Finding hope and joy in the church

“You are not pregnant,” the doctor simply said.

“You mean I lost the baby. I am no longer pregnant,” I told him firmly.

My husband sat quietly by me with our daughter. Fury simmered in my heart. It dawned on me how insensitive this doctor was and how little I knew about his patient care.

Our family had just gotten back from a week away at my parents. Right before we left, my husband and I had celebrated a positive pregnancy test after over a year of desiring another child. But both of us felt an odd, heavy burden that we couldn’t shake. This pregnancy felt different. We traveled to my parents and told them the good news, but just the next day I had problems. I called my regular doctor, but there was nothing they could do to help me long distance. My husband went back home for work, and my daughter and I stayed for the rest of our vacation.

Each day was a burden of questions, haunting each happy moment with my family. The day my husband drove us back home we got a last minute appointment at the closest provider that we could find, where the doctor gave us the sad news about the short life we celebrated.

And then life went on. We needed groceries after a long week away. Our daughter needed to play after being cooped up. I called my mom and told her the news through tears, and then I put eggs and bread into our cart. The juxtaposition of grief and regularity staggered me. I showed up at church the next week. Only a handful of people knew what had happened. I said hello to my friends and sang praises to God. I left still feeling the heavy grief surround me like an invisible shroud reminding me that my child was gone. I had no desire or ability to share the news of my first miscarriage.

The church is a public place of hope

Every time we walk into our church there are people in deep pain. Grief, abandonment, betrayal, sickness, hurt, despair, the list goes on. All these sufferings meet because the church is a public place of hope. For most sufferers, pain is invisible to those around us. The difference is that our church family shouldn’t be like an unfeeling doctor who was a stranger to us. We are brothers and sisters. Our relationships should be so close that when we see each other, we look for opportunities to encourage and affirm. If we see someone slipping away in despair, we give them a shoulder to lean or cry on. But above all, we point each other to Christ to carry our burdens and requests.

The church is a public testament of joy

The blessing of serving each other in our struggles is awaiting the praise and glory that comes from it. Remember the family that labored day after day in the hospital caring for their child? Now you get to rejoice with tears when they enter church together again. See the woman serving at church whose husband passed away in a car accident? Rejoice with her in her hope of heaven. See the young believer whose family still won’t join him at church? Praise God that our heavenly family is bigger now and pray that it grows more through him. The trials of this world gain us a heavenly perspective when our hope is in Jesus.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor 4:16-18)

Join in the work of the church

Do you struggle to see and experience the work of the church in your life? Actively change that. Are you hesitant to be vulnerable to others? Take the leap even if the response isn’t perfect. It may take time to watch hope bloom or to see the joy of answered pray. Many churches are living out this reality, though. People growing in their faith naturally reach out to others to comfort, encourage, or even rebuke. A strong relationship in Christ overflows to serving and loving our family around us. Jesus took on the scars and pain of the cross so that we could have life and hope and joy, and he gave us our heavenly family to enjoy his blessings together.

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