Bread or a Stone
Stillbirth. The very word carries with it a silence that parallels its meaning—the laboring and bringing forth of a child I could not keep. The groaning, the pushing, the travail, to give birth to sorrow. The very opposite of blessing.
How do you prepare to attend your baby’s funeral? It’s a surreal process. The service was easy to plan. Dare I say, we even sensed an anointing in its preparation.
But two days after I had given birth, I was anything but comfortable making a public appearance, with empty arms. No baby to draw attention from me, I was very self-conscious choosing my clothes that morning. I settled on the dress I had worn on Mother’s Day. I ran my hand over my tummy, recalling that day … she was there.
I felt the Lord’s presence and strength as I left my bedroom, ready to be driven to the church, the Lord continually reminding me, I was never alone. The hushed voices of loved ones drifted down our hall, a constant reminder of the approaching appointed time. We formed a small circle as we held hands to pray. My husband’s best friend found his voice and led us. He prayed for comfort, for strength. He thanked God for blessings. He thanked God for being a good Father, echoing Christ’s words in Matthew 7. “You don’t give us a stone if we ask for bread.”
I confess I stopped hearing, turning that over in my mind. Not the prayer of an insensitive, unknowing heart—this daddy lost his first two children in miscarriage. I took the prayer and put it in a box in my mind, for another day.
What balm the service was for my soul. The worship, the message, our families, friends and church family offered tangible comfort. Its sweetness still fills my eyes with tears. The funeral prepared my heart to walk away from my daughter’s grave. My husband and his friend carried her tiny white coffin to the cemetery and, as our family left the green tent, my three-year-old started singing “Joy to the World.” In the deep, agonizing sorrow to the point of physical pain, we did feel joy. We experienced joy that can only be explained as the result of His presence.
Our faithful Lord sustained us, comforting us in the months and years to come. From time to time, I remembered that prayer, You don’t give us a stone if we ask for bread. I prayed this in faith. I tried to reconcile what I knew to be true from Scripture with what I lived. Don’t misunderstand, we had seen God use her death to bring about good. My heart was drawn to His in ways I could not have known any other way. We saw a tenderness and love from our church family we had never experienced. We experienced His sweet comfort.
But we asked for a baby and she died. Isn’t that like giving us a stone when we’d asked for bread? I trust You, Lord. I believe, help my unbelief.
The precious baby we loved and lost is now a teenager in heaven, if people there age as we do on earth. Recently, as I mulled over this prayer…again, a tiny fracture of light began to crack through the understanding of my mind as He began to show me the lessons taught through suffering. I saw faces of women I have held in my arms as they mourned their children. I had learned the tender sweetness of receiving ministry of compassion from other believers. When I tell someone of the power in worshiping with a broken heart, I know it’s true.
For the first time, I saw the “stone” we received, our blessing, in a fresh perspective. Instead of only recognizing the blessings mined from our loss, I began to grasp the loss itself as part of that blessing. When we prayed for our little daughter, trusting the Lord to answer our prayer, she died. As one who believes in an almighty and loving God, I have the opportunity to trust this answer is somehow better than what we prayed.
The blessing is in trusting that the Lord is good. In the blessing of yielding ourselves to His plan, we find blessing in tasting the sweetness of His comfort in our heartache. The veil of humanity keeps us from seeing an eternal perspective, and we can mistake what we do or do not receive, what prayers are answered as desired, to be all there is.
However, from the standpoint of eternity, and through occasional glimpses now, we see His plans really are for our good.
Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!