Grief & Suffering

When Your Arms Are Emptier Than You Expected

When Your Arms Are Emptier Than You Expected

I’m a mom, though I may not look like it to the world. My shopping cart holds no toddler, my arm totes no diaper bag, but my heart is full of love for two children I never met.

Some of you may look like a mom of two, when really you have three babies. Others have multiple children in heaven with only one visible babe on earth. And let’s not forget the ache of those struggling with infertility.

Our stories are different, but our arms seem emptier than we expected.

How do we thrive in a season of loss and grief this deep? Is it even possible?

In Psalm 13, David gives us a glimpse inside the heart of a believer facing suffering. His lament and subsequent praise remind us you can be wholly grieved and experience pure joy at the same time. When our joy is founded in Jesus and the gospel, we’re free to lament the deep losses of life with eyes fixed on him.

In the Bible, thriving often looks a lot like growing. It’s often painful to feel the changes and stretches within my heart as God sanctifies me through trials. But this is good news, because it means the Christian can grow and even thrive in any season or circumstance.

As I walk through this ongoing season of waiting and longing, with the grief that follows closely behind, my heart nestles into this beautiful truth: we can do nothing apart from Jesus.

It is only through abiding in Christ that we face each day with hope. Only through Christ are we able to rejoice with others as we feel our own sorrow. It’s impossible for us to respond to the woes of the world without being connected to the vine.

Let’s strive to abide in Jesus through any season of suffering through diligently studying his word, approaching his throne in prayer, and fellowshipping with our local church bodies.

He will meet you there.

Eternal Hope in Postpartum Depression

Eternal Hope in Postpartum Depression

“My beautiful daughter was born almost a year ago. When I look at her, I feel the immense joy that comes from parenting a little one so dependent on me, a reminder of my dependence on Jesus alone. However, my joy in parenting did not come quickly or easily.

Within a few days of my daughter’s birth, I knew something was very wrong with me. I felt far away from everyone around me, even the baby I nursed and rocked gently in my arms. Postpartum depression, anxiety, and panic attacks struck me hard and fast.

I felt lost in a lonely world without warmth or joy.

During a Bible study on the book of Romans, a friend reminded me sin affects every area of our lives. My brain went haywire not because of personal weakness, but because we’re fallen people living in a fallen world in desperate need of a Savior.

God faithfully reminded me the world can’t and won’t be perfect. But God makes his presence known in the darkest places because he is the God of light, and his salvation through Jesus shines brighter than any dark place our bodies and minds bring us.

We serve a great God who sees time from the very beginning to the very end. Even the most hidden thoughts of my heart—those scary, terrifying, anxious thoughts—are under God’s mighty and compassionate care. God can still the racing thoughts of our hearts, and heal every recess of our broken minds. We know Jesus will return and establish his kingdom over all the earth, and the world will be beautiful, whole, and perfect forever.

No matter how motherhood challenges you, Jesus will shine light into your darkness and pull you out of the pit in which you are faltering—with strength, power, and the tender care of a mom holding her baby in her arms for the first time.”

Today’s article from Hannah Abrahamson discusses PPD. While we believe the gospel provides hope to women suffering from PPD, this topic requires sensitivity. We encourage anyone who is experiencing PPD to seek additional counsel from a trusted pastor, licensed counselor, or medical doctor.

