I was still in my teens when a doctor told me that there was a “strong chance” that I would never bear a child. Nineteen and still invincible.
I made grandiose plans to suffer through this trial with dignity.
It worked well for a while. That is, it worked until it didn’t. And then I was left in a shattered mess of destroyed dreams, dignity in shreds. I still remember crying in the milk house, with the milking units running through the wash cycle to cover my tears. “What are you doing to me, God?”
That was after the first positive pregnancy test and then the night sitting in the bathroom with blood on my hands.
I know now, with years behind me, that what God was doing was the beautiful, painful, refining work of teaching me to suffer well.
In becoming more like Christ, we will be required to walk this path. Not to use our strength fighting to avoid suffering—but to journey through it, even as we pray for relief. It’s Jesus in the garden, sweating blood, but then accepting the kiss of suffering and walking the road to Calvary.
He suffered well.
And He says, “Follow me.”
When the next trials came and we said goodbye to more babies and more dreamed-of-babies and even a little dark-skinned girl whom we hoped to call our own, I slowly came to understand.
In my flesh, all I could say was, “This is happening because God doesn’t care.” But in my spirit, the slowly-changing part of me, I began to see God’s hand etching out truth into my being.
He was there. Whispering comfort as I wiped up all that blood with burning eyes that refused to cry. Drying my tears that day in the milk house when everything broke inside me. Walking right with me, even as I railed at Him and blamed Him and begged Him.
And He never failed me.
Oh, He didn’t give me what I wanted. And I suppose He could have snapped His finger and put a baby in my arms—but that wouldn’t have really been what I needed. If He had done that, I wouldn’t have ever learned that I could suffer well. Instead I would have been back to square one with another desire taking the place of my baby-hunger.
But even through the babies-that-never-came and the daughter-who-didn’t-stay, God never changed. He was right there. And He was good to me.
He was so, so good to me.
And here we find the very deepest truth.
For it is the stability of knowing that our God is trustworthy that makes it possible for us to suffer well. And it is only through trials that this truth can settle deep. Until we walk through hardship, everything is a theory.
Through this wandering passage into motherhood, God has been faithful. Even when I was faithless, He remained faithful to me because He cannot deny Himself. (II Tim. 2:13) And I found grace abundant when I came to His feet in desperation. He poured love and compassion into me—Him, the only one who had the right to condemn me for my faithless heart—He is the One who spoke grace.
And I needed to know this lesson. Because I am now a mother to two broken children who have a scattered and empty idea of family and a skewed perception of love and soul wounds so deep and personal—and they need to know they can trust God. They need to learn to see Him working through the worst trials.
But unless I had journeyed this road and sat with blood on my hands and brokenness and loss filling my life—all I would have to offer them is a theory.
I thank God for teaching me that I can suffer well. I thank God for teaching me that He is faithful in the midst of trials. For teaching me to trust when everything has been ripped from my grasp. For teaching me that I can know Him and the power of His resurrection, even as I share in the fellowship of His suffering. (Philippians 3:10)
Because now I can look my children right in the eye and say, “I’ve lost family too. I’ve been hurt and broken and scared. I’ve wondered if God is there—and He is. I can tell you that He is both behind you and before you. He is family that will never leave you and He is love that will always surround you and He is faithful. Always.”
My deepest prayer is that they too, will learn to suffer well as they walk through life from within the circle of His arms.
And you, friend? I pray the same for you.