The years went by and they were good in many ways, but my heart was broken. Not only was it broken, but it was unwilling to be put back together. I would go through phases of hurt and confusion where I wondered why God had a plan for Chris, miraculous power for my children, and nothing for me. Then I would go through phases of anger and hardness where I just didn’t care. Those phases were difficult. I’ve learned over the years that as a believer when your heart is hardened towards God, it’s hardened towards the things and people of God. Apart from Christ there is no way to love your husband, children, friends, church, and others the way you were created to. Since I had experienced the richness of that before, I knew the depths of the pit I was in, but felt stuck. I was silent, and I thought He was silent.
Two and a half years went by and we wanted to try for one more. Everyone thought it was Chris going for his boy, but really it was me. Chris had settled into being a girl dad and boy was he good at it. He was so sweet and tender. Kind and patient. The girls had him wrapped around their little fingers! They thought he walked on water and he milked every minute of it (I’m writing this in the past tense, but it’s all still very true). He was content having another little girl. But truthfully, I was really hoping for a boy.
Tears of joy streamed down my face during that ultrasound. I couldn’t believe it! We were really having a son! I was enjoying everything about this pregnancy as I knew, according to the advice of my doctors, that this would need to be my last. We were finally getting maternity pictures and a nautical nursery was being prepared. I had no expectation of having a full term baby. It wasn’t because of lack of faith, I just accepted that this was who I was, the preemie mom. I still did everything they told me to. I took it easy, had the procedure, and went in every week for the shots. But even still I mentally prepared to have another preemie and have a NICU stay, so it was to no surprise when at 34 weeks I began having contractions and once again went into preterm labor. But I should have known better, there is no preparing your heart for leaving your newborn behind.
We survived a third NICU journey and brought our little boy home. We were overjoyed with our little family of five. Over the next few months something started happening that I wasn’t prepared for it. The finality of the fact that I would never have what I so deeply desired began to set in. The finality of all of my begging, all of my prayers, and all of my deepest yearnings, to go unmet and unanswered put a weight on my heart that I didn’t know could be. There were no more pregnancies. No more babies. No more opportunities for God to show me He really did care. That weight was overwhelming and quite impossible to not grow hard under.
I knew I couldn’t continue in my head alone. With a gentle push from my husband I sought out counseling. It was over the next year that layers of brokenness were pulled apart and light was shed on truth, maybe for the first time in years. I had to come to three realizations that were life changing to me:
1. I was angry at God for breaking promises to me that he never made.
This one hurt. Without even realizing it I somehow thought that God owed me the desires of my heart. After all, why wouldn’t he want that for me? Why wouldn’t he want me to desire to have a baby naturally, to not be separated from them? That’s the most natural way. That was his original plan. I committed my life to him. My husband and I honored him in our dating relationship and we strived to in our marriage as well. Wasn’t it time for my reward? Wasn’t this his gift to me?
No. No it’s wasn’t. His cross was his gift to me and this was and is enough. I can easily look around my life and see other gifts that he has blessed me with. But those are just that, gifts. Undeserving gifts from him. Nothing that I deserved. Nothing that I earned. Just gifts from a loving Father. He never promised these gifts to me. But he did make promises to me that I could count on:
“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Isaiah 40:29
“but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31
“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
When I released the promises I thought he had made and grasped the promises he actually did give to me, healing began.
2. I wasn’t forsaken, He was actually with me the whole time.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
I remember my counselor asking me to consider this. It actually made me mad at first (surprise, surprise). I felt more comfortable believing He wasn’t with me. The thought of Him being there and doing nothing just seemed mean. When I went into counseling I knew I had to commit to what would be asked of me. My way wasn’t working. So l committed to pondering the possibility. Through the process, I realized that not only was he with me, but He was in me. On the mornings back in 2012 when I felt like I couldn’t drive to the NICU one more time and on the nights driving away at midnight again with no baby in tow, He was in me. When my heart broke because my family was divided between home and a NICU, he was in me. When I felt crushed under the weight of failed expectations, He was in me. When my husband and I drifted apart from one another through our own ways of dealing with things, He was in us. I came to realize it was only because he was with us and in us that we made it. He was the only way we got through 172 days in the NICU. The only way Chris and I found our way back to each other. And the only way this broken person could be whole again. I was never forsaken. I was never forgotten. He was there all along.
3. I trusted Him with my circumstances, but not with my heart.
I didn’t even realize I had come to this point. I was involved in Bible studies since I was in high school. I minored in Bible at college. I’ve studied the word for the last 15 years. I knew that God was more concerned with my heart than he was my circumstances, but some time after we had our second, I stopped trusting Him with my heart.
I believed in the God who could move mountains. The God who parted the Red Sea. The Savior who made the blind see and the death rise. But I didn’t trust in the Jesus that weeped for his friend’s death though he knew the outcome. The Jesus that prayed for his friend who he knew would deny him. The Jesus that suffered on the cross and watched his mother, brother, and friends weep, but rose on the third day to give us hope and eternity with Him.
Without even knowing I put more merit on Jesus’ physical miracles. I wanted him to snap his fingers and heal my body. I wanted him to blink and give me a full term baby. I didn’t want him to concern himself with my heart. I lied to myself and thought that if He gave me what I wanted, I would be fixed. He knew better, and I’m so glad He did. I’ve come to believe that healing a broken heart is one of the most powerful things that God does. To forgive a daughter who lost sight of who He is. To take something that is hard, and soften it. To form it like clay. To turn a heart back around facing Him. That’s a miracle in and of itself. That’s the gospel.
This has been a long and difficult journey, but a necessary one. In no way did God change any of my circumstances to bring my heart to one of peace and healing. He only changed my heart. There is a season for mourning and a season for dancing, and both are necessary.
I’m so thankful that I can now dance in his truths. I know and believe His promises for me.
I can now rest in knowing that He never leaves me. He never forsakes me. There is no pit I can fall into, no waters that I could drown in, no weight of failed expectations, no grief, no anger, no brokenness that will ever separate me from him and his love for me.
And I now know that regardless of my circumstances, God is a good God and He will shift my heart however necessary to get through them. He will give me the energy to get through the days that I just can’t. He will give me new dreams and new desires. He will turn the same story of heartbreak into a story of victory.
Friends, this story isn’t unique to me. The circumstances maybe, but that’s what’s beautiful in all of this. It’s not about our circumstances, it’s about our God. He is a loving and a good God.
He is a loving God to you.
He is a good, good God to you!