By GraceAnna Castleberry
(Editor’s Note: Our church series continues next week.)
It was Valentine’s Day. I held my husband’s hand with nervous excitement as we entered the ultrasound room. I had already heard our baby’s heartbeat five weeks earlier, but now, at 13 weeks, we would both get to see our precious child. It took only a few seconds of the ultrasound technician’s silence to confirm my deepest fears. Tears started streaming down my face before she even said anything. And then she said those two dreaded words, “I’m sorry.” I looked at Grant and together we stared at our child, frozen in time. It seemed we had come so far, but this was as far as we would go. As I looked longingly at the sweet frame of our little one whom we would never get to meet on this earth, I found myself praying silently, “Jesus, this is why you came to die. This death. This hurt. This pain. This is why.”
That day altered me. I was emotionally broken. But even more so, I was heartbroken by the reality that sin affects us in so many ways. Trials often blindside us. It’s usually in our happy times of ease that we do not comprehend the reality of the gospel as we should—that we are saved from sin, destined for heaven, able to experience a relationship with God as Father. But it is often in times of great struggle, that God grips our hearts with who He is in ways we might not have fully understood otherwise. That’s the way I felt in those days following February 14. As I saw photos of many celebrating “love day,” it seemed as if time stood still for me. I had lost someone I already loved. But the somewhat superficial holiday also took on a new meaning for me. Instead of focusing on the fun ways Grant and I might surprise one another, I was overwhelmed by the reality of a much deeper love. A love so unfathomable it compelled a young Jewish carpenter to die on a cross. I knew it wasn’t a happy-go-lucky Jesus or an unknowing and unfeeling Jesus who appeared to His disciples after the resurrection and said, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). No, it was the God-man with the nail-scarred hands who spoke these words. The hands that said, I have suffered the penalty of death for you. I have suffered to the depths and back. I have defeated the awfulness of sin and death. I have conquered it forever. Shalom.
It was in these words I felt joy amidst my grief. My pain was met with joy over and over again because I knew He had conquered death forever. And this was my joy to be found not only on that Valentine’s Day, but also for all my trials that lay unknowingly but assuredly ahead of me. Elisabeth Elliott, in her book, Be Still My Soul, puts it this way:
God came down and lived in this world as a man. He showed us how to live in the world, subject to its vicissitudes and necessities, that we might be changed, not into angels or storybook princesses, not wafted into another world, but changed into saints in this world. The secret of Christ in me, not in a different set of circumstances.
As I spent the last few days of winter contemplating how even the death of such a little life can hurt so deeply, I felt the Lord calling me to trust Him. It was trust in Him that began healing my heart. I clung to the truth that the Maker of life called our baby home and this freed me from a million worries. What a difference knowing His truth makes in our hearts. It puts everything in its right perspective. And God often uses the very things we don’t desire and cannot control to make our relationship with Him so much deeper. JC Ryle, in his short book, A Call to Prayer, describes this brokenness in relationship to our spiritual lives like this, “Saul, I have no doubt, said many a long prayer before the Lord met him on the way to Damascus. But it was not until his heart was broken that the Lord said, ‘He prayeth.’” God uses answered prayers and fulfilled dreams and the beauty of new life to build our faith and compel our hearts to worship. But He also uses our shattered hopes, our lonely days, and the sting of death to show His love and make us like Him. It is in our brokenness that we truly see Him walking the road to Calvary and hanging bloody on that cross. He knows our pain. He has been there and has already declared the glorious outcome, “It is finished.”
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
GraceAnna Castleberry is a wife, mother, and worker at home. She lives in Louisville, KY with her husband Grant, who is pursuing a M.Div. at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow her on Twitter @gacastleberry.
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