The Secret to Finding Joy When Things Don’t Turn Out Like You Hope
Today’s guest post is from author and counselor Pam Vredevelt, related to her new book Empty Arms Journal: A 21-Day Guide for Healing After Pregnancy Loss. Many of you have been personally touched by a pregnancy loss or know someone who has been. Nanci and I have known Pam for many years and deeply respect her. I think you’ll find her perspectives helpful and God-honoring. —Randy Alcorn
My world was upside down. After 36 long hours of labor, I finally delivered our first baby who died half-way to term. I left the hospital with post-partum hormones raging, milk flowing, and enough grief to sink a ship.
Wiping away streaming tears and snot, I couldn’t help it. God got an earful. Why God?! We prayed for this baby! We loved our baby!
The truth is, the more you love the more you hurt. The greater the bond, the greater the pain. It’s part of being human.
I like the fact that Jesus “gets real” about suffering. He doesn’t sugar coat the truth. He validates our pain, and shares secrets to finding joy in the midst of it.
One of those secrets rolled off His lips when He and His friends encountered a blind man. Puzzled by the man’s plight, the friends ask, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?
It was an honest question. They were trying to make sense out of it, like we do. Sudden loss. Chronic illness. Unfixable problems. Broken relationships. Issues that leave us with more questions than answers.
The man was born blind. It’s the last thing a parent wants. We prefer a 10 on the Apgar scale. Like you, these guys wanted rock-solid answers.
Now catch what Jesus says: It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.[i]
Do you see the shift that Jesus prompts? His friends were thinking cause and effect. They were looking for something to blame and asking the wrong questions. Jesus wants them to switch their focus to look for what God can do.
Then He spits in the dirt, slathers mud on the man’s eyes, and tells him to wash in a nearby pool. The man comes back sporting 20-20 vision dancing a jig peppered with cartwheels and back flips. OK. My imagination took over. Wouldn’t you love to have seen it first hand?
You’re asking the wrong question, Pam. You’re trying to figure it out. Look instead for what God can do.
God has given us the gift of choice. We get to choose what we look for.
If we look for milk in the refrigerator, we find it.
If we look for poop, we find it, too.
The truth is. . .
You find what you look for.
Shortly after I left the hospital with empty arms, I was swimming laps blubbering from one end of the pool to the other. God got another big earful.
It’s OK. God welcomes emotional honesty.
Suddenly, I saw a picture of a book. I knew it was for moms who, like me, had lost a baby. God was planting a seed in my broken heart. A year later it bore fruit. Empty Arms was published and it has offered hope to 100,000+ moms.
Awhile back, another whisper came, seven years after our sixteen-year-old son relocated to Heaven. Emerging from a long hard trek through the dark Valley of Shadows, I heard my Father’s voice again . . . Pave the way. Show them HOW to embrace their loss, and I will heal their heart.
One million expectant mothers suffer a pregnancy loss every year in America. Up to 59% of grieving parents get stuck in unresolved prolonged grief.[ii] That must stop.
I’m excited to tell you that the Empty Arms Journal: A 21-Day Guide for Healing After Pregnancy Loss is now available. It’s the first of several guided healing journals.
Please get a copy and share a lifeline.
In the meantime, when things don’t turn out like you hope, keep your eyes of faith open. Look for what God can do.
According to Jesus, it’s a secret to finding joy.
[i] John 9:1-3, ESV
[ii] S.X. Lin and J.N. Lasker, “Patterns of grief reaction after pregnancy loss,” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 66 (1996) pp.262-271.