If you are hurting and you follow Jesus

if you arehurting &you love jesus-2Have you ever had one of those seasons when you are overwhelmed at the hurt and loss around you? More pointedly—at the daggers of pain that seem aimed at your own heart—the kind of pain that slices a person in two and leaves you gasping for air?

In the last three weeks my husband and I have felt this pain so intensely, so cutting, that we have taken turns with the tears and uttering words of anguish and anger. They are not directed at each other, but at the sheer horror we feel. I have wanted to pinch myself. Is this for real?

We haven't wished to pull everyone into our pain, for we know others have pain of their own. But we have experienced another adoption loss. An adoption we didn't seek, didn't initiate and in fact very carefully stepped back from, allowing it to unfold purely on the birth mother's initiative. This was the only way we would even consider it, I had said last year, if someone we knew asked us to adopt their child

We were stunned and hesitant when that very thing happened. And over a period of five months of joining in this pregnancy, the ultrasounds and so many other moments that happen pre-birth in an open adoption,  we began to feel it: joy, hope, anticipation, some promises we began to believe, a feeling that God was restoring the years that the locust had eaten, and any number of things people who believe in resurrection and redemption hope to feel once again. We have cared deeply not only for the baby but for her beautiful and determined birth mother.

Oh, and let me be honest, it doesn't matter who you are: I believe those who don't actively believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ still long for wrongs and pain to be made right, to be healed. For rebirth and renewal.

Oh, we are suckers for a story where hope springs forth where there was searing pain and disappointment.

Now, one might think that in our case our anger would be directed at the situation and the people involved. And we have had some of these feelings, surely. We are human and we have been hurt. (Though in the same breath we acknowledge everyone involved bears their own pain and loss in life.)

But there is a deeper and much more complex reality for us: we have been angry at God.

We have been shake-our-fist angry, cry-out-to-the-heavens hopeless, pounding-on-the-bed and asking, Lord, what in the world?? We understood that you loved us. And we asked that you never take us anywhere near a situation like this again. We have already sustained adoption loss and infertility and numerous other obstacles and losses, piled atop one another like unfortunate bricks bearing down on us, and we just couldn't do this. You knew that, didn't you??

Oh, we have been angry, and in our anger, I do not believe that we have sinned.

We are tempted to turn away from our heavenly Father, but we are like the apostle Peter in John 6, when Jesus says: "You do not want to go away also, do you?" And Peter blurts: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

We may feel harassed and helpless, but we still have a Great Shepherd, and with a a bit of a shake to my voice, with guests around our table yesterday, I prayed: "Father, You are our Shepherd, and because of this, we know that somehow we lack nothing..."

To whom else would we go?

If I may be honest for a moment, our anger could easily become sin if we dwelled on these responses to our pain and loss:

  • "God has a reason for everything. You just have to trust him!"
  • "You can try again. I was just talking to someone who adopted."

Sometimes we are lying on the ground, suddenly and in some ways irreversibly wounded in some way, and the rest of the world continues to go on around us. And here is what we need in those moments. We don't need platitudes or verses. In case you were wondering, we don't believe that God caused this to happen. No.

I'm not sure how we'd survive if that was all the hope we had. 

We believe that our world is broken, and that in that brokenness, bad things, inexplicable things, happen all around us and to us and that we ourselves inflict pain upon others. A friend reminded us last night that God will bring purpose to our lives BUT THIS WAS NOT HIS PLAN.

Do you know how much healing was contained in that one sentence?

Especially because it came from the computer of a man with cerebral palsy, as he typed into his assistive technology device with his feet. His wife, using what I believe to be her spiritual gift of sarcasm, said: Yes, I see where you are at. You know, we've been told God planned for my husband to be disabled his entire life....riiiiiight. She started rattling off all the horrible things people say, You will grow through this... And I couldn't help it. I just started laughing.

It was the absurdity, the "lack" in these comments, that grounded me in reality. Grief and anger are appropriate responses to searing loss. God made us spirit and body and mind all wrapped up into one, not into two or three parts, and so we experience emotion all the way down to the marrow. Paradoxically, I'm actually thankful for this. I am so glad we are not mere robots.

So please, if you are hurting and you follow Jesus, follow the trail of your grief. I believe that Jesus wants nothing more than to be gentle with you and me, his children, during heart-wrenching times.

Follow this hard trail with us while we search together for cracks of light, will you? Keep your eyes peeled for spirit-openings that illuminate hope in the life of another, for remembrances of all of the good, good things our heavenly Father has provided for us in the past. There is comfort in knowing that even when I have little appetite for the food in front of me it has still been provided for my good and for my nourishment—and that someday it will taste good again. I mean this both physically and spiritually.

You and I, we will again taste and see that the Lord is good. He will restore our souls. And it just might start by acknowledging that the Lord will bring purpose to our lives but that this pain is not his plan

(If you have been blessing us with cards or your presence, we want you to know we feel your love. Thank you for showing up.)

