What do we do when life has demanded from us the very thing desire most to keep? After the loss of five babies in pregnancy as well as saying good-bye to a foster son, my new friend Rachel Lewis is well-acquainted with this and all the questions loss hurls at us. Her story challenges us to embrace our questions and invites us into a safe space to navigate what comes next. It’s a pleasure to welcome Rachel to the front porch today…
My theology of God used to go like this: “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” Of course, this was not what I professed or what I learned while earning degrees in Bible and theology.
But in real life? Absolutely. And why not? Up until that point, I’d done all the “right” things, and God had provided.
But my life—and my faith—changed when my baby died during pregnancy, ushering in a long season of recurrent loss and grief.
The loss of my baby did not just cause me to question my faith. It eroded it. Slowly. Each disappointment, each month trying and not succeeding, each subsequent loss. Chip. Chip. Chip.
This loss, unwanted as it was, proved to be the very thing that allowed me to ask the hardest questions. And yet what I did not need was for anyone to tell me the answers. All my life, I’d been handed the answers before I even knew to ask the questions.
Maybe you have experienced this.
You question, “How could a loving God leave me on this earth without my hoped-for and loved child?” And someone replies, “God will never give you more than you can handle.”
Your heart cries, “Why did he let my child suffer? Is he a cruel God?” and a loved one says, “God reserves his hardest battles for his strongest soldiers.”
Your arms are empty and aching. “Why my baby?” you wonder. And the reply is quick in coming, “God needed another angel.”
It’s infuriating, isn’t it? Your life is devastated, leaving you with nothing but empty questions—and others give answers that cost them nothing.
And yet it’s in asking the questions that we express and explore our faith. Being honest about what we don’t understand means we accept that God is big enough and compassionate enough to embrace our humanity. Our questions matter.
“A healthy relationship with God comes with honesty on our part.”
I wonder how God feels when I claim to have faith but refuse to question and refuse to admit my doubts.
In human relationships, it is a greater act of faith to say, “I am deeply hurt. And I love you and trust you enough to be honest about how this has affected our relationship” than to pretend and say, “Everything’s fine!” when we know deep down it is not fine and our relationship is broken.
It is a greater act of faith to be honest than to pretend, to be transparent than to perform.
A healthy relationship with God comes with honesty on our part.
Perhaps our greatest act of faith is not to tell God what we think he wants to hear—but instead to be fully honest about our pain.
And perhaps when we come clean with our doubts and questions, we can experience a more intimate understanding of God.
God was never so real to me as when my family endured a different kind of child loss.
“Do you know what this feels like?” I asked God angrily. Impatiently.
Our family was getting ready to say good-bye to our foster baby whom we had raised for the past year and a half. And I’d had my fifth pregnancy loss just four months before. The losses kept piling up, and I was helpless to stop them. I was afraid he wouldn’t be safe. Devastated. Angry. Despairing.
I never heard God’s voice in answer to my question. Not audibly anyway.
But I felt it in my heart.
At this point, it didn’t matter that I’d heard the story of God’s son dying on the cross a million times. What mattered was that God knew my pain intimately because the pain of child loss was also his. I wrote these words on the following Good Friday, months after our foster son had left, as I reflected on God’s bereavement:
While it was the Son who died, it was the Father who looked on, no doubt wishing he could change places with his Son.
While the Son felt every physical pain, the Father felt the deepest pain of separation and loss—a feeling he, no doubt, had never experienced to that extent before. Especially when he turned away.
“What keeps me coming back is that God understands my pain.”
While the Son rose after three days, the Father took on the role of a bereaved parent and will forever know what it feels like to lose a child.
While Good Friday used to only point me to the Son, the beautiful sacrifice so we could know the Father—I now look at Good Friday as the day the Father made the even greater sacrifice—letting go of his one and only Son.
On this Good Friday, I remember not only the death of the Son but the bereavement of the Father. Not only did the Son share in our weakness, but the Father shared in our grief.
There is still so much I don’t understand about God or faith. When my friends suffer devastating loss, when senseless tragedies occur, my heart always questions why God allows such pain to exist in the world.
What keeps me coming back is that God understands my pain.
And on my darkest days—the days when I can’t see hope, or light, or goodness—I can go to him and tell him about all I’m feeling. And he knows. Because he’s been there too.
He sits in my brokenness with me, as only another bereaved parent can.
Rachel Lewis is a foster, adoptive, and birth mom. After a five-year battle with secondary infertility and the losses of five babies during pregnancy, she now has three children in her arms and a foster son in her heart. When she’s not chauffeuring her kids around, you can find her drinking far too much coffee, eating gluten-free treats, and writing about grief and healing on her blog, The Lewis Note, or on her Facebook support group, Brave Mamas.
Find further wisdom from Rachel Lewis in her book, Unexpecting: Real Talk on Pregnancy Loss.
Rachel Lewis is the friend you never knew you’d need, walking you through the unique grief of baby loss. When nothing about life after loss makes sense . . . this book will. Purchase Unexpecting here.
[ Our humble thanks to Baker Publishing for their partnership in today’s devotion ]