Today’s post is contributed by Jill Aylard Young. Jill serves on the board of Mustard Seeds Associates. She lives with her husband Matthew and daughter Grace in Elysburg, PA where Matthew is pastor of Elysburg Presbyterian Church. Jill has an MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary and is particularly interested in spiritual direction and formation.
Suffering and Hope: A Meditation on Miscarriage and Romans 5:3-5
3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (NIV)
As congregants poured out into the lobby at the close of the church service on Sunday – the Presbyterian church in Pennsylvania where my husband is pastor – I made my way straight over to a young woman who had just found out at 12-weeks that the little life within her was no longer alive. She knew that I too had experienced a similar miscarriage a few months before and so we immediately embraced with knowing and tears. We had rejoiced together in her long awaited pregnancy. Now we were sorrowing together and processing the loss as fellow Christians with a faith and hope that doesn’t diminish the reality of pain.
My husband had just preached a sermon on Romans 5:3-5 and this was the backdrop as we shared with each other. The truths in this Scripture felt palpable as we stood together. In the course of our conversation she said both that this experience had been the worst of her life and that she had never experienced such grace and love from the people of God surrounding her. Suffering and hope were mingling.
As I came away from our conversation I realized how fresh my own sorrow from my miscarriage was still, even as I was joyful about my very new and unannounced pregnancy. Just a few hours later my second miscarriage began.
Disbelief, anger, emptiness….a lot of questions, aching disappointment!
We are not protected from suffering as we follow Jesus. We are subject to the same risks in this life.
So how is suffering different as we walk with Jesus? It certainly doesn’t mean that we don’t struggle, question, resist, and just simply hurt! But suffering provides opportunity for the Holy Spirit’s work within us, to grow our character and deepen our hope. I had hoped for a second child (and still do though I’m an older mom who got started later on marriage and family). I already had joyful images in my head of a family of four, of a sibling for our dear daughter Grace, of another grandchild for my dad who a year ago lost his wife, my mother.
As I struggle with this unexpected loss during this Lent, I feel that tug of the Holy Spirit within me to a hope that is deeper than my pictures of how I want my future to be…A hope rooted in the love of God, poured into my heart even in the midst of sorrow, disappointment, unmet longings… a hope in God’s love that is not dependent on how the circumstances of life work out. This I have learned through dark times in the past and this I must learn again and again.
By God’s mercy may we follow Christ in our suffering, opening our hearts to his love and staying in faith even as we doubt, ache, and resist.