Yesterday, we received news that one our daughters had miscarried the two embryos that had been implanted in her womb just a few weeks earlier. We were and still are devastated. Our joy upon learning of her pregnancy was quickly turned to sorrow, mixed with confusion and despair. We cried alongside our precious daughter and her husband as they faced yet another setback in their ongoing dream of having a child. God has blessed them with a sweet little girl, who they were able to adopt just over two years ago. She is a gracious and loving gift from God. But the ache remains and the questions linger. Why is it that my daughter, who longs to experience the joys of child birth, cannot get pregnant? What could possibly be the purpose behind God’s withholding of this most precious gift and privilege? I am a pastor. I know what the Bible says. I am familiar with what it states about the goodness of God. I am fully aware of the verses that speak of God’s sovereignty and providence. I believe God is good. I believe He is loving. But belief is often rocked by the circumstances of life. What we say we believe about God is often exposed for what it is by the unexpected and unwanted trials of life. A belief that is not tested by the trials of life remains unproven and, for all intents and purposes, unreliable.
As we sat with our daughter and son-in-law in their dimly lit living room, illuminated only by the lights of their Christmas tree, it was difficult to feel the joys of the season. Yes, I am excited about celebrating the birth of the Son of God. I am grateful for the gift of salvation made possible by the incarnation. But at that moment, I was overwhelmed by a sense of loss. We had just had the most precious Christmas gift we could have ever imagined taken from us. And while we have a another daughter and daughter-in-law who are both pregnant and will be celebrating the joy of new life within them, we will also be mourning because of our indescribable loss.
At moments like this, I am reminded that we live in a fallen world where sin has impacted and infected everything. The pain my daughter and son-in-law are feeling is not normal. It was not meant to be. But it is here none-the-less. It is a real and ever-present reality in the lives of all who call this planet home. We can’t escape it. We can’t avoid it. And our salvation does not make us immune to it. Believers suffer loss. They experience pain and have to wrestle with the seeming incongruity of a God who loves us, but who also allows suffering and loss to enter our lives. Those times leave us crying out like David, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest” (Psalm 22:1-2 ESV). Like the psalmist, we ask, “O Lord, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I am in trouble?” (Psalm 10:1 NLT).
I know God is there. I know He cares. Like David, I know truth about God. “The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed” (Psalm 34:17-18 NLT). But there are those times when God feels distant, when His love feels weak and the comfort of His arms seems non-existent. To say otherwise would be a lie. It would be dishonest and unrealistic. So, at this moment, I am content to be sad and to rest in the fact that my God still loves me. My sadness is not a sign of faithlessness. It is an expression of my broken heart. My spirit is crushed. And my wife, daughter and son-in-law feel the same way – rightfully so. Our tears are real. Our hurt and pain is palpable. God does not demand that we get over it. He does not require that we gut it up and put smiles on our faces. David reminds us that God is close to the brokenhearted, which means He is with us in the midst of our heartache. He rescues those whose spirits are crushed. He doesn’t tell us to get over our sorrow and get on with life. No, He meets us right where we are. He allows us to grieve. He gives us permission to cry and even question. He doesn’t scold us or accuse us of lacking faith. No, God gives us time. He extends us grace. He showers us with His mercy and love. And He reminds us, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5 ESV).
There will be a morning that follows our mourning. And God determines when that will be. David isn’t telling us we have 24 hours to get over of grief. He is simply reminding us that God is faithful to show up in those times when we are down. He will once again manifest His love to us even in those moments when we doubt His love for us. What we need is not another Scripture quoted out of context, but time. And God has all the time in the world. He is patient and loving, and more than willing to allow us the time we need to mourn. He weeps with us. He suffers alongside of us. And when the time is right, He will restore joy to us.