Clinging To Hope: Why I’m Celebrating Life After a Miscarriage

On a bookshelf in my bedroom is the only known photograph of my daughter, Ainsley. She was only 8 weeks old when our doctor uttered the dreadful words, “I’m sorry, there is no heartbeat”. The black and white sonogram picture serves as a daily reminder of her brief, yet wondrous life. Cherishing that sonogram is the least we can do to remember and celebrate. Though I never even met her, she is due every bit of respect and dignity appropriated with a bearing the Imago Deo. She is equally as human as you and I; I love her and miss her.

A little over 5 years after her death, the heartache and grieving that accompanies a miscarriage is prowling over us again. A few days ago, we lost another child.

Death may be the most honest adumbration that there is more to life than meets the naked eye.  I can think of little else that feels more unnatural than losing a child prematurely. As eternal beings, we are bound with a purpose only fulfilled within the halls of eternal glory. We’re carefully crafted to be worshipers and image bearers of the only living God. Yet, sin ravages our world. Death is certain. It’s only in Christ and with the hope of the resurrection that we find comfort is such times.

Without the hope of the resurrection, I honestly don’t understand how one can bear the weight of such a terrible event. The promise of a future resurrection reminds us that death is not the end. I’ll borrow a line from one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Andrew Peterson. For a Christian experiencing the pains of this fallen world, “the aching may remain, but the breaking does not.”

I often wonder where atheistic parents look to for hope and meaning in a miscarriage? Can they press into their cosmic, evolutionary ideologies for guidance? The earthly sciences offer no answers, advice, or comfort for despairing parents. The universe is dark and empty; tears of mourning will only be met with entropy and silence.

It’s worth saying again: in Christ we have hope.

Our recent mourning inspires me to reflect upon miscarriages within the Christian worldview. Considering our unique eternal perspective, how should believers respond in such trials?

Grieve with Those Who Grieve

First, we need to hit the pause button on offering grand theological elucidations. While our minds may want to ponder cosmic, sovereign implications and explanations, we need to first remember to “weep with those who weep”as Paul commanded us. In other words, grieve – but don’t do it alone. Let friends, family, and your church community weep with you. In perfect design, the Christian community is a single body and to be a place of healing.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

It is the unity between Christ and His church that ensures we should not suffer a miscarriage alone. As horrific as the loss of a child is, Jesus can sympathize. He suffered grief and tasted death so that He could offer true help in times of great mourning. Amazingly, He has felt exactly what you are feeling. He sympathizes with us spiritually, and brings encouragement by way of the local church. Press into Him and your church.

As a husband, I have a unique responsibility to care for my wife. I must make sure I am sacrificially available for her in this trial. As Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so am I to do for my bride. As hard as this is on me, it is certainly harder on her. Very recently, this beautiful child was part of her body. They shared blood and life-giving resources. A child and a mother unite in such a way that husbands (and men in general) will never rightly understand. Husbands (I am speaking to myself as much as anyone), hold fast to your wives in such times. Even if you struggle to find words that bring comfort, being present to share this burden goes a long way.

Celebrate the Life

This is one of the reasons we keep the picture of our Ainsley. From the moment of conception, there is an authentic human life. Regardless of age or stage of development, an eternal soul is created in the flesh. This life is worthy to be celebrated and remembered.

For some this may be done with a funeral, and for others it might be more appropriate to keep an item as a visual reminder. With our most recent loss, my wife I plan to plant a tree in our child’s memory. The point is, we should do something that causes us to think of their lives often and thank God for them. How wonderful will that day be when our tears are wiped away and we meet them again?

 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Remember God’s Love and Purpose

Often, it is in times of great sadness that the foundation of our theology is tested. Is your house built upon sand or upon the Rock? Our God is sovereign and remains in control over life and death. The loss of a child may cause of to ask “why” and doubt that God loves us, but take heart, dear Christian. Your greatest need is met in Jesus Christ. The cross is the perfect reminder that God loves us. He sent His son to bear our iniquities. He is infinitely good and worthy of our praise. We must trust that it is God who controls all things, for our good.

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32

Finally, let us turn 2 Kings 4 for some insight. Here we find the story of a woman who loses a child. After falling ill, her son goes to his mother for aid. Thinking the child just needed some rest, she sends him to bed, but the sickness proved fatal (verse 20). Despite “bitter despair”, she has an unshaken faith that her child will be raised to life again. She completely trusts in God’s goodness and purpose, so much so that when she is asked, “is it well with the child?” she responds with great faith in saying, “it is well.”

