and provide for those who grieve in Zion--
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
At the Oasis Retreat and throughout the past several months, we have been studying and reflecting on this verse. It’s full of promise. The promise of God’s redemption. He takes hard things and transforms them. He takes a heap of ashes – life’s disappointments, loss, hardship, sadness, even tragedy – and He exchanges all of that for beauty. How does He do that?
Here’s a little of my story. It goes back many years.
I had just found out I was pregnant. My husband and I were thrilled. A few weeks into the pregnancy, at a regular checkup, we rejoiced when we found out that there was not one but two babies. Oh my gosh…twins. How exciting!
Though there was of course mention that a twin pregnancy put us at higher risk to have to deliver prematurely, my pregnancy was progressing beautifully. Every couple of weeks, we’d go to our caregiver and get a good report. The babies appeared healthy and were growing well. I felt great. So great in fact that I was taking a pregnancy exercise class a couple of times a week during my lunch hour.
One day, when I was about five months pregnant, I noticed a little spotting. I felt fine, but I wanted to be careful, so I called my midwife. I anticipated her telling me to keep watch, but that everything was probably fine. Instead, she sounded more than a little concerned and told me to get to her office as soon as possible. I went from calm to hysterical in a matter of moments.
Within an hour, my husband and I were on our way to the midwife’s office. And within minutes of that we were speeding to the hospital. The news was not good. I was in labor, regularly contracting, though I felt no cramps. I was put on medication to stop the progression of labor. So far the babies were okay. In the middle of the night, however, my water broke, and my babies were born, too soon to be able to survive outside of the womb.
I was devastated, depressed, mad at God.
When you tell people you’re pregnant with twins, it’s as though the whole world celebrates. “Twins! Twice blessed.” I constantly heard things like, “Wow, twins! How special…you must be so excited.” I felt set up for the best gift, more than we could’ve asked or imagined, only to be disappointed with the worst loss I could imagine. Why would God allow this? What good could come of this? What had I done wrong? If God was good, how could He let me suffer so? The questions were endless for some time.
I had never questioned God before. And I wasn’t comfortable questioning Him. I remember staying with my father and his wife Jane for a week or so after my loss so I wouldn’t have to be alone when my husband went back to work. Jane was a tremendously faithful woman, full of love and grace. She opened a door for me to be more honest with God when she said to me, “It’s okay to be angry with God. He can handle it.” Those were words I had never heard before. I loved God, but He was beyond my reach. High and mighty. And I didn’t ever want to disrespect Him. But I trusted Jane, and so I poured my heart out to God. I expressed my anger, my pain, my disappointment.
And a strange thing happened. In the aftermath of losing my two little girls, I drew closer to God. I came to the end of myself – my answers, my solutions, my understanding. And that end of me led straight to the beginning of a deeper more personal relationship with God. I spoke to Him all the time. He was in my thoughts and in my heart. I could sense His nearness, sense His love. Somehow, in the middle of all that pain, I came to know God in a way I never had before. He became very real to me and I felt Him so very close to me. In the midst of my pain, I felt He was right there with me. He was walking with me. He was my comforter, my companion in the very singular, lonely walk of grief.
When we experience such deep lost, it’s easy to feel you are totally alone. That no one can understand the depths of your grief. And after a while, others, even the most dedicated friends and family members, get on with their own lives while you’re still walking in loss and pain. During this time, I learned the reality of God never leaving us or forsaking us.
Psalm 18:6 says, He reached down from heaven and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. And that’s exactly how I felt. He was my lifeline, my lifesaver, my Father and friend who never left me.
I lost those precious twins, and I found God.
I don’t know if I would’ve found Him any other way. I don’t know if that “had to happen” in order for me to draw near to God. I don’t have answers to so many questions. There are great mysteries. But I do know this, my ashes of despair and grief over my twins were transformed into and exchanged for the overwhelming beauty of walking my life journey with God. My mourning was turned into joy in the Lord. My despair was replaced with praising a very real God. And His presence in my life, His redemption, my testimony of His faithfulness during one of the darkest times in my life is a display of His splendor.
Questions for Discussion
Her Life Speaks is all about Her testimony, Her life, and who God is in Her story. Here we write our stories in hopes of helping other women find their relationship with Jesus Christ.