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour. Resist him, strong in your faith, because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are enduring the same kinds of suffering. And, after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him belongs the power forever. Amen.”
Revelation 21:1- 4; “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had ceased to exist, … And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Look! The residence of God is among human beings. He will live among them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more – or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the former things have ceased to exist.”
God truly understands our frailty and he loves us blemishes and all. He sees who we really are and who we can become. His plan for us is far greater than we can imagine if we, (I) can just get out of the way. I had to stop picking and choosing what I was going to believe and what I wasn’t. I had to stop judging scripture by my own wisdom and let it judge me.
Many of us blame God for injustices in our lives when they happen, even those of us who claim to know him. Too often God is just our back up plan. We keep him on our shelf, failing to acknowledge his blessings, or worse claiming they are the result of our own strengths and abilities. Then we blame him later when things go awry.
Knowing God vs Religion
Religion didn’t work for me through my hardest times though if you had asked me, I would have said I was very religious. I knew a lot about God, but had little personal knowledge of God which lead me down the wrong path of doubt. I needed to get to know God.
John 16:33; “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – Jesus
Romans 8:37; “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
Matthew 7:23; “Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” – Jesus
John 10:14; “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” – Jesus
The word translated “know” in the Greek is: Strong’s Greek: 1097. γινώσκω (ginóskó)
There have been times of need that I felt that God had abandoned me. There are those feelings again. If I had known God and his word, I would have realized that was a lie and I could have fought that lie with the truth.
Hebrews 13:5; “I will never leave you and I will never abandon you” [and dozens more scriptures just like that one]
There is a poem called “footprints in the Sand” that has become cliché, but for those of us who have experienced it, it is anything but. I can look back on all the tragedy in our lives and see that God is and has been with us. At the time, I could not see past my emotion and me feelings.
Sickness, death and violence were brought on by rebellion and disobedience to God. Humans are free will agents, with that comes the ability to conform to, or rebel against God. Love isn’t possible without the ability to reject. So like Adam and Eve, we too have a choice to obey or rebel, to be accepted or cast out.
There is a teaching in Christendom that believers don’t have to experience trouble sand that they will be rich and prosperous without worry, because you are children of the King. This is false and dangerous doctrine and has brought many of faithful to disappointment and ruin. Our trials here are no barometer of how much God loves us. Look at what the apostle Paul endured, yet he says we are more than conquerors;
2 Corinthians 11:23-29; “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
Romans 8:37; “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
With Jesus, we are more than conquerors. We can come through the storms of life stronger then when we entered them. The children of God may go through tough times and even death, but there is life waiting for us on the other side so ultimately, we cannot be conquered.
John 10:26:30; “But you refuse to believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them from my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can snatch them from my Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
I have learned through experience not to trust in my feelings because they are deceptive, and they will mislead me. Feelings are a response to thoughts we believe to be true. For example, if I believe that God has abandoned me, that will produce feelings, feelings of fear, doubt and even anger. This is why I I have learned to put my trust in the truth of the word of God alone. Without God’s word, I am a ship without a rudder.
In a world full of pain and suffering God demonstrated his love by choosing to come to earth by sacrificing his son Jesus Christ and taking part in human suffering. There is nothing that can separate God from his children.
“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? … And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”