Charles Spurgeon had this to say about the text:

“Let every mother and father know assuredly that it is well with the child, if God has taken it away from you in its infant days. You never heard its declaration of faith; it was not capable of such a thing. It was not baptized into the Lord Jesus Christ. It was not capable of giving that ‘answer of a good conscience towards God’; nevertheless, you may rest assured that it is well with the child, well in a higher and a better sense than it is well with yourselves. The child is ‘well’ without limitation, without exception, infinitely and eternally.”

For anyone who has experienced a miscarriage or the loss of a child, there will be dark days. In these times we should grieve and mourn, but we should also celebrate the gift and miracle of life. We can do all of this because, as Christians, we have a living hope that the blood shed for our soul was also shed for our unborn or infant children. We will see them in glory very soon – for, this life is but a “momentary affliction that is producing for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our trouble” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

 

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  • Roger Morris

    This is the most psychologically revealing part of your piece:

    “I often wonder where atheistic parents look to for hope and meaning in a miscarriage? Can they press into their cosmic, evolutionary ideologies for guidance? The earthly sciences offer no answers, advice, or comfort for despairing parents. The universe is dark and empty; tears of mourning will only be met with entropy and silence.”

    What if miscarriage IS just a random, meaningless, purposeless part of human existence? Science DOES give some comfort to parents in many cases when it reminds us that up to 20% of pregnancies end up in spontaneous miscarriage, often without some even realizing that they were pregnant. Science also reminds us that miscarriage is often nature’s way of ending a chromosomally or genetically abnormal pregnancy, and thus sparing the child and the family any further suffering in the future. There is certainly some comfort in that. At least if one’s view on science is not so negatively biased and dyspeptic.

    Your article reveals a common reason for religious belief in so many people – an overwhelming desire to look for meaning in life episodes that may actually just be random episodes in a human existence and in a cosmos where sometimes bad and unpleasant things just happen. Religion is the most common, and often most successful, form of existential psychotherapy, helping us to cope with the sometimes frightening and suffering-producing aspects of being human – death, suffering, pain, loss, radical freedom, lack of control, meaningless and purposelessness. Your comment beautifully demonstrates this commonly employed psychological and psychotherapeutic technique to cope with these frightening and disturbing aspects the human condition.

    It pays to remember, of course, that just because a particular belief is comforting, gives hope and meaning, doesn’t mean that the belief isn’t still illusory. Being comforting does not make a belief true, it just gives the belief personal utility.

    • Gilsongraybert

      The point is that with a logically consistent atheistic outlook, it does not give any comfort – nor is there really a point to grieve. It would simply be a meaningless exercise that is not evolutionarily advantageous. Hope itself would be advantageous, but still meaningless in the end because one’s existence is void of greater meaning. If this is true and one is consistent in this thinking, the ethics of life itself should be called into question, seeing that there is a vastly disproportionate amount of negative aspects to human life than positive. Here’s an example of a logically consistent philosophical approach to existence without God:

      https://aeon.co/essays/having-children-is-not-life-affirming-its-immoral

    • Iain Lovejoy

      That a belief is comforting and useful doesn’t make it false either.
      Your own belief that religion is explained as a coping mechanism for a fear of purposelessness or an existential fear of death is itself a comfort and reassurance for you in dealing with any doubts you might have that religion is untrue. This has, however, no bearing on whether your beliefs are true or not.
      As a theory on the basis of religion it does have some serious weaknesses. There is absolutely no practical, evolutionary or logical need for human beings to have any sense that (beyond having as many children as possible before dying) there is or ought to be a purpose in life at all, or suffer from any concern that there isn’t one. Likewise, while it makes sense for us to have a strong practical desire to stave off dying as long as possible, an existential fear of death as an abstract concept serves no practical purpose, and has no particular reason to exist: the best adaption to cope with an existential fear of death is simply never to develop such a fear at all. To postulate that the vast energy and effort expended on religion is an adaptation to deal with problems that have no reason to exist in the first place is absurd.
      Indeed, you could equally argue that if life, indeed the universe itself, was created for a purpose, and we are the first species to begin to grasp this, then the fear that we are missing this purpose or failing in it makes sense, as does the existential fear of dying without having achieved the purpose for which we are alive.

