This is my third pregnancy.
The first two ended too early, and the babies I carried went to heaven before I even got to hold them. This time, the third time, seems to be going better. As I write this, I’m nearly through the first trimester, the time when miscarriage is most likely to occur. All the tests I’ve done so far look great, and there’s no reason to think that this baby won’t be just fine.
Of course, that’s what we thought with the first one too.
My first pregnancy was a missed miscarriage, meaning the baby had passed away but my body didn’t realize it for several weeks. For several weeks, I thought I was pregnant—thought my baby was growing well, thought I had made it through the first trimester. I thought everything was fine—until all of a sudden, it wasn’t. The trauma wasn’t just that we lost the baby; it was dealing with the knowledge that the baby had been gone long before my body actually began to miscarry.
The memory of my first loss keeps reasserting itself any time I start to feel hopeful that this pregnancy is going well. “That’s what you thought last time,” the insidious little voice in the back of my mind whispers. “Last time you made it to 12 weeks, too. Last time you were sure the baby was growing well, when all the time the baby was already gone.”
I feel guilty for feeling afraid, for doubting that this baby is growing and thriving. After all, aren’t Christians supposed to be hopeful? The Bible is full of exhortations to hope and not to be afraid, and the people who are held up as examples of faith are those who, like Abraham, hoped for things that were impossible by human standards. In hope he believed against hope… // Romans 4:18
If I truly trust in God, shouldn’t I be expecting my pregnancy to go well? Shouldn’t I be expecting everything to work out?
It is so, so tempting to conflate “hope in God” with “optimism about a happy outcome.” It’s tempting to think that “hope” equals “confidence that things will turn out the way I want them to.”
But let’s be honest: lots and lots of things in life do not turn out the way we want them to. People get sick, and while they often get better, sometimes they do not. We don’t get every job we apply for. Not all our dating relationships end in “happily ever after.” And not every baby makes it to term.
Let me pause here to clarify something: most pregnancies end with healthy babies, even in women who have had previous losses. Hoping for a healthy baby is hardly hoping against hope; it’s a reasonable expectation for the vast majority of women, and it’s the most likely outcome for my current pregnancy. I am far more likely to deliver a healthy baby in January than I am to suffer another loss.
But just because a healthy pregnancy is the more likely outcome does not mean it’s guaranteed. And if “hope” means “confidence that God will keep my baby alive,” what happens to that hope if the baby dies?
This is the question I want each of us to consider: what happens to my hope when my life doesn’t turn out the way I expected it to?
Hope Only in God
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. // Psalm 62:5
Hope in God is not the same thing as hope in a happy outcome.
Let me take you back to the aftermath of my first miscarriage. I was devastated. I had never felt so heartbroken. For a few days, it felt like everything good in my life had been a lie. If the baby I thought was growing hadn’t been growing for quite some time, what other apparent good things in my life would turn out to be false?
But in the midst of all that grief, I knew a couple of things for sure:
- I knew that God is kind. Kindness is part of His character. Nothing He does, and nothing He allows, can contradict the essential kindness of His nature.
- I knew that because God is kind and good, death was not part of His original plan. In the garden of Eden, God warned Adam and Eve that eating the fruit He told them not to would result in death. He didn’t want them to die—but they didn’t listen, and just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin…so death spread to all men… // Romans 5:12
- I knew that even though sickness and death and sorrow are rampant in the world, God’s plan is to put an end to all evil and all death. The book of Revelation describes heaven as a place where God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. // Revelation 21:4
- I knew that my child, who had died far too young, was even now in the presence of God. My baby was in a place where there was no such thing as death, nor crying, nor pain.
In the aftermath of the worst loss I had ever experienced, I knew that God had already promised to end pain. I knew that He had promised to bring to life those who once were dead. I knew that, even though I sorrow now, the end of all sorrow is surely coming. I was still able to hope—even in the midst of devastating circumstances—because my hope was based in who God is and what He has promised, not in a happy outcome.
Hope for Eternity
If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. // 1 Corinthians 15:19
The problem with conflating “hope in God” with “optimism” is that it reduces a hope that God meant to be eternal into something that only applies to this life.
When your hope is that God will make your life turn out the way you want it to, what happens when He doesn’t? When your expectation of God is that of a genie in a bottle, who fulfills your wishes if you just wish hard enough, all it takes is one tragedy to topple your hope.
That’s the problem with hoping for something that God never promised you. God has not promised pleasant circumstances for those who love Him. Yes, He has promised that for those who love God all things work together for good // Romans 8:28. But in the same chapter, we are reminded that hope that is seen is not hope…But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. // Romans 8:24-25
God has promised us something much better than easy circumstances on this earth; He has promised us an eternity without pain, an eternity in His presence. This hope is so much more comforting than a hope that things will turn out well on this earth. Hope in God—a hope that is fully confident that He will do what He promised—is not shaken even when our lives fall apart. It’s a hope that no amount of tragedy or heartbreak can touch because it does not depend in any way on our circumstances. We can continue steadfastly in this hope because it is based on the unchanging character of our very kind God.
What This Means for Me Now
I do try to be optimistic about this pregnancy. It’s good for my mental health to focus on the positive, and as I said earlier, most pregnancies do end with healthy babies. Wallowing in anxiety would not be a healthy choice for me right now.
But, ultimately, my hope is not based on this pregnancy going the way I want it to.
My hope is that God is a God of life, even if in this world we experience death.
My hope is that God is good, even if my circumstances are not.
My hope is that God is faithful, no matter what happens next.
If I deliver this baby, healthy and well, in January, I will praise God for His goodness in creating such a precious new life.
And if I miscarry before then, I will still praise the God who is Himself the resurrection and the life, the God whose very own hand will one day wipe away every tear from my eyes.
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. // Psalm 42:11
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