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 three 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?

We Can Experience Grief and Joy

I've met people who live as though grief and joy cannot coexist. But such belief isn’t found in scripture. 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. 

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?

    How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I take counsel in my soul

    and have sorrow in my heart all the day?

How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;

my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

I will sing to the Lord,

because he has dealt bountifully with me (Psalm 13:1-2, 5-6 ESV).

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. Jesus exhibited this coexistence when he wept at his friend Lazarus’ death. He knew the joy that would come moments later. He trusted God’s ultimate purposes. But he still expressed sadness over the present reality.[1] Likewise, we exhibit faith when we bring our grief to the sovereign God who reigns over it. Expressing grief doesn’t mean our joy is misplaced.[2]

We Can Thrive in Sorrow

The world says you can only thrive in a season of visible gain and abundance. Furthermore, they might grant us the right to curse God like Job's wife when trials come our way.[3] But God’s word gives us a different picture of gain and abundant life, and often, it includes grief and trials. In the Bible, thriving often looks a lot like growing. Just as those growing pains caused my legs to ache as a preteen, it’s often painful to feel the changes and stretches within my heart as God sanctifies me through trials. 

This is good news because it means the Christian can grow and even thrive in any season or circumstance.

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“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:6-9 ESV)

Through the power of Christ, we can thrive even when we’re faced with loss, physical pain, confusion, or death as we abide in him.

We Can Abide in Christ

"Abide" is a strand of truth found throughout most of the sermons I've heard lately. 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. If not fastened into the source of life, we become diseased branches that wither under the weight of bitterness and despair.[4]

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1-5 ESV)

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. We only thrive if we abide.

In order to abide in Christ, we must make it a priority to seek him in his word. It must become our delight to do so.[5] Furthermore, we must remain connected to Jesus, the True Vine, by consistently communing with him through prayer. Another, often forgotten way we abide is by having meaningful fellowship with our local body of believers. God has gifted us the Bible, his Church, and the ability to boldly approach his throne in prayer. May we take hold of them and in doing so take hold of Christ.

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.

[1]                John 11:35

[2]                Heb. 4:16

[3]                Job 2:9

[4]                John 15:1-5

[5]                Ps. 119:92


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Brittany is a follower of Christ, wife to James, and momma to three in Heaven. She exists to bring God glory and prays her writing is an avenue for that. She longs to help other women see Jesus as their ultimate treasure. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or on her blog.