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Living in the Light

 

 

Filtering by Tag: suffering

Light in the Darkness

Jessalyn Hutto

It isn't long before a Christian realizes that a life of faith requires that he mentally and spiritually assent to truths that don't always feel or seem true to him in this dark and broken world.

The woman who has just lost her unborn baby to miscarriage is called to believe that her sovereign God is still good.

The man who's received a devastating medical prognosis is asked to believe that his God still loves him.

The family who's experienced bankruptcy is told to trust that their God still has a good and perfect plan for them.

The church whose pastor has resigned due to a moral failure is called to believe the same gospel message he preached from the pulpit every Sunday..

Such realities -though Biblical and true- can feel very foolish when all the physical evidence seems to point in the opposite direction. Indeed, when you are in the midst of life's most difficult trials, the pain you experience can be so thick that you hardly remember the good and holy words of our God, written down for low moments such as these. And when the tears are plentiful and constant, it is hard to see the Savior's loving face through them.

In these dark moments it doesn't feel rational to assent to his goodness, wisdom, and love.

And yet, this type of faith-fueled foolishness is exactly what our Savior asks of us.

For it is in this foolishness that the wisdom of God is revealed to our hearts.

In truth, we do not praise God in the midst of difficulties because it makes sense to, but rather we praise God in the midst of our difficulties in order to make sense of the trials themselves.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
— 1 Corinthians 1:18

I have experienced this reality first hand - this absurd and powerful peace that can steady a Christian in the midst of the unthinkable. I was reminded of one such moment when a song came over my radio a couple days ago. It was Shane and Shane’s version of Our God is Greater. As the words, "And if our God is for us, then what could stand against?,” rang out, I was transported back to a Sunday following one of my miscarriages. I remember singing this song with tears pouring down my cheeks. I was unable to keep them in, hardly able to sing a full line of the song without gasping for breath. And yet, our kind worship pastor kept pounding the line into my broken heart, telling me a story about a God who was for me.

This particular song is quite an encouragement when things are looking up for you - when you are standing on the precipice of the great unknown. But when suffering becomes known to you and you're deep in the trenches of spiritual warfare, being attacked from all sides, experiencing the devastating fruits of the fall, this song can feel like a cruel lie.

When death robs you of your child, and you experience its cold grip within your very womb, it doesn't really feel like God is fighting for you as the song says... it doesn’t feel like he is in any way for you.

Yet the Bible assures us that in the midst of our pain, God is at work for our good:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
— Romans 8:31-32

I love this verse, don't you? It is like a spiritual punch to the gut for my doubting soul. It's as if God is saying: "You think I don't love you, daughter? What more can I do to prove it to you than crucify my eternal Son? I've given  you everything! Believe."

But this beautiful gospel story can stray so far from our minds when we are hurting. Jesus said that if we eat of his body and drink of his blood we will never hunger, nor thirst, yet here we are feeling famished and parched in the midst of despair.

Could it be because we have not seen the gospel for the sustenance it truly is?

Could it be that we have forgotten that it is in Christ that there is fullness of life.

Not in a baby. Not in good health. Not in a steady job. Not in a faithful pastor.

In Christ.

His gospel is light in our darkness because it illuminates eternal realities. It reveals to us the reason for our suffering and the hope for its end. It gives us a cosmic understanding of our pain, and draws us into the healing embrace of the One who holds the galaxies in his hands.

The Word of God may be foolishness to this perishing world, but to those who are being transformed by the Holy Spirit, it is the unveiling of true reality. Within its pages are found the answers to our souls' most vexing anxieties. 

Why pain? Why suffering? Why sorrow? Why regret? Why death? What is the point of life when it is so hard? Will their ever be an end to this darkness? Can happiness be possible? Is there reason to hope? Can I be happy in this world? Why do I long for something that isn't possible? Where are we all headed?

The answers are in a Book given to us by the very breath of God, so that we could know the Story. Our story. His Story. The Story that makes sense of everything.

The gospel story.

And so, when we are crushed by our circumstances and tempted to doubt God, we must redirect our gaze to the unwavering  proof of his love for us - to the only One in whom we find joy and peace. We must run to the gospel.

We must tell ourselves The Story. The one that's been faithfully passed down from generation to generation because it is like a candle in a dark room - banishing our fears and uncertainty.

It is the story of a baby born in a stable - a holy mixture of frail humanity and omnipotent divinity. The story of a sinless man whose dry, callused feet, crusted in mud, faithfully roamed a middle eastern land bringing good news wherever they went. It's the tale of an unattractive, unimpressive man -whom we never would have thought twice about - except that he claimed to be the God of the Universe. Yet this man asked not to be served by his followers, but rather to serve. We must remember how in the moment of his ultimate act of service the sun refused to shine and the earth broke apart in anguish. As the sinless Son of God hung on a cross suffocating to death, experiencing the wrath of God against our sin his creation couldn't help but convulse. 

We look to that cross and we remember love, even in our darkest, earth shattering days, we remember Love.

