HE DAY WAS APRIL 19, 2003. It was getting late, but we were still coloring Easter eggs. Easter was the next day and Morgan, my 5-year-old daughter, and her cousins were having great fun. I was pregnant with my second child, another baby girl, and it was an exciting time. It was also a bit confusing. I hadn’t felt the baby move in a couple of days, but I had convinced myself it was because there just wasn’t any more room left! Besides, she was due any day.
It was 10:30 p.m. when I started having contractions. As my husband, Ron, and I left for the hospital, I looked at Morgan with excitement and said, “When I come back, I’ll have your little sister with me!” As soon as I said this I felt uneasy, but I dismissed it.
My pregnancy had gone without a hitch. I had awaited the arrival of baby Megan with great anticipation. And judging from the strength of the contractions I was having by the time we pulled up to the hospital, she was going to be here soon!
“Why me? Why us?”
The emergency room staff quickly checked me in and hooked me up to the monitor. But something wasn’t right. There was clearly no heartbeat. This can’t be, I thought. I had been to the doctor’s four days before. The heartbeat was strong. But here we were staring at a monitor that was registering no heartbeat. We were told they needed to get to the baby as quickly as possible, so I would be having an emergency C-section. As they prepped me and wheeled me down the hall, I felt numb. Why was this happening? Was it so God could work a miracle?
Immediately after the C-section they whisked my baby off to another room to be seen by a specialist. And for the next two hours my husband and I prayed. We prayed and we mustered up every bit of faith we could. We were raised as Seventh-day Adventist Christians, and we knew that if we had enough faith and if we prayed hard enough, things would be OK. And so we called our family and friends and got prayer chains going all across the country.
Finally a nurse came to ask if we wanted to visit Megan. Of course I wanted to see my baby! They wheeled me down the hall and, as we approached the room, a specialist came out to talk to us. I remember he said something about Megan’s struggle to live, but that they just couldn’t keep her tiny heart going. They had tried everything, but they couldn’t find out what was causing her heart to be so weak. . . . After that I didn’t hear much. They wheeled me in and placed my bed next to the bed my baby lay in. And there I saw a small body, beautiful and perfect in every way—but very still. I wanted to hold her but I couldn’t. A small voice said that if I picked her up, I would never be able to let her go.
It was a long journey down the corridors back to the room. I sobbed. But then my husband began to pray a prayer that I will never forget. He said, “Dear Lord, if we have to endure this loss and this pain, let it glorify Your name.” I can’t thank my husband enough for that prayer, because suddenly the emphasis was off of me and my pain and was now on God. For a moment I wondered: Could something good come out of something so horrible? And I actually had a brief moment of peace.
It didn’t take long, however, for the grieving process to begin. There was anger. There were a lot of questions: How could this happen? Where was the miracle? I wanted the miracle! Didn’t I have enough faith? Did we not pray hard enough? Did we deserve this? God, how could You let this happen?
When tragedy strikes, it’s so easy to blame God. All our questions are directed at Him as if He has something against us personally. But that’s where I was. And I made no excuses for it because I didn’t understand. I knew He had all the answers, and felt He needed to tell me what they were.
As the day wore on family and friends streamed in and out, laughing and crying with us, reminding us that God was in control and we must look to Him for comfort. I knew all the things they said were true. So why did it still hurt so much? At the end of the day the room was cold and empty, and we were alone again. I just wanted my baby. I didn’t understand why this was happening to me—to us.
Wrestling With God
The next morning Ron got up and left. It was 6:00 in the morning, and my first thought was: Why are you leaving me? This is not a good time to leave me! But there was something in his face and the way he moved around that room that was unusual, and a small voice said, “Let him go. Let him grieve the way that he needs to grieve. I’m here.” But Lord! I cried to Him in my thoughts, You want me to be alone? But I’m afraid! It hurts! All I heard was silence. So I kissed Ron goodbye, and after he left I cried uncontrollably.
I don’t know how long I cried, but it seemed like forever. And then I began to scream out to God, Why? I don’t understand! I’ve never known this kind of pain. I can’t do this by myself! And in that moment that same small voice said, “If you’ll let Me, I will comfort you. I won’t take the pain away, but I will comfort you.” I was in no position to argue! So immediately I said, Yes! I’ll let You comfort me! And suddenly I felt His presence such as I’ve never experienced it before. God was there! I could feel Him in the room with me. And for the next hour, I felt more comfort than I have ever felt before. He loved me like I’ve never allowed Him to love me before. And He was right. The pain was still there, but so was the comfort.
Excruciating pain and overwhelming comfort! I will never be able to describe it better than that. Only God could be present! I rested in His arms, and it was the best place I could be. I began a new relationship with my Father that day. There was no doubt in my mind that He knew the reason why Megan couldn’t stay with me, and I was OK with that fact for the first time.
During the next 24 hours I went to His arms numerous times. To walk, talk, and even breathe took a lot of energy. But I knew where I could go, and I would rush there in a moment’s notice when I felt everything around me was crashing.
This was the hardest thing I had ever had to endure. The thought of leaving that hospital without my baby was almost more than I could bear. But I knew He would give me the strength. Every moment it drew closer to the time to go out that door, the pain in my heart intensified. But He continued to strengthen me.
What I realized at that time in the hospital is that God gave my husband and me a choice. We all have a choice when we have a tragedy in our lives. And the choice is simple. Either you choose to follow God, or you choose to turn your back on Him and blame Him. And you don’t get to make that choice just once; you have the opportunity to make it at every juncture of that event.
