The thing about pain

The thing about pain is, it hangs over you. You carry it with you wherever you go. Sometimes it’s right out front. You can’t get out of bed. You can’t talk about anything else. You can’t think about anything else. Nothing can make you smile. You cry without extra cause. It’s just swelling over you and out of you and consuming you, no matter how hard you try (if you can try at all).

And sometimes it’s standing in the background. The awkward guest at a party — everyone sees him standing off to the side, not really doing much, but definitely there. At any silence in the conversation, at some little moment without warning, he shouts something. “Oh, right,” you think, “You’re still here.”

ps147Grief is like that. That permanent loss leaves a permanent pain that just always sort of hangs there. In the beginning everyone sees it, everyone mentions it, everyone tries to help carry it. But later it’s just yours. Sometimes you sort of overlook it — this picture on the wall that’s been there for years that you sometimes don’t even notice is part of the decor anymore. Sometimes it jumps out at you and you realize there was a lion just standing in the corner the whole time, and you kept walking past it. Sometimes it’s so heavy,  but you pretend you’re ignoring it because you don’t want to keep bothering everyone. But it’s heavy and it’s big and it’s weighing you down, and it won’t go away.
And you don’t know the solution. That’s the true worst part. Nothing will really fix it. “Is there anything I can do for you?” People ask. You have no idea. I just want you to know. I just want you to remember a few years from now that I have this weight. I just want you to carry this with me when it’s just there and there’s nothing to be “done”.

And the thing about pain is, until you’ve had your own, you don’t know what this feels like. Why is she still stuck on that? You think. That was years ago. It’s over now. She should be moving on by now. And, maybe worst of all, This isn’t that big of a deal. And then you get your own pain, and you grieve for how unsympathetic you were. You know of others with pain and you just want to walk up and say, “I know you’re dying inside right now! I know this is killing you. I know about the pain. I know.” 

The thing about Christ is, He always knew. He knew about the guy in the corner. He knew about the lion. He knew about the weight. He knew when no one else knew. He cared before anyone else could, and cared when no one did anymore. When you were wondering How can I bear this alone? How will I bear this at all? What will carry me through this? The answer was Christ. The solution when there are no solutions, is to take comfort and peace in Christ, and take it up again every day after.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” -Psalm 34:18

Michelle Duggar on the loss of her baby

I’m not sure if this will be encouraging to any of you, but I decided to share it just in case. She talks about how she handled grief when she lost her 20th child, among other things related to that. I know sometimes it can be a blessing to hear someone in a similar situation discuss it. Let me know your thoughts!

If Elisabeth Elliot were writing this blog…

Wise words from a wise woman.
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He will tear it away

I’m currently caught up in a fascinating book called Lives of the Three Mrs. Judsons, which chronicles the lives and ministries of Adoniram Judson‘s three wives (who were his wives in succession, not the same time, of course… they each passed away in turn).  Tonight I’m reading more of the story of his first wife Ann, who had the hard role of being the wife in the very start of his rough ministry to Burma. This book, which largely consists of many of her letters and journal entries, profoundly speaks to my heart as I have lived through and am living through so much that is like what they have experienced. It’s a very specific sort of life, and so touching when we find the rare occasion of having someone else understand it.

Well in tonight’s reading, Mrs. Judson had her first baby, a boy, who then died when he was eight months old. At that time they were totally alone on the field, and they struggled a lot to find daily joy. They had found much delight in their baby Roger.

In relating to their struggles, and rejoicing when they had a baby, it broke my heart to read of his passing (though I’ve heard their general story before, and know Mr. Judson eventually lost several children in his life). But more than anything, it touched my heart to read the words she wrote at the height of her grief, in a letter to her parents informing them of the loss. What a perfect perspective.

“But God has taught us by affliction what we would not learn by mercies — that our hearts are His exclusive property, and whatever rival intrudes, He will tear it away.”

What depth in such a time of raw emotion! What spiritual maturity!

Here are a couple other meaningful quotes from her in that time of trial and mourning:

“Our hearts were bound up in this child; we felt he was our earthly all, our only source of innocent recreation in this heathen land. But God saw it was necessary to remind us of our error and strip us of our little all. Oh may it not be in vain that He has done it. May we so improve it that He will stay His hand and say, ‘It is enough.'”

When speaking of all the nights of joy their son brought them, she concludes,

“Yet this is denied us, this must be removed, to show us that we need no other source of enjoyment but God Himself.”

Her spiritual depth really leaves me speechless, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Book Recommendation – “I Will Carry You” (Miscarriage, Child loss and Stillbirth)

Out of nowhere this book popped into my head this evening and I knew it was perfect for this blog. I haven’t read it, but I have had two different sets of friends recommend it. One couple experienced just about the same story as the couple in this book — they found out at their 5-month ultrasound that their baby had a chromosomal issue that made him “incompatible with life” (cringe, I know — those are the doctors’ words, not mine). She carried full-term, against an abortion recommendation, and he passed away while she was in labor. Later they sent out an e-mail to all of their prayer supporters and mentioned how this book was really encouraging and helpful to them while preparing for that loss.

angiesmithIt stood out to me because we are friends with another couple who has lost two children. One passed away in a car accident as a 9-month-old baby, and after having another healthy child she was pregnant a third time with a baby who passed away in her 8th month for unknown reasons. She delivered soon after. Later she also recommended this book to people in similar circumstances.

So, you may want to read it if you are facing or have faced something similar, or even if you are just struggling with infertility in general but may find comfort or encouragement in her words regarding grief and loss (I was touched by a woman who spoke at my church’s infertility conference on the grief of infertility, as it is at least loss of a dream and a hope, if not more).

It’s called I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy by Angie Smith. She is the wife of the lead singer of the band Selah. They produced the song below about the loss of their daughter. Below that, I am including a video of the couple sharing their story.

The Sweetness of Sorrow

I know I keep mentioning this book, but that’s only because it’s amazing and ya’ll have to read it. I am still in Tim Keller’s Walking with God through Pain and Suffering and highlighting like every word.

At the end of each chapter he includes a testimony — a true story, relative to the chapter’s point, as told by someone who walked a certain trial. It’s a touching end to each message. I just finished one about a man who has ALS and his wife, and the awful trial it has been for them. I read the final quote by her and ran over to post about it, it is just so perfect!

ps119Just the other day my husband and I were at lunch with one of his closest friends and his wife. As we shared with them about our long, painful trial with infertility, we started testifying of how sweet this time has been, as strange as that sounds. We praised the Lord before them for how much this has grown our marriage, sanctified us, and brought us closer to Christ every day. We actually ended by wishing for them that they would be so blessed as to have a trial soon as well. I know that’s a weird thing to say, but I’ve learned (and scripture supports it) that there is probably no better way to grow in Christ and closer to the Father. As much as this trial breaks my heart and aches our spirits, I am so grateful for what it has done in our lives.

I was blessed to hear this woman echo my thoughts:

“We have found meaning, purpose, joy, growth, and wholeness in our loss. How much I would have missed if I had opted out of this season. God has had so much to give me in the midst of it. I see how intense sorrow and intense sweetness are mingled together. The depth and richness of life has come in suffering. How much I have learned and how much sweeter Jesus is to me now.”

If you don’t believe me or her, maybe Peter’s inspired words will convince you:

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Click to enlarge.