Hannah's loss: "I can only see one piece of the puzzle at a time"
I was privileged recently to attend the terrible but beautiful funeral of a young stillborn baby, Esther. The circumstances of her loss were tragic enough, but it was made even worse, if such a thing is possible, by the fact that this was the second newborn baby that the family had buried. Just two years ago, Esther's brother Stephen was born with a rare medical condition that allowed him to live only 47 hours.
At Esther's funeral, Hannah, her mother got up and gave this address with calm, peace and a quiet confidence that could only have been given to her by God. It was moving and miraculous, and I am honoured to be able to share it here with my readers.
"A few months after my son Harry was born I was lying in bed one night. It had turned into the wee hours of the morning and I couldn’t sleep. I was tossing and turning and eventually began to realise that it was God who was keeping me awake. In my frustration, I came to realise that the Lord was challenging me to hand over everything in my life to him.
Thinking that I had already wholeheartedly given every aspect of my life to God’s sovereignty, I started to mentally roll through everything that was a part of my life and re-affirm that I had given everything that was important to me over to him.
So I began, “Lord, I trust you with my home and my finances; to keep food on the table and clothes on our backs. Lord, I trust you with my marriage; that you will always keep Michael and I growing closer together if our hearts are set on you.”
As I started to come to the end of my list, I realised there was a problem. There was a block in me. I found myself saying, “Lord, I do trust you to look after me, but not my children. They are too precious. I need to be in control of that. I need to be in charge of their health, and their happiness, and their well-being. It’s too important to me to leave that up to you. I can’t trust you enough with that, because I know full well that your version of 'what’s best' often involves suffering and I can’t watch my children go through that.”
As soon as I had thought it I knew it was exactly why the Lord was keeping me awake.
I had some business to do with God. I had to hand my children over to him and tell him that I trusted him no matter what the circumstance. I prayed and asked the Lord to take away the resistance within me that was preventing me from trusting him, and asked him to help me to trust him.
Within a few moments I found that a burden had lifted within my spirit and I was wholeheartedly able to say to him, “I trust you with my children. I trust you to make the best decisions for them and to submit to your will for them as their mother.” Within a few moments I was fast asleep.
It was less than two years later that Stephen was diagnosed with Holoprosencephaly at 20 weeks gestation. He was not expected to live for many hours after he was born – if he was indeed born alive.
For those of you who walked that journey with us or have read about it, you will know that it was no picnic. It was difficult and it was devastating. But I can honestly tell you that I never once thought to myself, “why me?” or, “why my child?”
I was never angry with God for choosing that path for our son. Although it tore at every fibre of my being, there was a peace within me that I couldn’t explain. That is until I remembered the night I had done business with God. I had honoured him with my trust, and as always, he was holding up his end of the bargain.
A few months ago, I was awake in the early hours of the morning, tossing and turning. I think the Lord uses the quietness of the night to get to me; when he can have my undivided attention. Once again I was distressed. Even though everything was on track with my pregnancy, I found myself becoming very unsettled at the thought of “what if everything does not work out? What if something happens?”
I found myself telling myself that, “surely the Lord would not be that cruel. He would never let us suffer through this a second time. He knows that I would not make it. I almost didn’t make it through my grief for Stephen, I just know that I would never make it through again.”
As these thoughts were whizzing around my head, there was the soft, gentle and firm voice of God. He said to me, “I will never ask anything of you that I will not see you through.”
I can tell you that was not exactly what I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear that everything was going to be okay. I wanted an assurance from the Lord that he would keep our baby safe and that he wouldn’t be so cruel. But that is not what I got.
I did business with the Lord again that night and in the days to follow. Through prayer and humility I made up my mind to trust him to see me through whatever lay ahead.
You see, God is so good. That night he prepared me for what I am facing today. If I had put my hope and my future happiness in the notion of having another baby, then my world would have ended last Tuesday when Esther was stillborn. I would have no reason to go on.
But that is not where my hope is. My hope is in the one who will restore all things, who will get rid of every wickedness, tragedy and sorrow, and who will one day reunite Michael and I with our darling Esther.
Perhaps today you are looking for answers. I am sorry to tell you that I don’t have any for you and I probably never will in this life. All I can tell you is that God gives me one piece of the puzzle at a time; only ever as much as I can take, and that he does the same for you.
As Christians we can feel that we need to have all of the answers about God. We can feel that we need to be able to defend ourselves against the arguments and the cynicism that comes our way because it’s easier to try and come up with a logical argument rather than admit that there is so much about God that we don’t know or understand.
Today I am admitting to you that I don’t have all of the answers. But what I do know is that God has put the truth in my hands; a piece of the puzzle that I can work with. And I also know that he has done and will do the same for you if you let him. And I do have the faith that if we trust him and give him time, he will reveal something beautiful to us as those pieces start to come together.
Today I have the faith to know that God will bring something beautiful out of this situation. I have seen him do it before, and I know that he will do it again. And in the weeks and months to follow when I will have my doubts, when I will struggle to remember what I so clearly see today, I ask that you might encourage me with the piece he has put into your hands.
During the service, Hannah and her husband Michael asked the congregation to come out the front and each take a puzzle piece. Then we were invited, as an act of faith, to take part in putting together a bigger picture. It was a beautiful illustration of life and suffering and faith.
Hannah's book, 47 Hours with a Prince, is a must-read for anyone who has ever suffered a tragic loss and I recommend it wholeheartedly. You can connect with Hannah on her facebook page or on her website.