Friday, August 31, 2007

How Long Does It Hurt?

On the Hannah's Prayer Community Forums I am posting monthly devotionals based on various chapters of Hannah's Hope. Here's the 6th in this series.

The following is copyrighted material and has been adapted from "How Long Does It Hurt?," chapter six of Hannah's Hope: Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, & Adoption Loss by Jennifer Saake, NavPress, 2005. Please do not duplicate without permission. You may read a portion of this book here.

This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. - 1 Samuel1:7 (NIV)

Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days... So his father wept for him. Genesis 37:34-35 (NIV)

Culture dictated this time of feasting, yet Hannah found herself observing an unplanned fast. Bitter, salty tears didn't mix well with the food Elkanah lovingly provided. Why bother feeding a body that had failed her, anyway? As for her heart, did she really want it to continue beating if it would only be an ongoing target for Peninnah's brutality? Deeply depressed, she could nourish her spirit only with tears. The very thought of food was repulsive... Would this parching thirst of her soul never end?

Infertility provides many decision crisis points: If we buy the larger home in hopes of filling it, will empty rooms seem much too empty in the interim (or if they never do have inhabitants)? But if we buy smaller while knowingly trying to grow our family, might we regret such a decision very quickly, should children come sooner rather than later? Or can we even think of buying a house at all, when medical aid and adoption can be so costly?

The loss of a child brings even more quandaries. When a hoped-for adoption or early pregnancy suddenly is no more. do we tell the world or grieve in silence? When a child shared our home and hearts, even for a brief time, how do we cope when she is gone? "Dare we try ever again, after having our hearts ripped out?" No one expects to need to make choices such as "Should we cremate or buy a burial plot?"

It can seem that all decisions either become rooted in or somehow always circle back to "the baby thing." How can I get out of bed this morning, brush my teeth, and go through the motions of normal life when my life is anything but normal? No matter how seemingly unrelated to my parenthood journey, anything that stirred up my emotions invariably led me back to my deepest pain: how much I missed our babies, how much I wanted to be a mommy to living children. I felt useless without being able to accomplish my one greatest goal in life. I felt lonely and unfulfilled. It all seemed so unfair...

The loss of a child, either a unique individual or the child who may never be, though he has filled your hopes and dreams of a lifetime, is not something you ever fully "get over." Just as Jacob, after being told of his son's death, could not imagine life ever again without tears, you may be in the darkest days of grief right now. How long will it hurt? In some sense, forever.

Grief ebbs and flows. With time and by the Lord's grace, there will come a day when you surprise yourself by hearing your own laughter again. "Even in laughter the heart may ache" (Prov. 14:13), but when that day comes, there is no need to feel guilt in experiencing moments of joy.

I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. Jeremiah 31:13(NIV)

Dear Lord,
Grief is such a strange creature. Sometimes when I most expect to grieve, I end up handling things fine. And other times the silliest little things trip me up and send me for a tail-spin. While I don't understand this journey, thank you that You promise to never leave me nor forsake me in the midst of this pain. When I'm hurting with such intensity I can't believe I will ever survive, you are right there sharing in my tears and anguish. And when those long-distant rays of joy finally begin to sooth my aching heart, you celebrate with me as you embrace me with Your amazing comfort.
In the Name of Your Son, Jesus Christ,

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