Sunday, 01 August 2021

How God Redeems Personal Pain in the World of Pro-Life Ministry

I sat in stunned silence, the phone clutched in my left hand. Surely this must be a bad dream. Surely I didn’t just hear my midwife telling me, “I’m so sorry. Your baby has died. They’re calling it fetal demise at seventeen weeks.” 

Fetal demise. My mind couldn’t grasp the awful reality. I was halfway through this pregnancy. We’d heard the baby’s heartbeat at seventeen weeks, and three weeks had passed since then. 

Sure, I was mildly concerned when I started spotting a little, but that just gave me and my husband an excuse for another ultrasound. We decided to find out the sex of the baby, which we hadn’t done with my previous pregnancies. This is going to be fun, I thought. 

Now I understood why the technician, herself eight months pregnant, wouldn’t look me in the eye when I asked her if the baby was a boy or girl. 

“Can’t tell,” was her terse reply.

All this flashed through my mind as I sat holding the phone, trying to breathe. I finally hung up and told my husband what the midwife said. 

“Oh, honey, I’m so sorry!” he cried, wrapping his arms around me and weeping. 

I was still numb with shock. It wasn’t my first miscarriage; I’d had one at eight weeks gestation. That had been painful enough. 

But, twenty weeks? Unfathomable.

We decided on D&C surgery, since my body was not taking action itself. I remember feeling warm and woozy, wrapped in a soft blanket as I counted backwards from one hundred and waited for the medicine to knock me out. I remember waking to the sound of my husband’s voice as he spoke to a nurse. I remember feeling limp and strange all the next day at home as the anesthesia gradually wore off.

Then came the grieving. 

For weeks—maybe months—I felt like I was in a time warp. Everyone around me was speeding along at a clip I couldn’t match while I remained stuck in molasses. Every little responsibility looked like a huge mountain to climb.

One morning, I stepped outside into the desert sunshine. The air was strangely cool, the light too dim. I looked for clouds, but saw none. Turns out we were experiencing an eclipse of the sun that day.

The word picture resonated. I’m living through an eclipse of the soul.

It was a hard season, but God supplied comfort. Church friends were a great support. It helped to hold a memorial at our home. It helped to receive loving cards and letters from family and friends.

As I cared for my three young boys, I looked for moments when I could weep and release the pain. One particular day, I dug out a cassette tape of a song I’d written and recorded for a friend whose baby had been stillborn a few years before. 

I shut myself in my bedroom and listened to the song over and over, sobbing. 

As I listened, I saw a clear picture in my mind’s eye of a brown-haired infant sitting up straight-backed, head turned over her shoulder, curious gaze exploring the world. I knew it was Tabitha, the daughter whom I would not know in this life.

The lab couldn’t tell me what sex my baby was, but the Holy Spirit could.

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Another day, I was hanging up clothes when I saw a vivid picture in my imagination of a beautiful young woman standing in a field, her long, honey-colored hair flowing in the breeze. She was utterly radiant, joyful and content. I wondered where I had seen this girl before—a catalog, perhaps? A magazine? 

Then it dawned on me: God was showing me what a child looks like when He raises her in heaven. (He’s shown me the boy I lost, too, when my oldest son was a year old. So perfect. So at peace.)

Our sons had been anticipating a new baby in the family. Years later, I would run across a poem one of them wrote on my computer—a poem about the sister he missed. The loss impacted all of us.

When that terrible phone call came, I remember thinking, This stuff doesn’t happen to me—only to other people. Selfish, right? I wanted exemption from pain, yet suffering is what God uses to shape our characters—particularly in the area of compassion.

Although I’ve always been pro-life, I would never in my wildest dreams have imagined that in later years, I would spend ten years in pregnancy center ministry. I had no idea what God was preparing me for. 

Because of my experiences losing babies in utero, my pro-life convictions solidified and my compassion for those who suffer pregnancy loss intensified exponentially.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” – 2 Corinthians 1:2-4

God has wasted none of my pain over the years. He used not only my miscarriages, but other difficult experiences as well, to prepare me to minister to women and men facing unplanned pregnancies or suffering from post-abortion guilt and sorrow.

Perhaps you’ve been through miscarriage, too. Or you’ve experienced an unplanned pregnancy, or the pain of abortion. Or maybe your daughter has. Perhaps you’ve struggled through issues that aren’t related to pregnancy at all.

If you are involved in the vital work of pro-life ministry, take a moment and reflect on the trials you’ve been through. 

Tweet This: "If you are involved in the vital work of #prolife ministry, take a moment and reflect on the trials you’ve been through." @SusanneMaynes

How has God been equipping you all along for what you are doing now? What sorrows have been written into your story so that others can have hope and comfort written into theirs? 

God values our suffering. Our tears are His treasure (Psalm 56:8). Let’s praise Him for redeeming our pain for the sake of His great work.

Susanne Maynes

Susanne Maynes is an author, speaker, and biblical counselor who served at a pregnancy help center for ten years. She blogs about church & culture and spiritual growth at SusanneMaynes.comHer educational devotional, Unleashing Your Courageous Compassion: 40 Reflections on Rescuing the Unborn, uplifts and strengthens the pregnancy help community. Susanne is currently pursuing a Master of Theological Studies degree at Regent University.


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