Two years ago today, Jenny and I posted about the greatest tragedy of our lives.
The loss of our twin babies before they were born was the greatest challenge we have faced. Today, I'm reflecting on the events of that week. I remember the gut wrenching feeling when we first learned what was happening. It’s hard to describe but many of you know that pain. Feelings of hurt and sadness were mixed with the awkwardness of not truly knowing how to feel in the moment.
I remember simultaneously trusting and questioning God. We had prayed earnestly for the health and safety of our babies every single day. Did all that time in prayer mean nothing? What was the point if they were to die like this?
We grieved together and cried with each other. We struggled to find positives among the negatives. There really were many little blessings that accompanied this tragedy:
- The two-week staycation I already arranged which happened to start the day we learned about the twins.
- The two-year-old son we could hold at home and spend Christmas day with after returning from the hospital.
- The incredible support network of people who sent cards, flowers, meals, and prayed for us regularly.
Each blessing lessened the pain for a little while before it came rushing back in gradually decreasing waves of anguish.
Looking back two years later, it’s worth reflecting and sharing what we learned through this painful time in our lives:
- We don't ignore or avoid the past and its pain.
We do not dwell on the loss but we haven’t buried it either. We talk about it occasionally and tell each other how we're doing. For the last year, that has been: "I'm sad when I think about it but I'm honestly OK." And we mean it.
- We learned how to hurt and grieve.
For both of us, the loss of our twins was the most painful experience of our lives. We had to deliver them as if they would actually live knowing they were already gone. We got to hold their little bodies and cry over them for a while. It took some time for my wife to physically recover and we both struggled with the emotional pain for a long time. Even now, thinking through this week two years ago brings back tears.
But these tears are now in greater perspective. Going through this time taught me that you cannot truly empathize and grieve with those who have suffered great loss until you have suffered a great loss yourself. You can try, but it just isn’t the same as personal experience.
- The most healing activities for us were things no one else could do.
For a couple of weeks, we just talked and cried. We prayed together and alone. We read Scripture and talked frequently about what we were learning. Many people sent us verses to read that were thoughtful but, honestly, didn’t really help us. Being in full-time ministry for a decade and both having training in counseling, we were very familiar with the standard grieving passages. What was critically important for us during this time was our own personal Bible study. We had to wrestle with the truths of God’s Word, not just hear condensed versions packaged for us.
- God often redeems tragedies in amazing ways for those who are faithful to Him.
Romans 8:28 says “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (NLT)
That does not mean we can always expect a good outcome on this earth. Sometimes the good may await us in heaven, as it does for martyrs whose last moments on earth don't seem very good for them. Still, God sometimes chooses to turn tragedy into triumph for his followers in this life.
Look at the life of Job in the Old Testament (Job 1:13-22). God allowed the devil to strip him of nearly everything. Job lost all of his children, his businesses, and almost everything he owned. But he loved God and remained faithful to Him. God blessed him with more children, better businesses, and more wealth than he had before.
One year after we lost our twins, in the same week, our first little girl was born. In three days, she’ll be one year old and she’s already cruising, signing, trying to talk, singing, and will very soon be walking on her own. She has had her own health struggles and that continues. But her presence in our lives is a reminder of how God cares for us and can redeem tragedy to bring about blessing.
Beyond that, God has redeemed the tragedy in our hearts and minds to help us better serve others. We look back on this loss two years ago with sadness but thankfulness. We are thankful for God’s many blessings. We are thankful for the lessons he taught us. We are thankful for how we’ve seen our loss lead into ministry to others again and again. Just last Sunday, someone told me they shared our story with a young couple who will likely lose their unborn baby soon.
This is how God has redeemed our tragedy and turned it into a triumph.
You may be facing a tragedy of your own today. Perhaps you have found no comfort around you and have tried to bury your pain or mask it somehow. This can dull the pain for a while but it won't take it away. You cannot simply bury a tragedy or mask the baggage that comes afterward. What you need is for God to redeem that situation in your life.
Ask Him to give you purpose through the pain. Ask Him to redeem your past in a way only possible to Him. Commit yourself to prayer and Bible study to grow in your relationship with Christ and see if he doesn't redeem your tragedy in ways you could never imagine.