For Christians must be storytellers. 

We must spend our days retelling the same exact story over and over again of a God made man, sent to suffer and die for the forgiveness of our sins.

Yes, we tell this story to the world, hoping and praying that God will open the eyes of more blind people in the same way he has opened ours. But we also continue to tell this story to our own hearts, knowing that just as Jesus' frail disciples were swift to sleep while he suffered in the garden alone, so too are we quick grow unaffected by his suffering.

The only antidote to our doubt in these times is to tell ourselves The Story. 

For as Kate DiCamillo so eloquently spoke into one of her characters: 

Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark.
— The Tale of Despereaux

Our Expectations and Our Reality

Jessalyn Hutto

Jasmine Holmes was so very kind to review my book, Inheritance of Tears: Trusting the Lord of Life When Death Visits the Womb, at The Gospel Coalition today. In her review, she quotes a paragraph from one of my favorite sections of the book entitled, "What to Expect from a Sin-Broken World."

I say that this section is one of my favorites, but it is not because I got to explain a happy thought. Rather, it is because I had the opportunity to express an essential truth that every Christian must lean on in times of great disappointment and pain in order to find hope and peace in the gospel message. I will post the entire section below in the hopes that it will bless all who are currently struggling through trials, but especially those dear sisters who have lost little ones.

For many of us, the effects of this fallen world seem like distant theological concepts that carry little weight in everyday life. As a result, we live with expectations befitting a pre-fall Eden, rather than a sin-broken Earth. We expect to live healthy, fulfilled lives. We expect to have marriages in which we perfectly understand and communicate with our spouses. We expect to become pregnant easily, carry our babies full-term, and deliver them in perfect health. Our hearts yearn for the creation to function as God intended it to, and thus we don't naturally expect pain, discord, or death. Yet, this is exactly the inescapable inheritance we've received from our first parents.
The daily manifestations of God's beautiful grace, which we are blessed to experience despite our fallen state, are like windows into a world we do not yet fully inhabit - a world where God's goodness flows, unhindered by sin, to his created beings. A world with no more pain or suffering or death. In short: heaven.
Yet we tend to believe that we deserve such comforts and perfections in this world. We picture ourselves living out our lives in peaceful delight, doing work we always love, serving in churches where nothing ever goes seriously wrong. We buy pregnancy books, fully expecting our babies to grow according to each chapter's description. Rarely do we consider the awful truth that our babies are conceived in sin-infected bodies walking around in a sin-infected world. Indeed, even our babies' genetic make-up is subjected to the same futility as the rest of creation. Though pregnancy books may encourage us to put off distressing thoughts such as miscarriage and stillbirth, a biblical worldview demands that we have a realistic view of what pregnancy can and sometimes does look like in a post-fall world.
It certainly isn't my aim to pain a hopeless picture for those already experiencing grief. There is real, good, credible hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ for every daughter of Eve. I want to encourage you - if possible - with the knowledge that miscarriage is indeed a terrible thing. Women who experience miscarriage rightly feel as though something horrific just happened to them and their child. They need not feel obligated to treat the event as something common that they should simply "get over" and "move on" from. It is common, but that does not lessen its horror! Miscarriage, like every other manifestation of the fall, is the opposite of what God intended for our world - it is not good, it is very bad. Knowing this is essential to our finding encouragement in Christ.
For many women, miscarriage will be one of their first experiences with the serious physical effects of the fall. I distinctly remember the emotions that surged through me when we lost our first baby to miscarriage. Suddenly, the idea of death took on a whole new meaning. As my womb was robbed of the life it once carried, the groaning of creation became terribly personal. Later on, when I delivered the lifeless body of another of our precious babies who had died at 15 weeks gestation, my soul yearned like never before for Christ to return and do away with death forever.

You can read more about Inheritance of Tears here.

Is Miscarriage Divine Punishment from God?

Jessalyn Hutto

In the third interview question I received from Rachel at The Purposeful Wife in regard to my book, we tackled a very important question:

"You discuss how miscarriage is never God's punishment of our personal sin, because of our standing in Christ. While I am 100% in agreement here, I couldn't help but think of David and Bathsheba's infant dying as a result of their sin. How do you understand this story within your theological framework? How could we give Gospel hope to a woman who brings it up in concern that her miscarriage was divine punishment?"

Inheritance of Tears is a short book, and purposefully so. We wanted it to be resource that could easily be handed out to grieving women--both to those who have a theological foundation and those who do not. For this reason, many of the topics I cover in its 100 pages, can certainly be studied in greater depth. This topic is one of them. I was so grateful to have the opportunity to further explore this idea with Rachel: that while death and suffering are a result of sin, we shouldn't immediately link a specific sin to a specific trial.

You can read my full response here.

Happy Mother's Day to the Woman Who's Miscarried

Jessalyn Hutto

“Happy Mother’s Day, dear sister.”

Does it seem cruel to say such a thing? 

Does it sound as though I am insensitive to your loss?

