A Lesson in Surrendering to God
On March 26, 2006, our second daughter Claire, died. The article “The Day Our Baby Died” is part one in this series and explains the events surrounding the hours and days following our personal tragedy. This article will focus on the next year of our lives and some of the obstacles we had to overcome in our struggle to heal the wounds that had found their way into our hearts.
3 year old Lily “reading” her Bible
One week had passed since Amy (my wife) had given birth to our precious and yet lifeless baby we named Claire. It was Sunday morning. Instead of spending the morning in the emergency room, I would be preaching. For me, it was a welcome break from reality. For the last several days, my mind constantly drifted to the death of our baby girl. My mind kept picturing the events of that day. But now I was preaching, and I could focus on delivering God’s message to my congregation. But, in the middle of my sermon, one of the nurses in our congregation opened up the back door to the worship center and interrupted me. That had never happened to me before. I was in a little shock as the nurse was trying to communicate to me that my wife needed to be rushed to the hospital as soon as possible because she had just fainted in the nursery. I just stood there in utter disbelief. “What else could go wrong, Lord?” I whispered to myself. I was in such disbelief that I asked the nurse if it was absolutely necessary to go to the hospital immediately. She shouted, “You need to get her to the emergency room right now!” I stepped down from the stage and rushed to my wife and helped her out to the parking lot into a friend’s vehicle who would drive us to the local hospital.
Once we arrived, we rushed Amy into the emergency room. Within minutes the doctor decided that she needed to have an emergency D&C (Dilation & Cutterage). Apparently, some placenta was left in her uterus after giving birth. Her womb would not heal until the placenta would leave her body. The surgery took longer than expected. The doctor had a difficult time cutting away at the placenta. During the post operation meeting, the doctor kept telling me that Amy had lost a lot of blood. He was extremely concerned about how much blood she had lost. But as far as the doctor was concerned, he had gotten all of the unwanted tissue from Amy’s womb. She needed rest so that the physical healing would run its course and she could go home that same day. But little did we know that she would not be going home that day. She had lost too much blood, and her body would respond in a devastating manner.
We have not told many people this, but eight years have given us time to work through some of the issues of these events. Most people just hear the details of how we lost a baby, and they hurt for us, but one of the reasons I want to write about it now is to show you the physical, emotional, and spiritual strength of my wife Amy. The night after the surgery, there were moments when I was worried that my wife was going to die. I am not overstating this. She was afraid that she was going to die also. She truly thought that she was going to fall asleep and not wake up. Even the hospital staff told us they had a team on standby just for her and if she felt like she was fading, that we should alert them immediately. We both had a terrible feeling that this nightmare was just going to get worse before it got better. Knowing how she felt, I stayed awake the entire night, sitting beside her bed, watching her blood pressure to make sure that it was steadily increasing. But it wasn’t. Several different times, it dropped down to about 50 over 25. Those of you who understand those numbers realize that is deathly low. That night, my wife and I could feel “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4). But we were comforted by the fact that God was with us. I read her some Psalms. We could feel God’s overwhelming presence whispering to us that we would get through this night. And we did. But it was the longest night of our lives.
Day by day my wife recovered. But something still didn’t seem right. After visiting a new doctor, the doctor discovered that her uterus had sealed shut with scar tissue. The doctor then proceeded to give us some devastating news. She said, “I am sorry to inform you that many women who have what you have are not able to conceive and have any children.” My heart sank below my stomach. As if that news wasn’t crushing enough, the doctor also told us that she discovered through some of the testing that Amy only had one working fallopian tube. We walked out of that doctor’s office with more emotional pain than we could comprehend at the time. Not only did we lose our baby but we would likely not have another. It felt like an invisible weight was sitting on top of us. The doctor tried to give us some hope by stating that she could perform another surgery to try and “fix things,” but I felt like so much damage had already been done that the odds of us having another child were slim to none. We took her advice and scheduled another surgery.
We knew that this was going to be a hard year for us. We just didn’t know that it would be this difficult. In the church I was pastoring at the time, my wife was one of nine different women in our church that year that was pregnant. We were the only ones who did not get to welcome our child into the world. It was a church of a couple hundred people, a family type of church where everyone knew everyone and often knew everything about everyone.
A few months after losing Claire, the words “Why me?” started to settle into my mind. Out of the nine couples in our church, why were we the ones who lost the baby? Why did God allow this to happen to me? I wondered why He would take away a baby from us that would be brought up in a Christian family with parents who would love their children, and yet He would give many babies to families that neglect and even abuse their children. It didn’t make sense to me, and I have to admit that I dealt with bitterness every time I thought about those two words, “Why me?” It didn’t seem fair to me that God would put our little family through this. We could not find the answer, and that made me secretly angry at God. I was never really mad at anyone else. I would never dare to share with other people that I was upset at God, but I secretly viewed God as Someone who…
…was punishing me for something I had done in the past.
…didn’t care enough to give us another baby.
…was too busy to listen to us and grant us our request.
I knew that all of these statements were not true theologically, but it seemed that I was powerless to keep them from overwhelming my thoughts. And then one day it hit me like a ton of bricks: I NEED TO SURRENDER MY WILL TO GOD! There is often a mystery as to why God allows certain things to happen. I do not know why God allowed baby Claire to die, but I do believe that God did not directly kill little baby Claire. God knew that we needed to work through our issues so that we could have complete reconciliation with Him after this tragedy struck us so severely. Allow me to explain why and how I needed to surrender my will to God.
