Written by Jess Ragg, New Zealand
It all kicked off for me in early 2017. I found out I was pregnant just after New Year’s, and my excitement was immediate. This was a very wanted baby. While I was never one of those girls who wanted to hold and kiss every baby I laid eyes on, the idea of having my own little one grew within my heart after I got married.
I was over the moon when I saw those two lines on the pregnancy test. However, during the first scan at about the eight-week mark, it was immediately obvious something was wrong.
I could see my child’s heartbeat on the screen, but it was slow and irregular (almost like it was skipping every third beat). The radiologist suggested that perhaps the baby’s heart had only just started beating so it was still working out the groove of things. I was told to get a series of blood tests over the next few days and return at the end of the week.
The stress was palpable. As I went for my blood tests, I was determined to rest as much as I could. I was in bed at around 8pm every night. I tried to make good health choices (code for not too much fast food).
A week later I went in for my scan. The second (and far less sensitive) radiologist told me matter-of-factly that the baby’s heartbeat had stopped. After that, it all became a blur.
Did it have to be this way?
My grandfather died when I was nine, but he smoked three packs of cigarettes a day so that sort of made sense. But not this.
I remembered the doctor mentioning the possibility of miscarriage when she’d referred me for my scan, and I had blanked out then, thinking, “Nope. That’s not me.”
But it turned out it was me.
The days, weeks, months that followed were hideous. I remember being so distraught I felt like I was screaming on the inside, even though I was totally silent in my grief, unable to find the words.
Shortly after I miscarried, my dog died. Darcy was 12, and had a heart condition, but it didn’t make the pain any easier.I could not make sense of all that had happened, and I was angry with God that it had.
How could a loving God take my child from me? How could He be good if I was experiencing something so utterly awful? Was He still in control of my life? Or worse—did He make this happen? Ugly thoughts gripped my faith with their ugly fingertips, looking to drag me under.
Handling the whys when God doesn’t “come through”
In the weeks after that awful, awful scan, as I wept for the millionth time on my parents’ couch, my dad brought me back to this verse: “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
As I began to reflect on the passage, God directed my attention to how strange it is that we wear crosses. This was an instrument of torture the Romans used to execute people in the most cruel, humiliating way possible.
But we now cheerily wear it as a piece of jewellery professing our faith—we may as well be wearing a guillotine or an electric chair.
“But this is what I do,” I sensed Him saying, “I make life from death. I turn what is ugly and hopeless and make it an image of beauty and hope.”
Around this time, another Scripture that kept popping up was Psalm 27:13-14 (NASB): “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the Land of the Living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.”
While we’re on this side of heaven, there will be instances where things occur that aren’t fair or right, where our “whys” sit unanswered in a soup of yuck.
But rather than let these situations crush us completely, we place these broken pieces next to the words of Scripture, where we’ll find God and His strength to get us through another day.
He got down into the dirt with me
As I sat in my pit, God got down with me and put His hands on mine to show me three things:
Firstly, that His purposes are never thwarted this side of heaven. God revealed to me that He has a habit of making good things from bad situations, turning the worst scenarios into the most spectacular testimonies.
Joseph, kidnapped from his home and sold into slavery, and eventually thrown into prison—God raised him to a position of influence and used him to save the people of Israel from famine (Genesis 37-50). Ruth, the widowed Moabite, who harvested in the fields to collect food for herself and her mother-in-law (at her own peril of violence and assault)—God made her part of the lineage of Christ.
Both Joseph and Ruth must have felt forgotten and hard done at some point, just like I did. The fact that they’d walked this same, yucky, difficult path I was on gave me a sense of hope.
Secondly, the enemy’s attempts on us are made nothing in light of what waits for us in eternity. As 1 Corinthians 15:55 tells us, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
Thirdly, the existence of these intense feelings of loss, sadness and grief can be bewildering, but more powerfully, they indicate the truth of our faith in Jesus Christ.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has set eternity in the heart of men. This is why death doesn’t make sense to us—we aren’t made for it. Sin’s effects on this world jar against us. Sufferings and strife affirm profoundly that we weren’t made for this world and highlight our intrinsic longing for heaven.
On this side of heaven, there will be a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)—to be born, to die, to plant, to uproot—but one day these will all fade away. Or, as author Timothy Keller says, “Everything sad is going to come untrue.”
Grief and growing pains
The process of grief was a difficult one. The following Mother’s Day left me smarting and tearful. I wrestled to be genuinely happy for friends as they announced pregnancies and lamented being sick or getting huge. There were days people would (mostly unwittingly) say things like, “At least it was early in the pregnancy…”, or “There must have been something wrong so in a way it is good this happened…”
But God was faithful. And in time, I learnt to be gracious to others despite their comments, and to make space for the joy of others, even while I navigated this road of questioning and grief.
During this season, I came to understand that the nature of my faith and God’s restorative power meant that the grief for my child, while profound, was only temporary. A.W. Tozer once wrote: “One thing that the resurrection teaches us is that we must not trust appearances. The leafless tree says by its appearance that there will be no second spring. The tree will bloom again. Faith can afford to accept the appearance of defeat knowing the true believer cannot be defeated finally.”
I lost my first child, but one day, when either Jesus returns or calls me home, I would meet my baby in heaven. I would know if it was a boy or a girl, and if it inherited the same blue of my eyes.
Almost a year to the due date of my first child, I welcomed my little girl into the world.
My understanding of God and His faithfulness has come far deeper than it was before that day in the radiologist’s office. As it says in Revelation 12:11: “We will overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony.”
While this was not the only, nor the worst time of testing I have encountered to date, it was my first big challenge that taught me to navigate the hardships that were to come.
Friend, whatever you are experiencing today, whatever you’ve been through, whatever may be ahead—I promise you, God’s plan for you will never be laid to ruin. We don’t always need to know the “whys” of our unanswered prayers, but what we do need to know is God’s faithfulness. And in that, we know we are safe in His hands, come what may.