Your turn: What hurt or loss has cut you to the quick? How are you processing the pain, both physically and spiritually?

If you are without children this Christmas

Once while calling to schedule an adoption physical, the nurse said, "Oh, when are you adopting?" I said, "Well, actually we don't know that we'll ever adopt. We're just calling to schedule a physical for an adoption application."

"Well, I sure hope you do. Because children are what makes the world go round!"

***

I will never forget her words or the emotions that shot through my veins. Because in my blurry brain, they meant this: Your life will certainly not be complete without children. That better work out for you. Otherwise, life is basically hopeless. One might even say, worthless. 

Emotions are funny things, I tell you, because despite my theology informing me that it is actually the Triune God who makes the world go round, I tend to believe the world instead. Left unaided, I tend to believe the lie that I will never be happy or fulfilled without children of my own.

***

The day before Thanksgiving, we found out an adoption opportunity that was beginning to appear so hopeful would not happen. It was horrible timing; I can't imagine it being worse unless they had actually called us on Thanksgiving Day or something while we were sitting down to a turkey dinner. We were on my way to my sister's house to help with prep for the big day. And I think the wisest thing to do would have been to go home and sit on the couch and cry for the evening, then to venture out on Thanksgiving morning again. But, clearly, we weren't thinking straight. So we soldiered on.

My body did this strange thing, too: I had a wool scarf on for all of 15-20 minutes, and I broke out in a red welt on my neck that began to grow, red, throbbing, absorbing. It was as if the adrenaline in my body that had been building for 2 1/2 months came in for a crash landing, and my body cried out in confusion. It took the steroids five days to calm the allergic reaction down.

Body, soul, and spirit, all felt like a tumbled mess. And no one knew what to do or to say. Lament. Grieve, mourn and wail. Cry out to Abba. Even when it is impossible to think clearly, to even sort through the mess, he is somehow here.

***

Hope binds itself around the heart like barbed wire. It hurts to hope and it hurts not to hope. -Cindy, blog commenter, on "How this barren woman says thank you"

  • If you are single and hoping for a spouse and children, then a married person who has no kids may not seem so sad to you. You may be hoping for just a warm touch, just the reassurance and comfort of the presence of another. This was how I lived most of my adult life. Double grief can be hard to bear. I am so sorry.
  • If you are married and you have been through umpteen failed cycles, or your adoption dreams just never came true, and you long for a child of your own, I am sorry for the endless hoping and hopes dashed. The emotional whiplash you have endured is real and raw.
  • If you are a parent but your kids are separated from you this Christmas, my heart pounds for you. This is a hard thing, one I wish you did not have to bear.

Let's skip the tired cliches and the "Well, there's always next year!" comments. Let's be real here, if only for a few sacred moments.

I do not know that you will ever be married or have the children you desire, or that you will spend next Christmas with your kiddos. I will not give you false hope. I've endured so much myself that I can only tolerate the real deal.

And here is what Jesus has been speaking to me, here is why I haven't yet given up on hope:

Dear child,

In this life, you will experience many deaths. You will participate in my suffering; you will taste of the cup I bore for you.

Gratefully, the cross was not the final word. The tomb is empty. And I know you already received this memo: but I am Risen! I have conquered death. What I said is true: behold, I am making all things new! Resurrection is possible; I proved this once and I am proving it again each day.

These are your spiritual guarantees, the promises you must put your weight upon. But let me be clear: all of this great news does not mean your dreams here will be fulfilled. Some marry young, some never marry, some die of starvation when these things should not be so! Some have ten children with no means to care for them, some lose children growing in their wombs, some never have children to call their own.

So don't believe those who tell you that they are believing God to give you all the things you've ever wanted, that he will come through for you! He has already come through for you. He is working in and through your sorrow to create beautiful, abundant life. This pruning is for your good.

And, behold, I am doing a new thing—haven't you noticed? My inbreaking kingdom means new life and Resurrection is occurring constantly. But my ways of working are not based only on your pleas and your desires: they are based on my knowledge, my love, for your good and the good of my kingdom.

So while the desire for a child is good and holy, don't miss the new things I'm up to by clinging to a dream that may or may not happen for you. Open up your eyes again, tilt your chin up toward me, let me go about loving you in the ways I long to. 

No matter the loss or heartache, redemption is happening. Right here, in the pain. Have you forgotten the one thing I was hoping you would never forget? I will never leave your nor forsake you. I specialize in bringing hope in the most barren places. As you experience deaths and difficulties of all kinds, I am waiting to bring you new life. All this is yours if you remain in me.

With great affection,

Your Abba

What difficult struggle do you face this Christmas? Do you feel it is possible to find Resurrection even in this hard thing? Why or why not?