I stood on the balcony of our hotel room in Cap Haitien, Haiti. 6 months after I had first heard my friend T had conceived. It was early in the morning, I slipped quietly out of bed, as to not wake my husband and opened the sliding door. The sound of the crashing waves and the slight salty breeze met me. Tropical birds noisily chattered in the trees. It was our first time by the ocean together and my first time swimming off the Haitian shores. After two years of marriage we finally got the opportunity to get out of town for a reason other than ministry.
The waves have always held great wonder for me, like the stars. They hold such mysteries and many unique lessons too. The thoughts I am about to share with you originated that morning as I took in the awe of the sea in the quiet hours of the morning.
In English we often say, “give up.” Though obscure, the meaning is widely understood amongst native speakers. It is to resign oneself to failure, to stop fighting and be overtaken by something, to lose all hope, to despair.
In Creole give up is a little easier to understand as a non native speaker. It is to “bay vag” to give it to the waves, to toss it into the waters and permanently part with it, to let hope be carried away on the sea. A masterful picture that captures the essence of what it is to give up. Once an object is taken by the sea it is gone. There is little hope of ever finding again what was lost.
So often, through the trials that come in life we give things up along the way. Things like our faith, our joyful trust in the Lord, our gentleness to those around us, our first love, our peace. As if a ship being tossed around on the ocean we begin to throw those things overboard, in an attempt to stay afloat. In the end what is left is a bare and bitter soul.
“You must be a messenger from heaven sent to pray on my behalf,” T said. I had called her the week before to tell her that I was willing to pay if she would see a new fertility specialist in the capitol and that I was praying for her. Now she was on the other end of the phone with such joy telling me that the very day I had called her she began to feel sick. The next day a doctor confirmed that she was 4 weeks pregnant, again.
This was not new, in the past four years she had become pregnant more than 10 times. Each time she would begin to show, then she would miscarry and bleed for weeks. She was weak now, anemic, and confined to her house. Her working days as a nurse, behind her. Yet the couple badly wanted children so they continued to suffer the losses without preventing pregnancy with the hope that things would be different.
On the other side of the phone I listened to T’s joy as she went on to explain the peace she felt this time. I wasn’t sure I should encourage her to get her hopes up. “I still think it would be good to see a specialist for your prenatal care to ensure you don’t lose this baby, this time could be just the same as the others.” She was resolved “I know you are willing to pay for me but I just want you to keep on praying instead. God is able. I believe He will continue this work that He has started.”
How could she rejoice? How could she still hope? I asked myself in the coming weeks. Half anticipating horrible news again.
Our First Encounter
It was funny how T’s life collided with mine. When we were dating, Nelson took me to her wedding. I didn’t know her, I enjoyed a break from the orphanage which was my life at the time. It was an evening wedding, when we got there the rain started and soon it was pouring, coming in the windows and spraying the guests who had sat near the walls. We could hardly hear the speaking or singing because of the noise outside. The electricity was dim and I doubt if any of the pictures taken that night turned out. I remember noticing that the bride took everything in stride.
Not only was her wedding day an unexpected wreckage of plans. Her first attempts to befriend me were too. We frequented their house those months (as is custom for friends of newlywed couples). The enemy was at work putting rumors and assumptions between her and I. I would have never realized what an amazing woman of faith she was had the Lord not opened my eyes after some time. Comically, things changed dramatically and she became the one I could talk to freely and confide in more deeply than any other Haitian lady friend of mine.
Hope In A Season Of Death
Little did this couple know that their wedding was not only the start of their life together but also years of real tragedy in their marriage. As soon as they had shared the happy news of T’s first pregnancy, they made preparations to welcome the child. Baby clothes and things were already bought when the miscarriage happened. The baby room at their newly built house slowly became storage as over and over the losses came.
They were told that a voodoo curse hung over their marriage by many of their acquaintances. That was the gossip after each death. Still, they burned through their savings at private hospitals hoping the cause was more curable. They found no answers. So finally they stopped searching, but they didn’t give up.
