What if God Said No? Children Can't Carry the Weight of Hope
Updated: Apr 29, 2021
My sweet, giddy, messy, wailing, gorgeous children are one and two years old, round-faced blondes with glittering eyes and dimpled, mischievous smiles. They are experts at winning hearts and wreaking chaos simultaneously. Being their mama is an exact collision of incredible and exhausting. I revel in the privilege of watching these magnificent creatures change each day, sometimes by the hour. Even when tantrums feel never-ending or my kids go on a unilateral nap strike, I know my children are two of my greatest gifts on this side of heaven.
There were days—years—when I wondered if God would ever give us children. A lifetime of praying, four years of infertility, countless blood draws and hormone treatments, two miscarriages in a six-month span, and I was not any closer to holding a baby with my husband’s eyes and my nose. God answered so many of our prayers for children with ”Wait,” and two times with “Not this child.” The weight of my grief was unbearable. I became adept at my short, polite answer to the probing questions about when we would start our family. I wanted to unleash the weight of our pain, spew the truth on them and let them stand in the awkwardness. Instead I would grit my teeth and give a little smile, although I was secretly wishing the asker would have an inconvenient road closure on the way home and maybe step on a Lego.
But then God gave us the most glorious, precious, resounding “YES,” not once but twice. Two healthy children born in under two years. It was a miracle. We laughed and cried tears of elated joy, relief, overwhelm, and gleeful disbelief.
God let it rain in our desert, and then it poured.
Our entire church body rejoiced over our firstborn, having petitioned steadfastly on our behalf for her life. Years later, women at church still spontaneously hug me in the hallway or restroom and conspire, “I just love seeing you as a mama, with those two kiddos in your double stroller.” We share a wordless smile and my kids shyly mutter hello. They are oblivious to the way their very faces gloriously proclaim God’s perfect faithfulness and generosity.
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer,” Paul writes in Romans 12:12. I chose this verse to be displayed in our living room after our two losses, a daily reminder to pick up my faith and set down my fear. Today, the wooden sign caught my eye and I was struck by an enormous wave of gratitude, relief, and joy. I fell to my knees in front of my confused children and cried, feeling it all at once—both the buried feelings of loss for our first two babies, the years of hurt, and the boundless gratitude for deliverance from our trials. I praised the Lord on my knees on our rug, covered in crushed goldfish crackers and dotted with tiny, mismatched kids shoes.
Then another feeling flickered, this one more sinister. Ice cold anxiety. I learned the first time around that God calls some babies to heaven. No one’s life is sure. I let my mind briefly wander to the ultimate fear of every parent. How would I go on if I lost them? Or what If God had continued to say no in the first place? What if our daughter and son had joined their siblings in heaven? What if our family remained just my husband and I alone, forever? I considered how my faith would look then. Would I be like Eve or Sarah, obsessed with the one thing I couldn't have until I took matters into my own sinful hands? Would I be like Jonah, running in the opposite direction of what God had for me? Would our marriage fall apart? Would my faith?
My breath caught in my throat at the thought. I brushed the feeling under the rug right along with the goldfish crackers. I got up off my knees and returned to our stuffed animal tea party.
But even as I giggled along with my children, so full of love for them, I saw clearly that I can’t set my hopes on them to rest. God tells us to expect trials, while never promising to give us another day on earth. It can be all too easy to get those mixed around in our expectations. While it is hard and heavy to consider tragedy as an actual possibility, looking it straight in the eye reveals whether Christ alone is really, truly enough. A good God that allows bad things to happen is often the catalyst of doubt and fractured faith. So it is all the more important to drag those “what-ifs” into the light and battle them down with the hope of the gospel.
Our children are not designed to give us true fulfillment. Our husbands, homes, jobs, money, friends, comfort, and happiness will not ultimately satisfy us. Other people—even the ones we made vows to, grew in our bodies, or meticulously adopted into our families—will inevitably let us down.
While God gives us good tastes of Heaven through our families, friendships, and common graces, it is important not to mistake them for the true feast.
Sickness and death might write long chapters, but God always gets the final word. The good news of our savior is the only foundation that can hold the weight of our hope. He uses believers in tragedy to sing the most mournfully beautiful songs of triumph in Christ alone. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing—including my own bleak anxiety and hard-headed sins. Even an unthinkable tragedy cannot tarnish this truth. And equipped with it, I can truly submit the lives of my children into my Father's hands. I'll have to do it again tomorrow, but it is enough for today.