On losing a child & gravel stew
Part of My Journey With Worry & Prayer
On losing a child & gravel stew
I will never forget the day I was sitting in seminary and got word from Abi that something was wrong at the doctor. I have few regrets, but I deeply regret going to class instead of that appointment.
By the time I arrived she was outside waiting to meet me, already crying from the news that at 12 weeks the child we were anticipating with joy had passed. We cried in the parking lot. We had to drive both cars home and I sobbed on the way home.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick.
The next year our excitement about another baby hit a screeching halt with signs of pain and another miscarriage.
I had been optimistic about this second pregnancy because I couldn’t fathom back-to-back miscarriages. Abi wrestled with fears.
When those fears came to reality, we traded places.
We were expecting a third time. But I wasn’t stupid enough to hope for anything this time… fool me once, shame on you… fool me twice…
My solution for dashed-hope-sickness was to never hope at all.
In the mercy of God, the most amazing little gift was delivered on December 8, 2013. Charlie Mae Alison Doran was the first child I held after waiting through 15 months of pregnancies. She was perfect.
She was still so fragile.
While childbirth is a rather intense, even violent, moment–these babies are so vulnerable from the moment you receive them into your arms.
I didn’t have to deal with dashed hopes or stifled hopes anymore–who hopes for what they already have? I had Charlie Mae!
Now, a new trial for my faith burst onto the scene. For the first time in my life, I was worried.
I have a vivid imagination and it was put to good use by the worries of my heart. In a moment’s time I could live out the discovery of our daughter’s death by SIDs or a car accident or choking. I lived out the aftermath of responding to the tragedy 10,000 times in my head. I spoke at the funeral. I wept at the grave. I picked up the pieces. I cried… all in a world that never existed.
Worry captured my mind. I was a slave to worry because someone I loved was out of my control.
I knew the worries were sinful even if they appeared without effort. Worry had a mind of its own. I couldn’t outrun worry. I’d be working at my desk and then 5 minutes later I’d realize I’d lived an entire sequence of imagined grief. Almost a waking nightmare.
I knew Christ invited me to cast my cares on Him and to pray instead of worry. But honestly, that didn’t cut it for me.
Telling the Lord I was worried about Charlie Mae dying did not guarantee she would live.
I didn’t want help with worry–I wanted Charlie Mae’s safety. Prayer wasn’t going to give me what I truly desired… and the slavery continued.
I felt like prayer should guarantee I’d get what I want. After all, didn’t the Lord say,
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7–8)
Seems like a promise right there. If ask for Charlie Mae’s safety–I get it!
I knew that wasn’t how it worked and couldn’t figure out a path forward. I wasn’t in any position to make demands of God which meant I was wracked with worry.
If I knew I’d get what I wanted–I’d stop this deadly imagination roller coaster. Why would God let me agonize?
Then the Lord mercifully helped me see only a few verses later in Matthew 7:9–11,
9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
Jesus had a different prayer life because Jesus had a different perspective of His Father. Jesus trusted the Father’s heart and He called out to His disciples to learn to trust the Father too.
My problem had always been with the character of God and my trust in Him instead of myself.
The character of God killed my worry, not the magic-wand of prayer. I had to learn to trust the Good Father I prayed to rather than lean on Him for the good future I desired.
The Father does not give a stone to His children. He doesn’t. The Father does not play tricks on His children. The Father doesn’t torture or twist. He is a Good Giver.
Does that mean we will never face pain, suffering, even the death of a child? No. But in all things, we must trust the heart of the Father. We will not receive a stone when we’ve cried out for bread.
We may feel we are eating gravel stew from the Lord. This lie of the enemy keeps us focused on short-sighted pain.
Christ promised us and proved to us that suffering leads to glory. He proved the Father does not abandon His children or play dirty tricks on them. He sits enthroned after trusting His father through the pain and the grave.
We can trust Jesus enough to follow in His steps.
In prayer we can cling to the goodness of God and the heavenly future that will cast light on all we experience now.
Our worries will shrivel in light of eternity. Our fears shrink in perspective of Christ’s triumph. Our doubts die at the cross.
The One who gave us His own Son will also freely with Him give us all things. God the Good Father is not holding out on you after sending Jesus to save you!