    • Roger Morris

      Self-awareness and the awareness of one’s own inevitable and inescapable demise is, I believe, a byproduct of the miracle and the curse that is the evolutionary cognitive advancement of the human species. We alone in the animal kingdom, as far as we know and this point in history, have evolved the cognitive equipment to be able to step out of our present and project ourselves (and others) into the future. It is this ability to think of counter-factuals and of future scenarios that has given us an adaptive advantage over all other species, but it is this same ability that confronts us with the overwhelming evolutionary drive to remain alive, while at the same time knowing full well that we will one day die.

      It is quite obvious to see how illusory but utilitarian beliefs such as conscious survival after death, control of our destiny and the aggressive environment around us by an all powerful deity, and the personal power to control what appears to be out of our control by petitioning to such deities would have been, and continues to be, a highly effective psychological salve for death terror and other existential terrors. If would give humans a reason life purpose, a role in a broader cosmic narrative, and would relieve anxiety prompted by givens of the human condition. Spiritual protection in dangerous circumstances would likely give more courage to take risks necessary for survival. That seems very adaptive to me. The illusory nature of such beliefs would not be revealed until death – that is, never as far as the individual was concerned.

      • Iain Lovejoy

        So the guy who tries to negotiate with a volcano has a better survival chance than the one who just runs? I can’t see how a false belief that we can control our environment through spiritual means is a survival trait.
        How, also, how is it a survival trait to falsely believe and expend vast amounts of energy engaging in a “broader cosmic narrative” that doesn’t exist? To live, breed and die does not require any “broader cosmic narrative” and if no such narrative exists how could it be adaptive for humans to develop the (false) sense that there somehow ought to be one? I am presuming you have neither committed suicide nor collapsed in hopeless despair due to not believing in one, and can quite happily get on with practically living your life without, so why, if there isn’t such a narrative, would believing in one at all necessary for the success of our species?
        You are starting with the assumed premise that religious belief can’t possibly have any connection or origin in anything real, and therefore in the absence of any actual evidence, inventing “just so” stories about how it came about. If you are convinced religion is false for reasons of your own, that’s fine, and by all means explain why you are so convinced of this if you wish, but all you are doing here is telling people that their beliefs are delusional on the basis of pseudo-psychology with no evidence to back it up.

        • Roger Morris

          For one thing – “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” Friedrich Nietzsche.

          That “why” may well be illusory, but the presence of the “why” in the meaning-seeking creatures that are humans still has clear utility and adaptive survival value.

          • Iain Lovejoy

            Yeah, except being “meaning-seeking” itself has a negative survival value as a complete waste of effort if there is in fact no meaning to be sought. You also can’t get round the fact that people are perfectly able to remain psychologically healthy and survive and reproduce without religion, removing what you say is the point of it.
            You are trying to have it both ways. You want to say religious belief is illusory and unnecessary (you clearly don’t need it) but at the same time are trying to explain its existence by way of the utility it (as far as you are concerned) doesn’t have. You are simply contradicting yourself.

          • Roger Morris

            You misunderstand. For socially adapted species like humans, seeking meaning is not a ‘complete waste of effort’ even if illusory. It gives people a reason to get up, to strive, to endure, to survive, to fight, to reproduce and to thus further the species. If an illusory sense of purpose and divine protection gives a person more courage in a dangerous situation than they would naturally have had otherwise, then it may lead to heroic actions that further the individual’s or the group’s success and prosperity, and thus it has adaptive survival value.

          • Iain Lovejoy

            No I don’t “misunderstand”: your entire premise is flawed.
            Human beings, your argument goes, do not consider simply surviving and reproducing a sufficient motivation in itself “to strive, to endure, to fight”: they require some higher (illusory) motive to do so. You do not explain why human beings have such a deficiency in their motivation to survive and reproduce: it would not be a survival trait. You then “explain” the existence of religion as being there to make up for this (actually unexplained) deficiency.
            All your “argument” says is that human beings (for no articulated reason) naturally require religion and religion therefore exists because humans require it. This is completely circular and doesn’t explain anything (and your premise that all human beings naturally require religion apparently doesn’t include yourself).

  • Tianzhu

    Thanks so much for sharing this.

    FWIW, in researching my family tree, one thing that jumps out is, that prior to the 20th century, most families experienced miscarriages or had stillborn children or children who died before their first birthday. The parents grieved, no doubt, but perhaps not so much as parents today do because miscarriages and the death of infants are far less common today. Infant death was common even among the elites. Queen Anne of England, who ruled 1702–1714 conceived 17 times, but had 7 miscarriages, 5 stillborns, while the remaining children all died within 2 yrs except one child who lived to be 11.