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Pain with a Purpose
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Wednesday, April 18, 2018
Wendy Wippel

Here in the USA we seem to share a collective belief that bad things aren’t supposed to happen to good people. I call it the Disney Effect. But bad things do happen to everybody, eventually.  And it turns out that’s kind of a good thing.

Maybe it’s a matter of a little too much Lumiere and not enough Lamentations, but we shouldn’t be surprised, should we?  I mean, the word “sorrow”  appears 217 times in the Bible.  Misery,  29. Tears? 36 times. Groaning, 32. Mourning? A whopping 45 times. Weep and wept? No less than 135.

So misfortune really shouldn’t be the  rude awakening that it inevitably is when it lands in our laps. I think we tend to read “In the world you will have tribulation.” (John 6:33)  and think about the check that bounced, the crumpled fender, the impossible boss.

But then something happens that makes us realize that we ain’t seen nothing yet. Meaning something we can’t fix, which, inevitably, takes us by surprise.

For me, the”Great Awakening” occurred towards the end of 1994.  My first and lonely daughter Sarah was starting to walk, I was 35 (without the luxury of dilly-dallying), so my husband and I started working on  another. Bingo. I’m pregnant. But six weeks in, I lost the baby.

No worries. We’re young. Obviously fertile. We try again.

And almost immediately—again,-- I’m pregnant.

Six weeks  later, the baby died.  

We’re worried now.

But I am almost immediately pregnant again. So now we’re doing tests, we’re on some meds, being uber careful. In fact, this time we decided to get away and lay on the beach. Virginia Beach, to be specific. It’s the stress we are under, right? We stretched out the towels, soaked up the sun, did nothing but relax. Had a great time. Rested tanned, and happy, we were sure that our third try would be the proverbial charm.

Not so much. About 50 miles outside of Norfolk I started bleeding.  And came undone.  The first two miscarries were devastating, but the prospect of possibly never having a child?   Utter devastation.

People try to help. But the grief is exceedingly abundantly more than they can imagine, if they haven’t been through it themselves.

And they just end up making things worse. ….  "I'm sure it was for the best”.

“You can try again”  There was probably something wrong”.

 “Time heals all wounds”

None of that is in the Bible, is it? 

So… what does the Bible say about how to help our fellow man with the myriad of griefs—big and small, that go part and parcel with living in this fallen world?

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

It just so happened that the internet was in its infant stages when I was going through this trial, and since I worked for the  CDC, I was one of the early users of the technology. And when we got home from Virginia Beach I happened to come across a chat room (I am so dating myself), that just happened to be completely composed of of women who were walking through the same slough of despondency that I currently was. They had all had multiple miscarriages. They understood.

They didn’t offer up painful platitudes because they knew better. They, themselves were intimately acquainted with the overwhelming pain that had become my constant companion. They understood. And I think they saved my life. Or at least my sanity.

So maybe it’s not so surprising that Greek root word for “comfort”  literally means to “come alongside”.

And God laid down  that prescription—to come along side our brethren to comfort them--many thousands of years before the internet allowed me to see it in action.

The pain of my miscarriages was long past this Sunday, and I honestly had just about forgotten that chat room that was an absolute blessing to me when I needed it twenty- something years ago.

But a fellow church member, this Sunday, a young mom who had just lost a new baby  and a new mom described her own journey through miscarriage. And, unlike me, who just wallowed for about three years, this young woman told her story and then challenged the whole congregation with an exhortation to be good stewards of our pain.

We all have pain.  God wins when we use it to His glory.

She then reminded us again of God’s explicit instructions:  "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them who are in any trouble, by the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted of God."

That’s our marching orders.

About Wendy Wippel

Last week: Noah, Fiinally Vindicated

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