The Lord is My Rock
by Ervina Yoder
My labor began late in the evening of the first day of spring. Nine long months of pregnancy, many of them bed-ridden with acute morning sickness, had finally turned into the countdown we’d been waiting for. I was one week overdue. My husband was so excited to be a daddy; I was so excited to meet the cherished little person who had been forming inside my body for nearly a year, and our families were excitedly waiting by their phones for the announcement. After being awake all night with contractions, the sun finally rose on Friday, March 21. We put the finishing touches on our hospital bags, took a long walk, and headed for our midwife’s office.
The contractions were five minutes apart when we found out our baby no longer had a heartbeat.
I gave birth one day and the next I watched my husband shovel dirt onto a tiny grave. I went from the heights of expecting a perfectly healthy baby to the depths of shock, grief, and the unimaginable pain of never seeing my firstborn son take a breath.
I cannot describe the sorrow but I can describe the faithfulness of God in the midst of it. From the moment the ultrasound confirmed the silent heart and the doctor’s words of “your baby’s not alive”, a grace and peace were poured into my husband and me that is unexplainable apart from Jesus Christ. We would need this supernatural strength in the days and weeks and months to come. The scriptures I had meditated on, read aloud over my baby in my womb, and taped up in various places around my home to prepare for labor and delivery became alive and precious like never before. God had done so much in preparing my heart, removing my fears for childbirth, and strengthening me with His promises. Although the outcome turned out to be completely different than I ever dreamed, His Word never lied and His promises never failed.
In Psalm 16:8, David talks about setting the Lord always before him and “because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Thousands of years later, I’m learning the same thing holds true if I build my life around Jesus.
But there are other scriptures more challenging: “As for God, His way is perfect.” (2 Samuel 22:31) Do I believe that - truly believe it - with a full-term pregnancy and a labor that turned into a mommy and daddy-to-be’s worst nightmare? No mistakes, no accidents, nothing outside of His control? I don’t believe the Lord took our son’s life - that is against His very nature and character - but I do believe He allowed it to be taken for reasons not yet known (and which may never be fully known) on this earth, except that He will work it for our good and for the honor of His Name. I believe that, because this is Who I know Him to be. Because I couldn’t survive such pain if I didn’t. Because His Word is consistent. Because He is the Hope that anchors my soul. Because the way before me is not unwalked; Jesus was a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief. If He bore the weight of sin and endured the cross so grace would triumph; if God can turn the anguish of the cross into the place of love’s greatest accomplishment; how much more can He use any moment in our lives - including this one - for His glory and the good of His people? I think Charles Spurgeon sums it up beautifully: “Believing that God rules all, that He governs wisely, that He brings good out of evil, the believer’s heart is assured, and he is enabled calmly to meet each trial as it comes.” God’s sovereignty is the greatest source of our peace; it’s what sustains us, puts our unanswered questions to rest, leans the weight of all our happiness on Him, and fills us with the hope of heaven.
Life for my husband and me has changed completely. What I thought I’d be doing isn’t happening. I miss my son terribly and reminders of our life without him are everywhere. The nursery we spent hours preparing is empty. The adorable baby clothes I bought at Goodwill and washed and folded never clothed our child. Each tiny little pamper is still fresh and clean. We removed the carseat from our back seat and gave the borrowed bassinet back to our friends. I go grocery shopping and no one knows I’m a mommy. Accepting such an enormous change is agonizingly difficult.
I have wondered what kind of purpose remains, if any. I replay the details of my pregnancy, my overdue labor, my delivery. I read the Psalms, over and over. I pray not to get lost in my grief but for Jesus to guide me through it. “The greatest good suffering can do for me,” Joni Erickson Tada said, “is to increase my capacity for God.” My desperate need for God and my daily dependance on His grace to sustain me and be my Rock has grown and deepened in incredible ways since we gave our baby back to God. I never wanted to be a woman who understands heartbreak at such a deep level. I never wanted to give my child back so soon to the One Who formed him within my body. I never wanted to be acquainted with this kind of intense sorrow. But there is no greater richness than to have life fall apart and still be unshaken because of a foundation of knowing Who God is. To have no other Hope but Jesus; to have only His truth and His promises sustain me has given me an assurance of His presence that is precious beyond words. In the agonizing grief of these last months, I have learned to lean all the weight of my soul on the Lord because He is the only solid rock I have, and have found Him to be so near, so faithful, so sufficient, so redeeming.
I’m realizing just how much of a shadow life on this earth is compared to the glorious reality of eternity. I’m also realizing – slowly – that just because I have suffered great loss and just because I mourn so deeply does not mean life has been stripped of purpose. The truth is Jesus is my life. And because He lives, for me to live is not motherhood; it’s not being a wife; it’s not being a woman known for ministry or hospitality, although all of those things are good and honorable. For me to live is simply Christ. He is how I survive pain that should strip a person down to their natural response of anger, bitterness and depression. Christ is Who I wake up for in the morning, how I make it through the day, and why I can rest peacefully at night.
Trials and pain are why this earth groans for the return of the Lord and I groan with it. And the question for us as believers is how do we live in pain, in loss, in heartbreak, in unbearable sorrow? How do we steady our hearts - not just survive - in a fallen world? How do we seek God’s face, His purposes, and His joy so that He is glorified through our earthly bodies? We search the scriptures to know the character and person of God. We ask Him to reveal Himself in our lives. We build a foundation of truth instead of allowing emotions and circumstances to dictate and dominate our theology. We understand everything the world offers as coping mechanisms and quick escapes from pain is only sinking sand and instead we stand on Christ the Solid Rock. We carry our burdens to Him and allow our broken, humble lives to showcase to the world how good and faithful and trustworthy our God is.