Today’s guest post is written by my friend Rachel Lewis, who serves women from all backgrounds and faiths who struggle to build their families. Rachel and I met several years ago through mutual ministry connections + personal struggles and she has recently released a new book called Unexpecting: Real Talk on Pregnancy Loss. Be sure to enter the giveaway and connect with her through the links at the bottom of this post. Thank you, Rachel, for stopping by The Rescued Letters!
There are parts of my story I’d rather not write because I wish they’d never been written into my story.
Five back-to-back pregnancy losses.
Unexplained secondary infertility.
Saying goodbye to my foster son – twice.
Preparing to adopt a newborn baby girl – only to have one big, one awful, “oh, never mind.”
The lifelong diagnosis.
These and so many of the small moments in between of longing and loss, isolation and shame, frustration and fear, brought me to my knees.
My pain cut to the foundation of my faith.
I never professed (or at least, never professed aloud) a kind of faith that was “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” And yet, in all practicality? That summed up my faith experience before my losses.
From childhood, I did all the “right” things I was taught to do. And I guess I expected my life to be free from overwhelming pain and trauma as a result. If God loved me as much as they said, why would God allow such heartbreak to dictate so many of my years?
On one level, I did feel comforted by God. I knew I was not promised a perfect life. I knew that God would be with me no matter what I had to walk through. But really? I was angry and hurt. Why did I have to suffer so much? When would my pain end? And what did I do to deserve this?
The right response to suffering.
With degrees in Bible and theology neatly tucked in my belt, I thought I had a pretty sound understanding of the role of suffering in our lives. I knew the “right” response to my losses: “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (Job 1:21). I felt the burden of responsibility to suffer well, bring glory to God, and show others who God was through my trials.
Job’s words above didn’t charge God with wrongdoing. And goodness . . . I wasn’t about to either.
So I did something else instead.
Not on purpose. But I felt God would disapprove of my feelings of betrayal and all my questioning. I equated doubt with losing my faith. I needed to protect God from the depth of my feelings. From my humanity. And most of all, I should not . . . could not . . . sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
So I outwardly performed in my faith while inwardly questioning everything.
I couldn’t help wondering why a loving God would be present in the middle of my hardships but not carry me through them? Or better yet, avoid them altogether?
My questioning eroded my faith. Each month trying and not getting pregnant. Each miscarriage. Each desperate prayer left unanswered.
Chip. Chip. Chip.
This performance of faith was not working. Something needed to change.
The real purpose in Job’s story.
As I dove into Job’s story in the Bible, I noted Job’s “right” response happens in the first two chapters of the book. But there are 42 chapters in total. If we find out why Job suffered and discover the right response to suffering by chapter two . . . why were there 40 more chapters to the book?
The next words that come from Job’s mouth are hauntingly real and direct. And in his outpouring of grief, Job charges God with wrongdoing.
And with those words, my heart exhaled. Job, in all his supposed perfection, had come undone. Which meant I could come undone too.
“I don’t want Job to be a stalwart faith hero — because I am not a stalwart faith hero. I’m just a normal girl that is rightfully devastated at loss and needs to claim the right to be devastated. I need permission to lament my loss fully, without fear, without modesty, to a God who not only created the life I was grieving, but also the emotion I felt in the expression of that loss of life.”
Rachel Lewis, Unexpecting
These chapters became a lifeline for me. Because in them, Job wrestles with his faith. He questions everything, holding nothing back from God or his friends. And in the end, God did not punish him. Yes, God’s response was direct. But in it, he showed Job more of who God was.
That was enough for Job. Enough for him to stop the constant questioning and the wrestling. Enough for him to say that he knew of God before this season of loss. But now, he knew God.
What if wrestling was the point all along?
God reserves his harshest words for Job’s friends – the ones who were so full of answers about faith in suffering, that they never had time to ask any questions.
What if the story of Job is less about having the right, perfect response to suffering? What if it’s not about performing in faith to protect God from our humanity? What if wrestling is the point?
Of the 42 chapters of Job, 35 of them are reserved for wrestling with faith in light of suffering. If you ever need a tangible reminder that God is holding space for you to wrestle, here it is.
Relationship, not performance.
In day-to-day relationships, it is a greater act of faith in that relationship to be real and direct, rather than to pretend and perform when we are feeling hurt. It’s a greater act of faith to say, “You did this . . . and I am hurt and angry. And I’m going to need some time to figure this out.” Rather than to say, “Everything is fine.”
The tenuous relationships in life are the ones we feel we need to protect with a performance. Solid relationships are the ones in which we can be real about our pain and feelings of betrayal.
Perhaps the greatest act of faith was not my attempt to perform for God.
Perhaps the greatest act of faith was being honest about my questions.
Why questioning is not wrong.
The questions that my losses brought up also brought with them shame. Why couldn’t I just accept that these losses were God’s will? Why couldn’t I just “let go and let God?”
But if I looked at my questions from a different perspective, I realized that they were also affirmations.
The question, Why did my babies die?, affirmed God’s stance that life, all life, is valuable and worthy.
My question, Why do I have to hurt so much?, also affirmed that feelings, even the ones we label as negative, are important and are a natural way God created for us to process pain and loss.
And my question about God’s will? Well, the Bible says that we are to pray for God’s will to happen on earth as it does in heaven. This means, not everything that happens on this earth was God’s will.
Perhaps his will was not to cause my losses.
His will was to redeem them.
What this means for you and me.
Job was not the perfect sufferer. He hurt, he questioned, he feared, he accused, he derailed. And yes, he charged God with wrongdoing. And in the end, God gave Job a deeper understanding of who he was.
When life hits us hard, we do not have to perform for God or other people. We do not have to come up with the right response to our suffering.
We get to be honest about our fears, our feelings, and our frustrations. We get to tell God all of it, without fear of hurting God by the depths of our humanity. And we get to wrestle for as long as we need.
And in the end, we cling to the hope that God will show us more of who he is.
That was enough for Job.
And I hope and pray that it will be enough for us too.
About the author
Rachel Lewis is a foster, adoptive and birth mom. After a five-year battle with secondary infertility and the losses of five babies during pregnancy, she now has three children in her arms and a foster son in her heart. As the founder of the Facebook support group Brave Mamas, she is passionate about helping others through their grief. Her first book, Unexpecting: Real Talk on Pregnancy Loss, is now available. She is a contributor to Still Standing Magazine, Pregnancy After Loss Support, and Filter Free Parents. Her work has been featured by the TODAY Show, FaithIt, Babble, and UpWorthy. When she’s not chauffeuring her kids around, you can find her shopping at Trader Joes, drinking coffee, or writing about grief and healing at The Lewis Note.
Unexpecting: Real Talk on Pregnancy Loss is is for mothers and fathers who have experienced the loss of a baby at any point in pregnancy or after birth. In it, Rachel hopes readers will feel seen, heard, held and loved. I hope they feel they better know what to expect from life after loss, and feel not so alone in their grief.
Connect with Rachel
A FB support group for women grieving the loss of a child in any capacity
A discussion community coming up in October. Rachel will have a professionally facilitated discussion around the book to help readers process what can be a hard topic.
ARE YOU READY FOR THE GIVEAWAY!
One lucky winner will receive a copy of Rachel’s Unexpecting book! To enter, leave a comment at the bottom of this post by answering this question: do you know someone who has experienced pregnancy loss?
This giveaway will be open until September 3, 2021 and the winners will be contacted directly via email.
I hope it’s you!