With “merry lattes” to go and gingerbread settlements affixed on window displays, another Christmas is now upon us. Yet, for me, it’s also another Christmas in the shadow of disease and degrees of despair.
Last year, while counting down to Christmas, I was recovering from my first miscarriage. I had written then about how, by the grace of God, my barren womb did not equate with the condition of my heart, and through the Covid-appropriate celebrations that followed, I learned how hope and sorrow could waltz together in perfect rhythm.
Some weeks later, when a pregnancy test screamed positive, worry tinged my husband’s eyes even as I beamed in confidence. I told him that should I find myself in the pit of misery again, God would be sure to pull me out as He had just done.
Only I did not know that the abyss I would find myself in this time would be deeper and darker still; this time around, miscarriage robbed me of twins. I was left bereft and bleeding once again.
Faith in the Valley
In the months that followed, I have asked myself this: what does faith look like in the valley? Is it a portrait of fortitude, with straight shoulders, lips shooting endless praises? Does being filled with joy mean your face should be a tear-free zone?
I did not know that the abyss I would find myself in this time would be deeper and darker still; this time around, miscarriage robbed me of twins.
I knew there could be no hiding from God. And so, I kept going to Him, bent and broken, ugly crying, groaning under the weight of my empty womb. There were days when my grief felt dirty because it seemed to reek of self-centeredness. I didn’t know how I could combat this chokehold to my worship.
As strange as it sounds, woodworms helped answer this question. In a corner of my living room, I have a set of vintage kopitiam (coffee house) chairs. During a rainy spell, I noticed atypical dust on the floor beside one of these chairs. Despite repeated examination, I could find no damage to the chair. Much later, I discovered to my horror that while nothing looked amiss from the outside, the teeny creatures had robbed this chair of any strength. There was little matter within to sustain any weight.
Would the substance of my faith be eaten away, too, by the failings in my life? Like the chair, my spirit was begging for the purposeful touch of restoration.
The call of my wonderful Carpenter says, “Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Mathew 11:28)
Rest, I am discovering, is not the absence of grief. Rest is tied to my trust in the One who says He will give it. Rest depends on whether my heart tunes in to truth through the tears.
Thankfully my Mighty God understands my frail frame and doesn’t turn away when I cry out, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
Rest, I am discovering, is not the absence of grief. Rest is tied to my trust in the One who says He will give it.
Seeing Christ in the Shadow of Death
Continuing to believe in God, with this thorn of infertility pressed deeply into me, has been turbulent. Sermons have gone over my head, songs have skipped past my lips, and community—virtual and otherwise—has been painful. But through it all, I have been moved to confess and cry out to God for mercy, because I have known Him to be faithful through my half-a-mustard-seed of faith.
And my Everlasting Father reminds me to persist, and to draw closer still. “I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9) I longed to be back on the mountain top with God, hearing His voice and knowing for certain that His hand is leading me.
And the holy spotlight over my spiral into grief is proof of His relentless grace, and I cannot help but wonder at my Father’s stubborn love. He led me to ask day after day for joy in His Word to be resurrected. He strengthened my heart to seek protection over a friend’s pregnancy. And through it all, He has been willing me to kneel as I knock. In the shadow of death, my God comes to preserve and restore.
For my Prince of Peace says, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Through it all, He has been willing me to kneel as I knock. In the shadow of death, my God comes to preserve and restore.
Sorrow came in a rush last month when instead of birth pangs, here I was again, just aching with nothingness. I found myself asking if the scars of loss ever fade, and the eyes of my heart were fixed upon the permanent scars on His hands. My promised Prince with His head bowed down, nailed to a tree, wearing a crown of thorns.
Oh, to consider Christ and the outpouring of love in His submission is glorious and freeing. Death visited my womb twice, denying me the gift of my beloved babies. But in Christ’s life that began in the lowly manger and reached the terrible cross, I hear the loudest cries of denial. Yet because of the power of His resurrection, I am able to see beyond the decay in me. I see the Saviour who surrendered to being swaddled and to being crucified. I see Christ born out of love incomparable.
Hallelujah! Another Christmas has come calling for you and me, only because of the risen Christ who continues to call.
Adapted with permission.