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Glorifying God in Trials
April 30, 2009
Today’s post comes courtesy of my good friend Ryan who offers some reflections on glorifying God through life’s trials. He wrote this article yesterday.
I am writing this from the waiting area at the Trillium Hospital in Toronto, while my beautiful wife is undergoing a procedure to help bring closure to the miscarriage we first learned about last week. While this isn’t our first miscarriage, it is the first since the healthy births of our two children, and was an unwelcome and unexpected shock.
In contrast to the joys of learning that you’re being blessed with a new baby, when you can’t wait to tell everyone you meet (strangers or friends!), learning that your child has died in the womb leaves you with the unfortunate and awkward task of notifying your family and friends of your loss. As with the joyful announcement, the news is first passed to your close family and friends - in our case, a few church elders and family - and then repeated to ever-widening circles.
The range of reactions is quite broad, and probably worth a whole post of its own. Some people cry with you, some engage in heartfelt conversation based on their own experience, some display anger, while others look uncomfortable and try to avoid further discussion. I’ve found the reaction offered by a person when confronted with bad news to be very telling about their own beliefs.
Outside of our immediate family, church family and friends, we also had to inform our friends on an online forum operated by my company. It’s a cozy group of about 4,000 people from a niche industry and has been in existence for nearly 7 years. Over that time many of us have grown close, even when we rarely meet in person. A few weeks earlier I had joyfully announced that we were expecting, after dutifully waiting through the customary first 10 weeks of pregnancy in silence “in case anything goes wrong” during that early time.
When news of our miscarriage broke on the forum, we were quickly offered dozens of messages of encouragement promising prayers, good thoughts and positive energy sent into the cosmic consciousness (whatever that means !?). Surprisingly, one friend posted a strongly worded message accusing the “supposed protector” of being a fraudulent god, not keeping up his responsibilities and unjustly abusing “good people.” The author concluded his post by asserting that if there is a “dark side” then he was on it, casting aside his faith.
By God’s grace, I was able to answer out of our sorrow encouraging our friend to trust in Almighty God.
Please don’t despair - we are not! In fact we’re taking great comfort in God’s care for our family. When our situation was in question, we prayed hard that God may save our child. When it became evident that this was not His will, we made the choice to trust in His sovereignty. As Job says, “Will we accept blessings from His hand, but not troubles?”
Remember, God never promised anyone a life of peace or rest on this earth. While we are in the fallen creation, life will be difficult -all the more so for those who follow Christ against the current of this world. But we also have the “peace that passes understanding” given by the Spirit.
Every moment we live is a blessing, every child - even for the shortest time - reminds us of the God who gives life, and will lead us to life incorruptible.
My dear wife also replied:
I know that things such as these are hard for us to understand, but God is always good. I know it, trust it and cling to it in times like these. My God loves me and will never forsake me.
God was gracious enough to take this little one home to himself. I can’t think of a better place for my child to be, but with the Saviour and creator.
My hope is in Him who created me. I pray that you would not harden you heart to the clear truth of the gospel.
Much love to all,
Since that time, we have received more thank yous that I ever could have imagined, from believers who felt encouraged, emboldened or even rebuked by our public defense of God’s sovereignty and our declaration of faith in His goodness. By request, our message was also posted to my blog, used as an example in a recent sermon, and now you’re reading this on the world’s most popular Christian blog. I don’t say this to boast or claim for even the briefest second that I am anything worth commenting on - other than that the work of God in our family may be glorified and that His name might receive praise.
I know my heart - I know my pride, my self-justification, my propensity for anger. I know how I would have reacted to our miscarriage without the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Both Janis and I have commented repeatedly about the profound sense of peace we have experienced even through our tears and sadness. We have been blessed by the amazing love of Jesus’ people, as our church united around us in love and so many entered into our sorrow and shared our tears. This is remarkable love that gives testimony to the power of Jesus and that we are His.
It’s been said that we don’t pray to change things, we pray to change us. Prayer draws us closer to God, and we pray most effectively when we pray His will, especially as it is revealed in the scriptures. We have truly felt that “peace that passes understanding” even as we recalled God’s recorded faithfulness to the barren, helpless, sorrowful and humble throughout the Bible. Looking back on the past year I can see how God has been preparing us for this moment: sermon series on joy from Galatians and active faith from James last summer; series from Mark Driscoll on doctrine, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes that elevate my view from the temporary in this life to the God eternal; our pastor’s illuminating study of Jesus’ ministry and love in John; and a seemingly randomly selected sermon on glorifying God through trials from John 17 heard just 2 days before the loss of our child.
We serve an awesome God, and I’m amazingly blessed to know Him. When unbelievers claim it’s “unfair” for God to take our child, I can say it’s truly unfair for me even to be drawing breath as a sinful rebel against the holy God. Yet that God didn’t spare His own perfect Son, sending Jesus to die in my place. If the loss of our baby can be used to bring glory to that God in our lives then so be it, and may God be ever praised.