Once we gave God permission to take over, He began to work in ways you can’t even imagine. He consistently responded to the pain and anger that continued to surface. We learned that God doesn’t always choose to take you around; sometimes He chooses to take you through. So He walked through it with us: through our questions and pain, through anger and numbness, and even through silent, sleepless nights—unbroken by a baby’s cry. Through all of this we felt Him there with us.
Glorifying His Name
The next thing that God did for us was to allow us to begin to see the fruit of Ron’s prayer. We didn’t think many people would be at the graveside service for Megan. After all, it was the middle of the week and for an infant no one had met. Seventy-five people showed up! Many of them were people who worked with Ron and me. Some of them had no relationship with God, and others had a marginal relationship. It was definitely an opportunity for God to show His wonderful greatness.
By the end of that service, it was obvious the Spirit had touched people’s hearts. Through stories shared later, we found out that there were people who had finally given themselves permission to grieve over losses—some of which had happened many years before.
The next opportunity to see answers to our prayer came six weeks later when I went back to work. I was not looking forward to facing people. I was tired. It had been a really difficult journey, and the last thing I wanted to do was to smile and tell people I was OK. But what happened instead was that over the next several weeks I had many opportunities to witness. Now who would think that this would turn into an opportunity for me to console people and to witness?
But people would come up to me and say the oddest things! Things such as, “If that would have happened to me, I would have killed myself,” “I don’t believe in God, but I believe that everything happens for a reason,” or “Time heals all.” An urgency came over me to tell them the truth, the truth about the God that I knew. And I began to say, “No, no, you don’t understand. You see, God’s on our side. And He knows what I’m going through, because you see, He had to bury a child too! He knows how I feel. And He plans on being here for me as long as I allow Him to be.”
Over the next couple of weeks, I got used to the looks that I would get from people that seemed to say, “OK, she really must be cracking up. Didn’t she just lose a child? She’s beginning to seek people out to talk about God’s goodness!” And that was another part of my healing process. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was God’s way of helping me through the pain. Every time I told someone about God’s goodness, it reminded me of how good He is.
I learned of the incredible impact our personal stories can have. If you have a story to tell about God’s goodness, you need to share it! You have an obligation to share it, because someone will be blessed from hearing where you have been and how God met you there.
Just the Beginning
Four months after we lost Megan I was asked to speak at a women’s ministry conference. I was very nervous, but I knew God was calling me to share Megan’s story with people who needed to hear about His healing power. I didn’t know God had plans to bless me as well.
God sent a message to me there through a woman I had never met before. She didn’t know my story.
In fact, she wasn’t even at the right conference! “You’re going to have a child,” she said, “and God doesn’t want you to be afraid. He specifically said, ‘Do not be afraid.’ And then He said you are a ‘sweet-smelling fragrance’ to Him.”
I was amazed and so grateful! We had just found out that I was pregnant again, this time with a little boy. The doctors had never determined the cause of Megan’s death, so we were understandably nervous. We had told no one. And here was a message from this woman confirming that I was going to have a baby, and to not be afraid!
I wish I could end this now with the words “And they lived happily ever after,” but that’s not always how life works. I lost Michael when I was 16 weeks pregnant. I was stunned. What about the message, God? Did I hear You wrong? Again I had an opportunity to decide: Am I going to walk away from God? Or am I going to draw closer to Him and pull from His strength?
God, I don’t understand. Why do we have to keep experiencing this pain? How do I explain this to my little girl again? She’s going to have questions, and I don’t have the answers. What do I tell all the people who rejoiced in Your message to me? Help me.
In answer, I believe that God pointed me to something completely unexpected: The Great Disappointment of 1844. I didn’t understand how it related to me, but I started reading. I soon realized what I was thinking and feeling must have been very similar to how those early Adventists felt as October 23 dawned. They had so much love for, and faith in, God; they had been given a message they thought they understood—but here they were still on earth and Jesus had not come. When it didn’t happen the way they thought it would, they had a choice. And many of them fell away. But there were some who stayed faithful—even though they had questions, even though it hurt, even though their questions were not answered immediately. And that was the message that I believe God had for me. He doesn’t always answer our questions. Not in the way that we think they should be answered. It doesn’t always look like what we think it’s going to look like. But God is still trustworthy. His word is still true.
On March 22, 2005, I had a healthy baby boy. The contrast between the day of his birth and Megan’s could not have been more vivid. As Joshua was born, I could feel the presence of angels rejoicing to meet him for the first time. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Even nurses who didn’t know our story were crying! God’s presence in the room that day was evident to all.
The Blessings of Walking With God
God used a lot of different people and circumstances in our lives to ultimately give us a blessing—and bless many others along the way. We’ve all heard that “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord.” We are living the fulfillment of this promise. From my husband’s prayer to the effect of the pastor’s graveside sermon, from the message from God to its disappointment and fulfillment, God was working.
As you read this you may be in a difficult chapter of your life. If you are, God is waiting for you to make a decision. He wants to know, “Do you trust Me? Or are you going to keep demanding answers until it blocks you from hearing Me? Are you willing to let Me comfort you? Or in your anger will you keep pushing Me away?”
I don’t believe my story is special or unique. I believe I made a choice—and that each time I made that choice I got closer to the blessings God had in store for me. I believe that can happen for any of us. I believe it will happen for you—whatever circumstances you may be facing.
If you will trust Him . . . and let Him comfort you.
Alicia Patterson writes from Georgia, where her husband, Geoff, pastors the Adventist church in Marietta. They are blessed with three sons and a new baby daughter.