Mothering After Childhood Abuse

Mothering After Childhood Abuse

“‘So, when can I see you and the kids?’
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This conversation has been looming over me for months, heavy with dread & anticipation. But I made the phone call. ‘Mom, I really don’t think that’s a good idea. Maybe once I can see some real change, we can start spending more time together.’
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My relationship with my mother is anything but typical. Growing up, it wasn’t something that I could articulate well. It wasn’t until college, sitting in a psychology course & learning about emotional abuse, that I started to be able to name my experience.
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Now that I’m a mother, I worry about how my experience as a child will affect my two, small children. How can I possibly mother when my very frame of reference is broken?
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By adopting a new one. 
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The Bible tells us that everything in God’s original creation was good. As sin entered the world, everything changed. Like a drop of dye in a glass of water, sin quickly spread throughout God’s good creation, until nothing was untouched—human relationships were poisoned.
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Fortunately, God didn’t not abandon humanity in its broken state. Almost in the same breath he used to pronounce judgment upon us for our sin, he gave us hope. 
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By his perfect life & death upon the cross, Jesus paid the penalty necessary for our redemption. In doing so, he secured for us an imperishable, undefiled, & unfading inheritance which waits for us, even in the thick of our suffering. 
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When our hearts ache because our earthly parents failed us, it’s this hope that we cling to. We now look to God as the example of the perfect parent, rather than looking to the broken, earthly one we experienced.
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Though we still feel the painful effects of our fallen world, we have reason to rejoice. The God who says, ‘Behold, I am making all things new,’ is working in us as well.”
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Today’s article from @alissamgriffin addresses child abuse. While we believe the gospel breathes new life into all relationships, this topic requires sensitivity. We encourage anyone who has experienced abuse to seek counsel from your pastor, an older woman in your church, or a trained biblical counselor.

Loving Your Friend Through Infertility

Loving Your Friend Through Infertility

Infertility is painful for countless reasons, but one reason is women can feel isolated from or misunderstood by their loved ones.

I know this struggle all too well.

Now that I’m in my early 30’s, I’m the only woman in my circle of friends who does not have children. I respect and admire their commitment to their families, for that is a good, godly calling! However, the natural result tends to leave me, a childless woman, feeling removed or not properly cared for.

How, then, should you love your friend suffering through infertility?

There isn’t one ideal approach, and every woman is different but here’s what I’ve learned. By leaning into Christ, you can love and serve her well through these three Gospel-centered ways:

(1) Mourn with her.

(2) Remind of her of her identity in Christ.

(3) Speak truth, not fluff.

There is unending grace for you and your friend as you navigate this trial together. Be committed, be bound, be unshakable.

When Motherhood Meets Cancer

When Motherhood Meets Cancer

In October 2010, my husband and I sat on the floor in our boys’ bedroom as they ran around us in a pre-bedtime frenzy. Surrounded by bunk beds, toys, and trains, we told our young sons I had cancer.

Angiosarcoma has a five-year survival rate of 30%. My boys were six and four, and their little sister was 18 months old. I closed my tear-filled eyes and started begging the Lord to give us those five years. I wasn’t bold enough to ask for more. 

My cancer diagnosis shattered my illusion of having control over mine or my children’s lives. I knew my children would face suffering, but I assumed I would be the one to comfort them, pray for them, and guide them through the hardships. I couldn’t imagine not being there as they grieved.

Mothering through cancer was never easy. I hated missing school programs, awards ceremonies, tee-ball games, birthdays, and holidays. I hated letting others care for my family while I fought for my life in another state. I hated the harshness of our present circumstances and the uncertainty in our future.

But God was always at work.

I learned to rest in his presence with us through the hard times. When I wasn’t able to trust his plans, he poured out his peace. When our needs were extreme, so was his provision through the body of Christ. When I wondered how my children would be impacted, he showed us how he was filling them with his strength.

I revisited the familiar promises of God’s word, seeing them through the new lens of a cancer diagnosis. Did I believe that God loved my children with an everlasting love and would continue his faithfulness to them? Did I have confidence that he would work all things together for good, even if his plans involved suffering and heartache?

Because it all comes down to this: Is God enough?

I still struggle to pray, ‘Thy will be done.’ But I’m thankful that I can plead the righteousness of the One who prayed those words with perfect trust. As he grows my faith, I am able to more wholeheartedly believe he is truly sufficient.

He’s Been Through It All

He’s Been Through It All

I know what it’s like to be a mom.

When I was 17, I got pregnant. Right after graduation, I was married, and then about a year later I was divorced. I know what it’s like to be a single mom with a little one to care for; to struggle to balance work and college and mothering and the laundry and…and….

