Today is the birthday of Julia, our first daughter who was born ten years ago and unexpectedly died at four-days-old from severe hypoplastic left heart syndrome. The following is an article I wrote for the local newspaper soon after her death.
Thankful, Even in Loss
One morning while doing laundry, I opened a brand new box of detergent, only to find no scoop in the box. Eager to protest, I called the toll free consumer hotline and was immediately soothed with the promise of a coupon for a free box of detergent, hopefully one with a scoop in it.
This is what we've come to expect in our consumer world--a guaranteed promise when we've been inconvenienced.
I couldn't wait to show off that free box of soap to my wife. However, with coupon in hand at the grocery store, I had a rude awakening: They didn't carry my size box! I felt betrayed. I had a guaranteed coupon of comfort, but I couldn't use it.
This is how I painfully felt with God after our four day old daughter died unexpectedly. I walking down the aisle of sorrow, unable to redeem the coupons of God's love and reassurance. But this is when we especially need God's promises!
In desperation, I turned to Job, a man whose very name reminds us of suffering. Upon his own great loss he uttered, "The Lord gave the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised" (Job 1:21).
How the Lord gave! Seeing Julia born and holding her dearly in our arms was awe-inspiring. We were so thankful to receive her.
But just as the reality of parenthood was setting in, Julia died. The Lord had taken away. The pain of losing a baby sure makes you wonder if God really is good or if God really is all powerful. Why would He allow this to happen? I don't know. I've spoken with some who've tried to make sense of their own tragedies by walking these winding, mystifying roads and I've been urged to not take the trip; it's a wasteland with no relief, only bitterness.
Not knowing where to turn, I went back to Job's peculiar declaration, "May the name of the Lord be praised" (Job 1:21b). Give thanks during sorrow? It seemed impossible, but giving thanks to God in the middle of loss brought great comfort.
I thanked God for the four heaven-filled days we had with Julia. I thanked God for the secretary at the doctor's office who gave me an appointment instead of my request to simply talk with the physician over the phone; for this reason, Julia would not die at home. I thanked God for all the prayers, hugs, and food people gave us; such an outpouring of love upheld us.
In giving thanks, I saw that whatever God brings into our lives, for whatever amount of time, it is all a gift from God.
My friend, praise over in dedication to the Lord everything you hold dear. Begin with your own life. For as Job says, we come naked into this world and leave the same way. All that we receive in-between is an unearned gift from the loving and sovereign God.
The sting of loss will still be there. However, amid the sorrow will be gratitude. Amid the pain will be comfort. And amid the tears will be hope.