“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” -1 Peter 5:10
This verse has been sitting on a counter in my house for quite some time now. It really is a sweet promise, and one that I didn’t fully understand until recently. For me, “beauty after suffering” is a phrase I’ve always believed. First comes the suffering, and then comes the great blessings. But what if the promise in this verse includes beauty in the midst of suffering? What if the God of all grace can restore us in the middle of our brokenness and utter helplessness? I believe with all of my heart that He can. And I’ve seen firsthand that He does.
Shortly after my husband and I got married, we found out we were expecting our first child. Many emotions flooded my heart. Awe, nervousness, excitement, and extreme joy were just a few. I couldn’t wait to tell family and friends our news. It was my first taste of motherhood, and my heart was just excited to begin this new journey with my husband. But something wasn’t right. A nagging and eventually very painful cramp on my left side led me to the hospital for emergency surgery. Suddenly we were sharing with our family the news that we were pregnant and that we had lost our little one due to an ectopic pregnancy. We were heartbroken. Dreams were crushed. But we were also grateful for God’s protection that day, a day that could have turned out quite differently.
Just eight months later, I became pregnant again. Beauty after suffering at last! And this timing was perfect. Several friends were also pregnant, and as a teacher, I was in love with the summer due date. God’s perfect timing beamed within me. And I just knew God was going to give us what we had long desired with this precious gift. We were on our way to having our little blessing. But suffering shattered our hope once again when we found out the tiny little one in my womb had no heartbeat. The tears didn’t stop for weeks, and despair slowly took over a heart that desperately began to struggle and wrestle with faith. Were past mistakes causing these losses? I just didn’t understand. Why would beauty show itself and disappear yet once again?
I was utterly broken. Life continued to happen around me, but I was standing still, hoping that the pain would somehow leave. This suffering hurt deeply, and the messiness of both losses overwhelmed me. Over time, even in my continued impatience and sadness, God moved my eyes to see that He was still at work, picking up the pieces and continuing on with the art He had predestined. There would be beauty.
This past August, I was sitting at Brook Hills, seven weeks pregnant once again, belting out at the top of my lungs the song "Jesus, My Firm Foundation":
“He’ll be our Defender and cause us to stand
Upheld by His merciful, almighty hand.”
These words were very real to me because I had lived them. I felt His hand with me. I felt 1 Peter 5:10, and it felt beautiful.
A few days later, as I drove to work, I just couldn’t stop singing and worshipping. I was overcome by the sweet presence of Christ all around me. Little did I know how much I would need those thirty minutes of worship to carry me through that afternoon. My husband and I were in the doctor’s office for a routine check-up. Thankfully, we had already seen that precious heartbeat in a previous visit. At a moments notice, though, that heartbeat had gone on to heaven. My doctor said it had possibly stopped just a couple of days before (because my measurements were quite good) on a day that I was belting out "Jesus, My Firm Foundation."
Those tiny fingers and toes had left us once again, and there was a gaping hole left in our hearts. But something was different. 1 Peter 5:10 was still very real, and peace flooded our souls. How could this be? We were hurt, filled with sorrow, and broken, but we felt the awing presence of God all around us, pouring out His beauty through prayers, His Word, and the Body of Christ.
And in those first few days after we lost our third little one, God graciously revealed 1 Peter 5:10 to me in a whole new way. I got it. He was coming through on His promise to strengthen, confirm, and establish my heart in the midst of suffering. I knew there would be hard days ahead, but my eyes, instead of looking outward with gleaming comparison, were looking at Christ and the beauty He was creating.
What of the heart that continues to parallel punishment to such a loss? In her book Inheritance of Tears, Jessalyn Hutto says, “Women who have miscarried need not fear that God has chosen to punish them by taking their baby’s life. He has already punished His Son. We who have been bought with the precious blood of Christ are no longer enemies of God but beloved children who He loves with the undying, unwavering affection of a father.”
God has graciously grown my faith throughout this journey, and I can say that in my darkest moments, I have truly known my Savior. He has, indeed, become my Firm Foundation. I wouldn’t have picked this leg of the race with its pointy thorns and bristles, but neither would I hand it back. For it has and is creating more beauty than I can possibly imagine.
For me, trust and faith have grown out of suffering and heartache, and it is my hope that Christ receives the beautiful glory He deserves with His story. And I pray that we may all have courage and hope to believe that “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).