Then, right about the time I turned 21, the Lord graciously saved me.

After a few years in church, I married Phil, who became dad to my little guy. Soon, we had two kids of our own: Three kids, one husband, two dogs…and chickens.

As I look back on those days, I’ll admit that there were plenty of times when I felt completely overwhelmed and alone. I frequently felt like I was drowning.

I’m sure, had you asked me, I knew the Lord was with me, but I’m not sure that I knew how near he was, how much he understood, or how that understanding would have transformed my daily experiences of isolation, irritation, exhaustion, and hopelessness.

Jesus knows what living a boring daily grind is like. He also knows what it’s like to have tired feet, and to feel overwhelmed, to be exhausted, as though you never get a moment to yourself. And (single moms this is just for you!), he also knows what it is like to be the single head of a household.

What do you suppose his life of sawing wood, hammering nails, striving for holiness, loving his neighbor, longing for a bride, was like? It was just like yours. He isn’t ‘out of touch with our reality.’

Get that. He knows what it is to live the life you’re living.

Except, of course, he didn’t sin.

His obedience means first, that he was qualified to bear the punishment for our sin and secondly, that his perfect record of always having obeyed is yours and mine right now.

And that, dear sisters, means that every time you need help, every time you feel like you’re just not going to make it, every time that child needs something again, you’ve got a friend in really high places. He understands what you’re going through and he’s promised to be there with you, supplying all the grace you actually need for that day.

He gets it. He gets you.

Better yet…you get him.

Infertility and the Gospel

 Infertility and the Gospel

“‘Am I going to continue to trust God, even if he never fulfills the longings of my heart?’


That question filled my mind after the doctor informed me that I was born with a somewhat rare medical condition that prevented me from bearing my own babies. The news almost devastated me. For the first time in my life, I faced a situation I couldn’t quickly fix or work my way out of. It didn’t seem fair. With a tear-stained face, I entered into the greatest wrestling match of my life with the Lord.

‘Where was God in my childlessness?’

‘How does the Bible speak to my suffering?’

‘Why would God withhold apparent good from me?’

Maybe you’ve asked similar questions. Maybe you’ve struggled month after month to get pregnant, to no avail. Maybe you’ve lost a precious little one by miscarriage. Maybe you’ve had one child, but are experiencing second hand infertility and another baby won’t come.

God met me in the midst of my longing for motherhood.

As I searched scripture for hope in the midst of my suffering, I learned that the pages of the Bible weren’t silent on the topic of childlessness. Seven barren women are highlighted in the Bible.

I’m glad the Lord included the struggles of other women like myself—women longing to be mothers. 

Because the good news the gospel offers in the midst of our pain is that our identity isn’t in our ability to bear babies. The greatest role of a woman is not to be a mother, but rather to glorify God with our whole lives in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. 

Biblical womanhood is about boldness, tenacity, tender heartedness, and loving the Lord and his people.

Even if we never have that longed for baby; even if our family looks different than we’d imagine, we can rest in the fact that the Lord promises his presence. In him, we can find hope. 

Press into him and allow him to speak life into your soul.”

When Trials and Tears Become Opportunities

When Trials and Tears Become Opportunities

The fear in the room was palpable.

I had just spoken to a group of moms and girls on the primary topic of social media under a gospel-centered framework, and I was left to field questions from the moms. But you know how one person’s anxiety can get a whole group riled up? That’s what happened.

But I get it. Raising kids in today’s culture is hard. Especially raising kids who love the Lord. .

However, it is far from hopeless.

I can recall one trial in particular I would not want to relive, but I would also not undo the good that came from it. When my daughter was in high school she battled an eating disorder, a struggle that stemmed largely from how she saw herself compared to others. Social media was the primary avenue for the comparison (thus the reason for my talk to those fear-filled mothers), but not the heart of the problem.

Had life as her mom remained problem-free, I would have never believed that—deep down—the notion I really held to was that God is good as long as he works according to my plan, my way, my timetable.