How did T open her heart to hope this baby would survive, knowing it could be shattered again? How did she stay joyful in the midst of the storms that threatened to defeat her both physically and emotionally? How did she remain outward focused when she had every reason to feel sorry for herself?
Beauty For Ashes
T now holds a beautiful, healthy baby boy in her arms. 4 years of heartache is painted over with beauty and purpose. Her pain wasn’t wasted.
Maybe in this story, T’s faith and perseverance seems exemplary. I admit I have been asking myself if I could do it. Could I endure such losses and not give up hope and joy in the midst of it? I find myself in the midst of a very different trial, T’s story gives me hope and I pray it gives you hope also in whatever you are facing.
The Steadfast Christian
Steadfast is this idea of being resolute and unshakable. Being in the waves but above them at the same time. Your feet firmly planted on the ship (which is Christ).
The scriptures speak a lot about perseverance, because as a Christian, and as a human, living in a fallen world we will never be in want of trials. Yet we don’t meet the trials with the same hopelessness as the pagan who does not know the comforter does.
I think of a story I heard last year where a ship was stranded in a storm and in their fear the men aboard the ship wanted to bail. To throw themselves overboard and jump into these tiny boats to meet the waves. The situation looked hopeless and the waves too big. Yet the captain was calm and told them, “Unless we stay with the ship we will all drown.” It is the same for us, Christians, the only way we can thrive through a trial is to trust in the security of the ship, to lean on Christ, always.
We can trust in God’s faithfulness and submit to God’s will even when things are hard, knowing that God works all things (even losses) for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) Not only does He want what is best for us, but He “can do all things” and “no purpose of His can be thwarted (prevented).” (Job 42:2) Our suffering is not random or purposeless, whatever it may be.
Nothing we face here in this present life can change our eternal future. Christ has gone before us to prepare a place void of sorrow and suffering. “If we endure (here and now), we will also reign with him (one day); if we deny Him (and bail out of the ship), He also will deny us.” (2 Timothy 2:12) We “have a need of endurance, so that when we have done the will of God we may receive what is promised.” (Hebrews 10:36)
Life Without Hardship
Many popular “Christian” speakers and teachers make the promises that sell. “If you love God nothing bad will happen to you.” “If you follow Jesus you will be rich and healthy and comfortable.” “If you are in a season of trial it’s because you don’t trust enough or have fallen away from God and He is punishing you.” “Only non-Christians have to suffer because we have God.”
Long ago the disciples taught a different life, a life of suffering. Jesus’ followers knew what they were signing up for was not ease, they were persecuted and murdered in barbaric ways. Yet they were joyful in all of it. Singing to their deaths. Because they knew that their reward was laid up in Heaven not here on earth. And they knew Christ–who would walk beside them comforting them, weeping with them through every trial and loss.
Yes we have God, no that doesn’t mean that we won’t suffer, but it does mean that we won’t give up.
T wasn’t promised a healthy child, nor the physical strength to birth him. Yet she was promised the comfort of a good Father in each loss she faced. I haven’t had the chance to sit with her since his birth and ask her how she did it. How she endured joyfully. But I know of her prayer life and her strong faith. Never once did I hear her complain, never did she get bitter and refuse to worship. Never did she tell the Lord “give me a baby or I won’t follow you anymore.” She knew that every life was given by God and that he had the right to take them back too.
Yet We Pray
Though we aren’t promised everything we want in life, we can still pray for our desires in faith, and should. Because “He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.” (Psalm 145:19)
As we pray our hearts will become more attuned to what His will is. We will find comfort, not in the physical answer to our request (though we do rejoice when a gift is given) but in the goodness of the giver.
As we endure trials and wait for His deliverance let us “Rejoice in hope, be patient in the midst of tribulation, (and) be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12) “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23) “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus (our comforter and our salvation)…” (Hebrews 12:1-2 b)
Is there a trial you have been facing that you have allowed to steal your joy or trust in God? Will you turn back to the comforter and allow Him to heal your heart?
How have you drawn closer to God through a trial in your life? How have you seen Him use a hard thing for your good?
Do you know a T? Someone you have watched go through hard things with quiet endurance and purpose?
I’d love to hear your thoughts below!
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.Lamentations 3:22-24