I remember coming down the stairs as a young child on Christmas morning with wonder-filled joy and excitement. I would ask: “Mom and dad, can we open presents yet?” “Was the gift that I had asked for under the tree?” and I would think to myself: “That present looks like it might be it!” Christmas morning is one of those exciting moments in our lives in which we live in the sphere of the unknown. We know what we have asked for, yet we do not know if we have received it. We know our parents love us, yet we do not know if they have decided if it would be good to have what we asked for. We have waited for weeks, or even months for this moment, and now it is here: will our wish come true?
Christmas morning is similar to what it looked like when my wife and I decided to begin trying for a child. Each month we would pray to our Heavenly Father prayers such as these: “Father in heaven, You are the Author and Creator of life, and You say in Your Word that children are a gift from You, and we desire a child so badly. I desire to be a father, and my wife desires to be a mother. If it be Your will, will You grant us this desire? Will You give us a child? Yet not our will, but Yours be done.” We prayed this prayer almost daily for 16 months, through many infertility treatments, many different medicines, and many tears. Each month we would come before the pregnancy test like it was Christmas morning, with wonder-filled excitement asking: “Will we receive the gift we asked for this month?” “Has God given us a child?” To hear the gentle yet painful words from our Father: “not yet, my child.” Each month was a cycle of wonder-filled excitement turned into grief, to repeat the cycle all over again.
That was until we saw those two solid lines. God had heard and answered our prayer; He had given us our desire. Our hearts were filled with joy inexpressible. Our eyes were filled with tears of joy. We were parents. In the weeks to come, we rejoiced with our closest friends and started eagerly planning how we would care for our baby.
Then came the call that no parent wants to receive from the doctor: “Things are not looking good, I am sorry to tell you this, but you have lost your child.” Our inexpressible joy was in one moment turned into inexpressible grief. The Lord had given, and the Lord had taken away (Job 1:21). We lost a child that we had never met.
Our story is not unique. According to the Mayo Clinic, 10-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, while other studies have shown that as high as 1 in 4 couples experience a miscarriage. This means that 1 in 4 of the couples sitting in the pews on Sunday morning have experienced the rollercoaster of receiving God’s blessing of children, to have that blessing taken away from them before their child ever leaves the womb.
The loss of your child that you have never met produces a peculiar level of grief deep within the soul. It is a grief that chases you down from all angles, that comes in waves of emotion and raging of tears followed by the calm of numbness. It is a grief that fills the mind with the what-ifs of all the memories that will never be made; it floods the mind with many questions: How will we ever move on? Why would God do this? What if it happens again? Should we give up on trying for kids? Where is our baby now? And although questions like these flood the mind, many couples remain silent before others and before God when this happens to them. Miscarriage can be an extremely lonely and dark place. But in the silence, pain, and solitude of miscarriage, there is hope for us and hope for our beloved unmet child in the cross of Jesus Christ.
1) Hope for us:
In all of our silence, pain, and solitude, God sees, hears, and knows, and bears our pain with us. Consider the words that the LORD spoke to Israel as they were suffering as slaves in Egypt: “Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings.” (Exodus 3:7, emphasis mine).
God is not cold to our pain; He does not move away from us because our pain makes Him feel uncomfortable. Just like earthly fathers are drawn in closer to their sick children to care for them tenderly, so too it is our pain that draws God in, that draws Him near. But you may wonder, how could the transcendent God of the universe condescend to draw near to me in my pain?
Consider Hebrews 4:15: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” The word for “sympathize” here is a compound word formed from the prefix meaning “with” joined with the verb “to suffer.” So, in our pain, Jesus suffers with us. He makes our pain His pain, He embraces us in our pain, and He shoulders the burden with us.
But why can God sympathize with your pain? Because God in Christ was “made like his brothers in every respect” (Hebrews 2:17). God in Christ took on human flesh and journeyed in this broken world with us. He knows what it is like to lose someone He loves (John 11), and He knows what it is like to be alone when the waves of grief come crashing in (Luke 22:39-46). He was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” On the cross, Jesus Christ “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows,” He was “pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:3-5). On the cross, Jesus Christ “was made to be sin” although He “knew no sin,” and stood in our place and took upon Himself the fullness of the infinite, eternal, and unwavering wrath of God that was due to us for our sin. At the cross, the One who is the “resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) suffered, bled, and died, so that He could victoriously conquer sin, death, and Satan, and give to all who believe eternal life in fellowship with Him.
Christ can suffer with you in the death of your beloved unmet child because He has suffered for you, and His suffering for you was infinitely deeper and wider than that which we will ever experience. When we draw near to the One who draws near to us in our grief, what we find is a Savior who is warm towards us in grace and helps in our time of need. So let your grief draw you near to the One who draws near to you.
2) Hope for your beloved unmet child:
R.L. Dabney was acquainted with the pain of losing a child. Of his six sons, three had died as children. Although R.L. was acquainted with pain, he was also acquainted with the hope found in the cross of Christ. He wrote these words in a letter following the death of one of his sons:
“Our parting is not for long. This spoiled and ruined body will be raised, and all its’ ravished beauties more than repaired. Our little boy, we hope, and trust is now a ransomed spirit: this is a hope inexpressible and full of glory. As I stand by the little grave and think of the poor, ruined clay within that was a few days ago so beautiful, my heart bleeds. But I ask, where is the soul who’s beams gave that clay all its’ beauty and preciousness? I triumph. Has it not already begun? With an infant voice, the praises of my Savior? He is in Christ’s heavenly house, and under His guardian love. Now I feel as never before, the blessedness of the redeeming grace and divine blood which has ransomed my pour babe from all the sin and death he inherited through me.”
In the death of his sons, R.L. Dabney experienced what it means to be “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). His heart was bleeding with grief, yet he was filled with hope inexpressible. Why? Because on the cross, the redeeming grace and divine blood of Jesus Christ had ransomed his babe from all of the sin and death that they inherited from him.
King David had a very similar experience in 2 Samuel 12. When David found out that his child had become severely sick, he sought God in prayer, laid all day and night on the ground, and would not move or eat for seven days (2 Samuel 12:15-17). After the seven days had passed, David found out that his child had died, and what did David do? We read that “David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. He then went to his own house and ate.” David’s servants were astounded at his response; why did David respond to the death of his child with worship, they wondered? David’s answer is telling; he said: “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:18-23). Like R.L. Dabney, David worshiped God because He knew that the redeeming grace of God had ransomed his son and that one day, he would join him in that heavenly house to sing the praises of their Savior.
Jesus suffered, bled, and died so that your beloved unmet child would never have to experience the bitter consequences of sin. Your babe has gone from the comfort of the womb to the comfort of Jesus Christ’s heavenly house; from the quietness of the womb to joining the praises of Christ enthroned in heaven; from your parental love to Jesus Christ’s guardian love.
In Christ, we are indeed sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. In Christ, grief nor death has the final word. In Christ, we do suffer, yet not without hope:
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).