I will be the first to admit that the words don’t come out very comfortably. But I pray that you will trust that I have no desire to belittle your pain or to to make light of your current grief. I don’t wish to add to the painful reminders of your loss that so  easily characterize this holiday.

But I want to say it to you, sweet sister.

I want you to know that you are worth celebrating this Mother’s Day—That your desire for motherhood, that your willingness to open your womb to new life, and that your current mourning is worth recognizing. 

You are worth recognizing because you are a mother.

What is a mother anyway? Why do we, as a society, set aside a special day to lift up the women in our lives who have children? Is it the mere ability to reproduce that is worth celebrating? If we are focusing on the ability to reproduce, it is God whom we should be celebrating, not mothers, for only he can give life where there was once nothing... 

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How Can You Help A Friend Who Miscarries?

Jessalyn Hutto

Since the release of Inheritance of Tears, my life has been quite a whirlwind. Very little of the craziness, however, has been a result of the book! In truth, there have been many days over the past two months that I've completely forgotten that something as wonderfully exciting as publishing a book, has taken place. Regular life--the joys and insanity of caring for a household of 6--has been more than enough to occupy my time, thoughts and energy.

And so, as reviews for the book have started to filter in, I've been in a constant state of wonder at God's willingness to use me to serve the church in this way. I'm so happy to see Inheritance of Tears being well-received and pray that it will bear much fruit as it falls into the hands of women who need it. 

I'd like to send out a huge "Thank You!" to every single person who has shared about this book. I'm hopeful that your kind efforts will lead to many women being encouraged in their darkest hours.

Recently, I've had the wonderful opportunity to answer some very practical questions regarding miscarriage and how to lovingly serve those who are mourning the loss of their children.

At this time, there are two separate interviews (more to come!) that I would like to share with you. I  hope you find them helpful as you seek to minister to those who are suffering...

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Miscarriage and the Incarnation

Jessalyn Hutto

Jesus entered our world and partook of the inheritance we had secured through sin, so that one day we could partake of the glorious inheritance he would secure for us through his sacrificial death on the cross (1 Peter 1:3-4). He did this to defeat humanity's ancient enemies, sin and death. God promised this very solution to Adam and Eve after they rebelled: though Eve would suffer the curse of painful and difficult childrearing (something starkly illustrated in miscarriage), it would be through childbearing that the rescuer would come. It would be through Adam and Eve's offspring that Satan, and his reign of death would finally be defeated (Genesis 3:15)...

The incarnation offers beautiful hope for the woman who has miscarried. The death of a baby within the womb is a painful reminder--if not one of the most fundamental expressions--of death's curse over humanity. The good news is that Jesus came to reverse exactly that curse. Mankind was created to multiply and to fill the earth, subduing and caring for it as God's regents, but humanity struggles to fulfill this basic function. Husbands and wives groan under this devastating reality as they watch their precious offspring die even before they are born. Many of our children return to the dust before we do, forcing us to observe helplessly the tragic wages of sin.

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God, Use This Miscarriage

Jessalyn Hutto

Romans 8:28 tells us that "for those who love God all things work together for good." For the woman who has miscarried, these words can feel like a terrible cosmic joke. Can losing your baby really, truly be used by God for your good? This is one of the difficult truths of scripture that I attempt to answer in my book, Inheritance of Tears: Trusting the Lord of Life When Death Visits the Womband I did so with much fear and trembling. For truly, one of the last things a woman who just experienced the death of her baby wants to hear is that God allowed it to happen for her good.

And yet, this difficult and biblical truth is one of the most encouraging and beautiful of all realities for a woman when she miscarries. The knowledge that her pregnancy was not wasted--that it has eternal worth and purpose--can lift her mourning soul from the depths of futility to the heights of gospel hope.

Here is an excerpt from the chapter, "Hard Frosts and Spring's Flowers," in which I explain some of the ways a woman who miscarries can expect to see spiritual good in her loss:

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Announcing My Book on Miscarriage

Jessalyn Hutto

About this time last year, I began a very special project with Cruciform Press that I have yet to make public. In fact, aside from some close friends and family, there are few people who know that I've spent every free moment I could muster over the past year writing a book. The time has come, however, to reveal my little secret and I couldn't be more excited to share it with you!

In the first week of March, a book I've written on the topic of miscarriage called Inheritance of Tears: Trusting the Lord of Life When Death Visits the Womb will be published!

As many of you know, I have experienced two heartbreaking miscarriages. The first was at eight weeks into a pregnancy and the second was a late miscarriage at seventeen weeks. As I walked through these horrific trials, two things became increasingly clear to me:

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Never Let Her Grieve or Rejoice Alone

Jessalyn Hutto

I sat across from my friend, with tears in my eyes, and offered her the same council I had received so many years before: “Take things slowly and understand that being around other pregnant moms may bring up difficult emotions; don’t feel guilty about declining some baby shower invitations for a little while if they’re too painful for you to attend; you are grieving and it is okay to acknowledge that grief...”

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