I was forced to face my idols of control, comfort, and ease.

It’s never easy to see our sin, but seeing our sin is good because until we do, we don’t know how much we need a Savior. So with the struggle, pain, and worry also came the opportunity to grow in my own need of grace and dependence on God for all things.

So those things we fear and try at all costs to avoid, I get. No parent wants to wade through difficult issues with their kids. But sometimes the unavoidable things are God’s grace to us and our child.

Sometimes they are the very things he uses to draw us more to himself, and lead us to greater compassion and grace for others.


The Truth I Found as a Suddenly Single Mom

The Truth I Found as a Suddenly Single Mom

Six years ago, I went to bed happily married and woke up a widow and single mom to seven.

In the dark hours of that Friday morning, I groggily woke to my husband’s breathing. I reached over with my eyes still closed to nudge him and wake him out of it. He didn’t respond and as I slowly became more aware of what was happening.

Dan was taken by ambulance to the ER and I ran upstairs to pray with my kids before heading to the hospital. Everything in me wanted to assure them it would be alright and Daddy would be okay.

But I couldn’t make that promise. And before the sun was fully up that morning, I walked back through the door from the hospital to tell them their dad had passed away.

Being a single mom was nowhere in the range of possible plans for me.

The stark reminders that I was now a single mom were everywhere. When I signed my kids up for camp or basketball or vacation Bible school, I put N/A in the space for spouse’s information. When my daughter graduated high school and my son was honored midfield for football, I stood with them alone.

But once I was stripped of those expectations, I could see what was really true. While my earthly identity as a wife has changed, my eternal identity as a child of God hasn’t.

Oh, how I miss the insight Dan always provided when we hit a parenting hurdle. But the source of all wisdom hasn’t changed. God promises that ‘if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.’

While Dan is no longer here to work and bring home a salary for our family, the source of all provision hasn’t changed. God promises to meet our needs.

While I no longer have Dan’s prudence and experience to help me make decisions, the source of true guidance hasn’t changed.

God promises abundant life and joy, and that promise holds whether I am married or single; in the throes of raising kids or preening an empty nest; working outside the home or at home full time.

While the circumstances may have shifted, the source of abundance and the reason for joy hasn’t.

 

When You Can’t Afford to Be a “Good” Mom

When You Can’t Afford to Be a “Good” Mom

About eight years ago, our family hit a tough spot financially. I was weeks from delivering our third child when my husband came to me with the numbers; there was simply no more stretching an already stretched budget. We ended up on food stamps and Medicaid.

At first, my faith didn’t waver.

But then things went from bad to worse. As the weeks turned into months and the months to years, I found our financial woes hitting me in a place I’d never expected: motherhood.

To be a ‘good’ mother, culture tells us, you must feed your child organic, locally sourced food. To be a ‘good’ mother, it whispers, you must book a professional photo shoot for each new stage (as well buy new matching outfits.) To be a ‘good’ mother, we hear, you must have the perfectly accessorized nursery. And then as they grow older, to be a ‘good’ mother you must be able to pay for dance, music, and art lessons.

What I remember most about our lean years was the sense of helplessness and guilt I felt While my story may be a bit of an outlier, the desire to care for our children is a universal one.

‘Which of you,’ Jesus asks in Matthew, ‘if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?’ The heart of every loving parent is to provide good things for our children. So when we’re financially unable to give them ‘bread’, it can strike us to our very core.

As a Father himself, God knows and understands the weight of your mother heart. He knows how desperately you long to give your children good gifts and how much you despair when you can’t.

In the midst of our financial struggles, in the midst of my feelings of helplessness, God was feeding us and carrying my children in his arms. But more than caring for my children, God was also caring for me.

As I led them, he was gently leading me. And part of what he was gently leading me to was the understanding that he never intended for me to care for my children alone.

While I don’t know what the future holds, I do know this: The Lord is my Shepherd and so I shall not want. And because the Lord is my Shepherd, my children won’t want either. He will feed his flock. He will carry the lambs in his arms.

