By Heather Green
In my heart, I find I can’t talk about being thankful without first addressing faith. When someone is experiencing a difficult time, faith is almost always tested to the limit. Just as we are Christians, we all have difficult or trying times. Maybe it’s the loss of a job and money worries keep you awake at night; maybe it’s an unexpected medical diagnosis that changes everything; maybe it’s dealing with infertility or child loss when it seems like everyone else around you is having healthy babies. Just as people come in all shapes and sizes, our challenges and difficult times do too.
The common reaction to unexpected loss, devastating news, or struggle is, “Why me? What did I do to deserve this?” This is a perfectly natural and valid reaction. But I think it is what we do after the questions that defines our faith and our character. So, let me tell you a story.
I have written before about my daughter being born prematurely. I have not shared many of the details of my pregnancy, other than overall it was very difficult and I was high-risk for many factors. But, there was one day that redefined my relationship with God and strengthened my faith when I felt like my world and dream of having a baby was falling apart.
I was just in the second trimester, a time when doctors usually consider a pregnancy viable and most women feel safe to publically announce that they are expecting. I was at work. Only a handful of people at work, including the school nurses who helped me with Progesterone injections every day, knew I was expecting. I suddenly felt very sick and thought I was experiencing what every woman who is expecting fears the most – that I had lost the baby. In my heart, I KNEW I had lost the baby. I left work and got to my car as fast as possible, calling the doctor’s office first. Of course they wanted to see me immediately, but I worked 45 minutes away and in southeastern Virginia, it was dicey because of tunnel traffic on a Friday afternoon. They gave me an hour to get there. I started driving on autopilot. I called home. This is one of the times when a girl (and yes I still consider myself a girl) wants and needs her mother, even if it is only to hear her voice.
After making my phone calls, I started to pray. I told God that I was scared. I apologized for falling away from the Church – I had used my job and working on a Doctorate as excuses for not attending Church, even though I still believed – and I went through the “Why me? What did I do to deserve this? Why am I losing my baby?” for a good portion of the ride. And I felt alone. My husband was half-way around the world, my parents a thousand miles away. I remember asking God to help me get to the hospital and to help me get through this. All of a sudden, I didn’t feel alone. It was almost like a voice in my head told me that everything would be all right. I can’t explain it. All I can say is that I felt peace. I felt calm. I kept driving. I got to the doctor’s office with 10 minutes to spare.
During the exam, the doctor did an ultrasound and found the baby. The baby was sucking its thumb (the doctor told me this and printed a picture for me to have because I was crying too hard to see the screen). The diagnosis was that I had developed multiple fibroids (tumors) that were fighting with the baby for survival. It was going to be a very difficult pregnancy. I was put on bed rest and they made a plan to begin monitoring the baby’s growth every two weeks.
I left the doctor’s office and called home, again. My Mom and Dad were expecting the worst and were overwhelmed with the news. I drove home smiling – I knew I had a difficult journey ahead, but I was confident that everything would be all right, one way or another because God was in control.
And yes, it was a very difficult pregnancy and my little girl was born 10 weeks early, but she is now 4-years-old and thriving. Her pediatrician calls her a “true miracle.” I still ask God, “Why me? What did I do to deserve this?” but the questions now have a different meaning. But just as before, the answer is the same, “Nothing.”
Through this difficult experience, I learned that God does not “punish” us with financial burdens, illnesses, or other difficulties – these challenges are part of life. What God does, if we let Him by opening our hearts and minds to Him, is help us deal with our problems. I can tell you, based on my experience, that when I felt the most alone is when I heard God the loudest. He is there, He does love you, and He will answer if you call on Him. He is the reason to be thankful in difficult times.