Finding joy in suffering

This week has been extremely difficult at the Armstrong home.

It started off well, with Emily and I completing the announcement of her pregnancy to our family, then to our network. This was great. Emily and I love being parents and having more children is a great privilege and blessing for us.

Then, there was Tuesday.

“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21

Emily was concerned because she was experiencing some difficulties related to the pregnancy, so we went to the emergency room. After several hours of compassionate assistance, we learned that our baby had died, and had apparently done so at least  a couple weeks prior. Emily and I went home, with mixed emotions; grieved, yet at peace with it, because God is good.

Wednesday we had a visit from one of our pastors, and we greatly appreciated his time and his prayers. Emily and I had a pretty nice afternoon, talking together, drinking a mocha and praising God for His goodness. As we reflected on Scripture, we prayed that this would ultimately be a testimony to His glory.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

Wednesday night, Emily became wracked with pain and was experiencing complications with the miscarriage. She had lost a lot of blood, and she was again off to the emergency room, this time in an ambulance. Our friends John and Meghan arrived to stay with Abigail (our two-year-old daughter), and I quickly followed, praying that I not be tempted to forget that God has ordained all things for good “for all who are called, according to his purposes.” Romans 8:28b

“… we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:2b-5

After being separated from Emily for 40 minutes, I was allowed to join her in the treatment area. I watched as she groaned in pain, pale and cooler to the touch than she’s ever been, while the doctor worked to take care of her. At that moment, I was no longer afraid. I simply did my best to comfort Emily and trusted that God would do what would bring Him glory.

The doctor removed an obstruction that was causing Emily’s excessive bleeding… and Emily was calm. Her breathing became more relaxed. Her skin started to become slightly warmer. I’m not sure how to explain it exactly. Over the next several hours, her color improved and her body temperature increased, although she was still very weak. At three-ish in the morning I was released to go home and get a bit of sleep.

Thursday morning I returned to the hospital while Emily was in the process of getting two ultrasounds to diagnose her health. When she had finished her tests, we returned to her station in the emergency room to await the results and our options for further care. Emily slept lightly while I read a book beside her. At two in the afternoon, the doctor provided us with some medication and the okay to return home. And home we went.

After having something to eat, and returning some phone calls, we talked some more.

We mourned the loss of our baby.

We thanked Jesus for the outpouring of love we’ve received from our friends, their prayers, and the several meals they’ve made for us. And we thanked Jesus that He knows exactly what we’re going through.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses…” Heb. 4:15a

“For Christ also suffered…” 1 Pet. 3:18

What am I learning from this truly tragic set of events? I am learning to find joy in suffering.

In a bizarre way, Emily and I have received a great gift through all of this. We have seen that we do not need to hide the difficulties in our lives and pretend like nothing’s going on. We have seen that we can turn to our friends for help and support whenever we need it, because they actually do love us. We are learning to see what the body of Christ looks like when it functions as it should. We are being conformed into the image and likeness of Christ, who suffered as we have, but in His suffering did not sin.

And this is a wonderful gift.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18