He will gently lead those that are with young.

 

Dads Hurt Too: A Father’s Memoir of Miscarriage

Dads Hurt Too: A Father’s Memoir of Miscarriage

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” “But even the hairs of your head are all numbered,” Jesus assures us. “Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” The argument here is not: people matter, therefore sparrows are insignificant. Rather: sparrows are significant, so how much more valuable are those created in God’s image?

God’s voice—not the voices in my head or those of my neighbor—is the final word on the matter: If he values the hairs of my head more than sparrows, how much more must he care for my child—his own image bearer?

And when that child falls to sleep, hidden in my wife’s womb, will the Father in heaven not notice the father on earth? God cares for these little ones. God cares about mothers. God cares about fathers. Both moms and dads have every right to mourn.

Finding God in My Postpartum Fire*

Finding God in My Postpartum Fire*

The birth of our babies—especially our first—is supposed to be magical. We expect a quick rebound from what’s often the most physically challenging experience in our lives. Messages fired at us on television, through the internet, and on social media aim to convince us: once we embrace our child for the first time, we’ll float our way through bliss.

What if our stories are different?

My first encounter with childbirth, for example, left me feeling as if I’d been tossed into a furnace.
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I suffered, but I didn’t despair. Why not? I credit the hand of God. From the abundance of baby meals sent by friends and family, to the compassionate care of my OB, to the willingness of many to listen as I retold the story of my traumatic birth—I was cared for. The Lord met me in my furnace.

Through the fire, I had my clearest-yet view of Christ. I saw and felt his dedication to me. I learned to trust him not just day-by-day, but moment-to-moment. Postpartum depression slowed me down. I learned to savor the good moments.

Because We Could Not Stop for Death: Miscarriage and the Believer

Because We Could Not Stop for Death: Miscarriage and the Believer

I left the meeting as early as I could excuse myself and came home, hobbling in our back door, running to the bathroom. I knew what to expect but nothing prepares you for the emotional and physical toll of blood loss, hormone loss, and the tiny baby loss in the moment.

Before I got married I thought, at times, women could be dramatic about their infertility or miscarriages. I thought: “Children are a blessing, but they’re not an idol. Why is your world falling apart because of this?” As I lay sobbing on our bed that day, I hiccupped through the words, “I just want it to stop.” 

... The Psalmist David knew this slow drive too. He said the words, “How long, O Lord?” nine times in the book of Psalms. He was desperate for the Lord to relent, to show up, to release, and to end David’s suffering. We, like David, are not good in the middle of things. We don’t like it. We can anticipate the danger or suffering ahead, even know the right theology to regard it, but when the gushing pain begins, where is our hope then?

Our hope is in the permission to say, with David, “How long, O Lord?” And then to keep saying it, for as long as we are still waiting for it to relent.

... Our Father knows the searing loss of losing a child. Our Savior said these words on the cross, “My God. My God. Why have you forsaken me?” Our Spirit groans with us in our weakness with words too deep for us to even understand. Surely there is permission to sit, ache, mourn, and weep in this middle place?

Hope for Pregnancy and Infant Loss

Hope for Pregnancy and Infant Loss

October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month and we at Risen Motherhood want to recognize all of you who have lost a child too soon. Below you'll find a selection of articles, posts, music and podcasts that we pray encourages a mom in the midst of grief. Just click on the links at the bottom of each quote to go to the original source. 

Every Hour We Need Thee

Every Hour We Need Thee

Today I'm reminded of how far I am from being a good mother, a good friend, a good wife / sister / daughter / church member / volunteer – a good anything! I feel split in two, like I live in the in-between. I want to do better, oh how I long to do better. But the needs keep coming at me and I fail over and over again. I just can't seem to get it together.

At times, it can feel pretty bleak. Why can I not live out what I know, I know? If I have Christ, why do I sometimes feel lost? If I know his promises are true, why do I act like they don't exist?