I started to surrender my will to God by asking myself the right questions. When I started to ask myself the right questions, healing started to take place in my heart. Instead of asking, “Why me?” which was filled with a bitter spirit towards God, I started to ask:
“Why not me?” and “If not me, who then?”
When I looked at the other eight pregnant couples in our church, I realized that I would have never wanted them to go through what we went through. If I was given the opportunity to trade places with them and if Claire would live, but then one of the other babies needed to die, I just couldn’t even allow my mind to venture down that philosophical path of transferring tragedies. Somehow, realizing that I would never want someone else to go through what I went through with losing Claire helped me surrender my will to God and it helped my heart heal from the pain of losing a daughter. I comforted myself with the thought that maybe, just maybe, our character was strong enough for God to choose to take us down this path of suffering.
Even though I was trying to heal by asking the right questions, the words of the doctor still rang in my ears from the first moment I heard them. “I am sorry to inform you that many women who have what you have are not able to conceive and have any children.” The possibility of a future without any more children devastated our hearts. That was in God’s control, and it seemed like He was not sure if He wanted us to have any more children. This was the hardest reality to accept. We had one daughter at the time. The big question was: “Will she be an only child or will God someday open up Amy’s womb again so that she can have more children to love?”
We can realize a complete surrender towards God for the tragedies that happen in our life when…
…we relieve ourselves from a desperate desire to change the past.
…we accept the present.
…we are open to an unknown future.
I surrendered my will to God by relieving myself from a desperate desire to change the past. Claire is gone and we will never be with her this side of heaven. There is nothing we can do to change that. She is in heaven. We had to deal with that fact. So many people never experience true healing because they are stuck in the past. Their minds journey to the past and remain there for long periods of time, as if it is possible to live there. You must say goodbye to the past and turn it over to God. It is history. His-story. This life we are living is in reality God’s story and what is in the past is already written and cannot be changed. There is no edited version that happens in God’s story. It was not a mistake. It was purposed. This is where our Christian faith comes in. Our belief that God is sovereign in the good times and bad times allows us to release that which we cannot change. And this same God who is in control of everything says that He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). In the words of one of the most popular animated movies today, “Let it go…” The singer constantly repeats those three simple words. In the same way, during times of healing, we have to constantly and consistently continue to believe that God has our best interests in mind and that someday He will work it all for His good (Romans 8:28).
I also surrendered my will to God by accepting the present. Instead of sulking about not being pregnant with another child, we accepted the fact that we had only one child: a healthy, beautiful girl. We decided to pour our lives into her, appreciating every moment because we acknowledged that Lily might be our only child…ever. We stopped doing the math, thinking, “Okay, if we get pregnant right now, how many years will there be in between the two kids?” We thanked God for the gift He gave us in Lily. We realized that He didn’t have to give us this child. Some couples never have the opportunity to experience the joy of having even one child. We were fortunate enough to have one child. This helped us realize what a gift every child is and we believe we have appreciated our children more because of that.
I finally surrendered my will to God by being open to an unknown future. This took me a couple years. This was the hardest area in my life to surrender to God. I wanted my wife to get pregnant again so badly that it was one of the predominate thoughts I would have throughout the day. The desire to have another child in the future would consume my thoughts. The words we would learn over the next year of our lives were, “just wait.” Most humans are not good at waiting. We want to be able to fix things immediately when they go wrong. I was forced to wait and it was not up to me. When people go through tragedies, God always whispers into their ears, “just wait.” When someone is told that they have cancer, they have to “just wait” on an unknown future. Will the cancer victim live 20 more days, 20 more months, or 20 more years? “Just waiting” is one of the hardest things a human has to do. When someone is told, “I want a divorce,” they have to “just wait” on an unknown future. Will my spouse change his mind and return to me? How long will I feel this aching knot in my stomach? How will my children be affected by this? All of these questions are thrown under the umbrella of the unknown. We despise not knowing. And when we spend too much of our lives under the umbrella of the unknown, we can develop a bitter spirit towards God because our lives are not turning out the way that we wanted them to turn out.
The road to giving God control over one’s future is not always easily traveled. When we were trying to get pregnant, every month seemed to be a straining and stressful time. Every month that would go by without seeing a positive pregnancy test was an added burden to us.
August, 2006… not pregnant.
September, 2006… not pregnant.
October, 2006… not pregnant.
November, 2006… not pregnant.
December, 2006… not pregnant.
January, 2007… not pregnant.
February, 2007… not pregnant.
March, 2007… not pregnant.
April, 2007… not pregnant.
May, 2007… not pregnant.
June, 2007… not pregnant.
July, 2007… pregnant!
YES! We became pregnant one year and several months after losing Claire. But instead of being filled with unspeakable joy and excitement about this new little one, Amy was once again rushed to the emergency room because she started to experience pain in her abdomen. We were indeed pregnant again, but it was an ectopic pregnancy, which means the baby was growing in her fallopian tube and would not survive. That was not good news. Amy had only one good fallopian tube and it would now likely be removed. We were devastated. Surely God was closing the door for us to have any more children. Would Lily be our only child?
Click here to continue with part 3.