Lessons in Heartache #2 – written 8/6/2013
Lesson #2 – Even when I feel forsaken, I can trust Him.
This week began with a long-time friend of mine having her baby girl. While I am thankful they are both happy and healthy and there are no complications, my heart is breaking. The question of “Why do some mom’s get to keep their babies and I didn’t?” came to mind so quickly, I felt stabbed in the heart – again. I spent Tuesday – 7 weeks to the day after Lucy was born and died – trying to hold it together at work.
It was also the day that St. Louis Children’s Hospital was having their memorial for all those babies who passed in the last couple months. We chose not to attend due to work schedules and feeling we really didn’t need to do this emotionally. We had our graveside memorial with our close family and that was hard enough. Why put ourselves through that again?
However, when I finally got home from that long emotion-blocking day, it all hit full force. All I wanted was to hold my baby – and that, of course, is impossible. Then the thought of sitting around the house for the evening with my empty arms and emptier womb (I so enjoyed my evenings with Lucy kicking away in my belly and now that, too, is gone) made me feel so alone and hopeless, I had to escape. I tried to walk the mad and sad away, even leaving my poor husband in the dust, but that didn’t work. I was in worse shape emotionally when I got home than when I left.
Was there no way to escape this feeling of hopelessness and sadness? Any way at all to face this and not drag everyone around me into an emotional pit of despair? I don’t want people feeling sorry for me. I don’t want anyone’s pity. I just want to get through this. Feelings of loneliness, even when sitting with those people who love me and would do anything for me, who would even carry away this pain and sadness if they could, they overwhelm my soul. But I can’t let them carry this pain and sadness. I love them too much. I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to bear this, let alone those people I love – when I am capable of love these days. Some of you won’t understand that last sentence but some of you will. The loss is sometimes so great your emotions just shut down. You feel nothing. Except the hopelessness. Honestly, I do have those moments, even though they do not last very long. I know in my heart who my God is, even when my emotions don’t remember.
In the back of my mind always, is the fact that even though I can’t feel Him, I know my God is with me. The Holy Spirit has promised to be a comfort to those who mourn. To the mom whose arms and womb are empty. To the dad who has lost not only his child but that part of his wife that seems to have died with their child. Will she ever be whole again? Will she ever smile with her whole being instead of just her mouth? Will he himself ever find real joy again? And how do we learn to pray believing for anything when this is so far from what we were believing for? Has God abandoned us as it seems or is He really there even when we cannot feel Him?
My mind keeps running to how God must have felt when Jesus took our sin upon him and caused the separation between their spirits. We know from scripture that Jesus felt it. All four of the gospels tell the story of the crucifixion. When putting them all together, we get a couple different phrases that show us how that separation was felt by Jesus. He had never known a time of separation from God, his Father. In his ministry, Jesus said “I and my Father are One” (John 10:30) and “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:10). They were one. There was a bond there which is stronger than any earthly parental bond we can imagine. They had many years of learning the strength of that bond, of working together for the good of all mankind through that bond, of perfecting the oneness of mind, spirit, and soul that could only come through that bond. Jesus’ strength, wisdom, and power came through that bond.
As an expectant mother, you pour everything you have into that little person growing inside you. You speak to her. You speak for her at doctor visits. You alone know how she is ‘feeling’ by how active or quiet she is. By how you yourself are feeling. Is she taking more from you this week? Maybe it’s a growth spurt. Is she quieter this week? Maybe you need to eat more proteins or be less active yourself so she can have more energy. There is truly oneness of body going on. It’s a bond that is un-imaginable if you have not experienced it. Though it is difficult to fathom, we know that the bond between God and His son Jesus was even stronger!
And yet, through the details in the four gospels, we knit together a telling experience of separation between the two. A severing of that strong bond. All for us. Jesus experienced a feeling of separations from God that is heartbreaking to imagine. He cried out, “My God, My God! Why have you forsaken me?” He felt the loss of that connection. There was no longer oneness with God. Our sin was upon Jesus. He held it. For the first time, he knew what it was to be separate from his Father. Take a moment to imagine the emotion, the heartbreak, the seeming hopelessness. If it were not for his time in the garden, surrendering his will to that of the Father’s, I cannot imagine what Jesus would have felt. Even in that unknown feeling of separation from God – which he had no prior experience with or knowledge of – Jesus knew He could trust his Father.
How do we know this? Because even during this time of separation, while our sin is still on him, knowing death is eminent and necessary for our good, Jesus gave up a loud cry (Matt 27:50, Mark 15:37) and said “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Jesus breathed his last breath, trusting his Father God. I have not read anything in scripture that makes me think there was any reassurance given Jesus between his feelings of separation and his declaration of trust in committing his spirit to God. His total surrender in the garden was demonstration of his trust in God to see him through. Even in this feeling of being forsaken, he knew that somehow his Father God would allow him to rise again on the third day (John 2:19).
In my own struggles with grief, I know I have to surrender to God. I cannot change what has happened. I can only move on from here. Am I committed to trusting Him even when I feel forsaken? Do I trust Him enough to lift my empty arms in surrender and praise because I know I am not abandoned and alone? Only He can fill them. Only He can satisfy. And only through surrender. Only when I can say “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit, my hurt, my life, my all.”