Growing up, I led a life that many would consider ideal. I had parents who showered me with love and affection and encouraged my dreams, and most importantly, they were strong Christians whose faith encouraged and bolstered my own. I lived in a comfortable home and got a good education. I even entered the beauty pageant circuit, which honed my communication skills and led me to working on social and political issues I believed in. It was while working on a political campaign that I met the man who would become my husband. Life was working out even better than I had planned.
But, as is so often the case, plans change. I had never really known loss and grief on a personal level, and in some ways, I just expected life to be good and to go according to plan. Growing up as a Christian, I believed that, if I honored God and did the things He asked of me, life would be good, because that’s what God’s Word says: when we honor Him, He blesses and honors our steps. And while that is true, and God is who He says He is, it was naïve of me to expect that I could avoid pain and disappointment. I was looking at His promises without also considering the pain of the price He paid.
Life as I knew it changed in my late 20s when I started having children. It was my dream and my desire to have a large family, and while God blessed my husband and me with two good and perfect gifts in my son and daughter, it was our every intention to continue growing our young family. When we found out that we were pregnant and expecting twin boys, I thought my heart would burst with joy. It was the legacy I had prayed for. God was so gracious to gift me with something so precious, and this pregnancy felt like the honor and blessing of walking with Him and being faithful to Him; however, late into my pregnancy, those babies passed. I later delivered two beautiful, stillborn baby boys. It was the heartbreak of my life.
There are no adequate words to express the agony I felt on that stark October morning. The pain was almost unbearable. I couldn’t understand how something so precious that God gave would be taken away. It rattled me to the core, from the inside out. I thought, “God! I believed who You said You are, and now this?” How could I choose God? How could I trust that I had a Hope?
I knew I had to make a choice between choosing Hope or giving up. I could either choose Christ’s finished work on the cross, which came with peace, Hope, and a future, or choose to lose all Hope and be angry at a God who says He is for me. If He was truly for me and this was suffering I had to endure on this earth, then He would walk me through the fire of this loss.
I chose God. I chose Hope.
In the days, weeks, and even years ahead, I had to continually choose to believe that God was for me and that He had a Hope and a future for me. I had to believe in the truth of His Word in spite of the pain that I was feeling. At times, the grief was all-consuming, but I had to go through it.
I began the Practice of Grief when I allowed the holy tears to come, along with the uncomfortable feelings that came with them. My disappointment with God, my disappointment that I didn’t get what I wanted, my shattered hopes and dreams – I laid them all at the throne room of grace and mercy. In allowing the Grief to come, in all the shed tears and all the expressed disappointment and anger, I was giving way to let God do the healing work so I could walk to wholeness and toward Hope. The grief was so important, not to wallow in it or be fearful, but to experience it and release it. When I did that, the floodgates opened and the long road to healing began.
The first three years after my loss are what I call the Pit Years. These years were the fiercest in the battle of grieving and constantly deciding, against all instinct, to choose Hope. But it was here where I intimately met my Maker – in the Surrender of my pain and my hopes and dreams; in the Stillness, where I had to rest in His power when I couldn’t see it or feel it; and in the Grief, where I discovered He was the ultimate caregiver of my soul.
During these Pit Years, I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a new battle to fight to make sure I was going to be healthy for the two children whom God had left me. It was a lot to manage physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but around the third year after the loss of my babies, I began to see the Hope that I was believing for. I could see it rise up, along with a resilience that God was beginning to give me. I knew that, no matter the outcome, it was going to be okay. That if I had to lay down every expectation for the rest of my life and trust Him with whatever He gave me, if I never became pregnant again, if I didn’t win my battle with cancer, that He was the ultimate prize.
I am now five years past that heartbreaking October day. I chose Hope then, and I do so still today. Even though I have never been blessed with more children, and even though I was diagnosed with cancer, I choose Hope. I believe that there is a God on the other side of the pain who is who He says He is, so I choose Hope, even when I cannot see it and cannot feel it. This is Living Hope.