Personal Testimony: How God Helped Me Through My Pain

I took a one-year hiatus from posting on my personal social media page after my son Jules passed away from premature birth.

I didn’t speak on my personal page because I didn’t have anything to say. And then, after going to counselling almost every week and sitting with God and processing, I finally had something to say. It was an outpouring of my experience with God and I had a need to share it because I knew it would give someone freedom, and perhaps it would give me freedom too.

When I spoke on Facebook again, after my one year of silence, this is what I said.

This is What I Said

I walked by the neighbor’s house this morning. 

When I was in labour with Jules I wanted to reach out to our neighbor for help because I was home alone and didn’t know who else to call. I somehow wish she were involved in helping me then so she shared my pain now. 

When we wave, it’s casual and polite, but distant. She doesn’t understand my greeting is tinged in sorrow and I wish she did.

I ask myself why I am sad. Is it because of losing Jules? Partially yes. He should have been here to celebrate his first Christmas. My son Jax should be lavishing love on him the way he does his toy koala and her two joeys. But it’s not just that. 

I mourn because of the painful way Jules entered this world. The aloneness I experienced as I felt the sharp announcement of his arrival. And I mourn the answer to the question “How many children do you have?” because dead babies don’t count.

I mourn for the finality and helplessness I read in the faces of the medical staff. Observers to my pain. As I cried for help to get Jules out they told me I had to do it myself. I had to push. After all they were observers to my story. There was nothing they could do.

Doing Nothing

Speaking of doing nothing, I recently remembered something the midwife on duty said. When I called her telling her something didn’t feel right she said you’re 23 weeks well there’s not much we can do for you anyway. I knew this was true because the night before I was prompted to look up at what gestation they resuscitate babies and I knew it was 24 weeks. When I had Jules I was 23+5 days. Those two days still hang mockingly in the air begging for significance because 23+5 babies don’t count.

I see families with lots of children and it’s not something I wanted before. My first few years in Australia I threw myself into my work. I even struggled to imagine when I could reasonably get pregnant again because a major event at work always stood as a barrier.

While Jax’s energy and inquisitiveness are equivalent to a kid + 3, there’s an empty part in me. Something that is a little bit broken. I now want that big family that didn’t have significance for me before.

I put my all into raising my son. I lavish him with love. I guide and correct him and teach him about God’s love and I wonder why God wouldn’t trust me to do that again. Jules would have been so loved. 

How Can You Love Someone You’ve Never Met?

Which brought me to the question how can you love someone you have never met? How can you long for them when you’ve not been together for any reasonable length of time. I can’t explain it but I do.

I regret not letting Jax and my family meet Jules and connect with his person . To hold his tiny body that measured a week ahead for his gestation but still resembled a sleeping babydoll. But I never let myself live in the land of regret. It’s a dangerous place.

As a Christian and as a human this experience has tenderised my heart.

So much so that a few weeks back it felt as though Jesus were doing heart surgery on me as I could feel Him molding my character to be more like Him, and imagine having surgery while you’re awake experiencing every incision and stitch. Imagine seeing yourself vulnerable and exposed. That’s how I am as God does His best work on me.

The Embodiment of Empathy

We characterise Jesus as many things but I believe He is the embodiment of empathy and lately that’s the character trait I’m most drawn to in Him. And in this empathy, imagine Him observing our human experience with pain. Imagine Him experiencing that same pain. 

It must drive a stake in the heart of the Creator to watch us act out of our pain. Pain as the driver and motivator. Pain as the fuel. Pain as the medicine. 

Pain is a cruel slave master, unrelenting and vindictive. But without a balm, we will continue to act out of our pain. Looking back, I think God offered me an ointment at the time I was wounded.

One of the Worst Years of My Life

2022 was one of the worst years of my life but I also experienced Immanuel, God with us, to a depth I would have never previously imagined. 

The God of the universe, the embodiment of empathy, sent to live among us and understand our struggle and suffering. Overriding His desire to allow pain to be the driver and motivator 

God with us. Walking alongside holding us with his righteous right hand.

The day of Jules arrival and departure from this world, In the shower, as I washed off the blood-stained evidence that I ever had a child in the early hours of that day, I allowed the water to wash over me and felt numb. And in that moment I heard a tiny voice that was faint yet familiar say, “God is good. God is gracious. God is merciful.” And then the voice said, now you say it. Almost trance like I said “God is good. God is gracious. God is merciful.” It offered the soothing of a lullaby you’d sing to a child. It was gentle and sweet. It held me up when I should have crumbled.

God is Good. God is Gracious. God is Merciful.

At the time these words were so comforting. It felt like angel Gabriel, the one who always seems to need to introduce himself and his proximity to God was there.

You know the angel who says, “I am Gabriel. I stand at the right hand of God.”

It seemed like that sort of being, with that sort of experience and authority and proximity, someone who had witnessed these character traits over the ages was speaking to me. So, I put those words on repeat. 

For a while they provided the comfort I needed.

However months later the words seemed to mock me. I began to wonder, “Why would God tell me about himself in the middle of my pain?” Cynicism took over and I felt as though God were there trying to defend His character, hands in the air. It’s not me! Why else would He need to tell me He’s good when everything looked bad?

Why did He need to tell me He was gracious when it wasn’t apparent that I had experienced His grace. Why was He claiming to be merciful when it seemed we weren’t the recipients of His mercy. Why would He tell me He was good when I was experiencing one of the worst moments of my life?

Not Easy Questions

These haven’t been easy questions to answer. If you have a therapist or counsellor these are the type of questions they tell you to sit with. Fortunately or unfortunately, healing is about questions sometimes more than answers.

Even as I write this I’m having small epiphanies about God’s why. I think it has something to do with the pain.

I wrote a book many years ago and I told the reader I wasn’t sure how they found themselves with the book but we all want to know that our God is as real as our pain.

What if God were as real as our pain? What if in that moment God was being Immanuel, the embodiment of empathy? What if God was inviting me to not allow pain to be my driver and motivator and my cruel and unrelenting slave master? What if God was offering a soothing balm?

Psalm 23

Recently I was led to Psalm 23. The familiarity of the chapter can sometimes numb us to the invitation of it.

The last verse says “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

This conjured up a picture of goodness and mercy in pursuit of me following me everywhere I go. Imagine them chasing you. When you experience pain, as is the natural effect of our broken world, you experience goodness and mercy in even greater proportion because the need is greater, the wound is deeper. It brings meaning to the verse where sin abounds grace does much more abound. 

God Was Being Himself

God’s goodness, mercy and grace are seen and experienced and received in proportion to our need. In that moment, while I was alone in the shower, washing off the last evidence I had carried a child, when I heard a small voice say, “God is Good. God is gracious. God is merciful.” God was not defending Himself; he was being himself.

So much of our religion is based on God’s actions — we understand Him as the-God-of-the-doing. And if He doesn’t show up the way we expect, we doubt His existence, His care and His ability. But what if we re-framed it and we began to understand it in a new way. What if God is trying to help us experience Him as the-God-of-the-being.” A God that goes with us, stands before us, and surrounds us.

2022 was one of the hardest years of my life, but never have I experienced the-God-of-the-being as I did that year. I learned that:

God is good. God is gracious. God is merciful no matter the circumstance. 

God is good. God is gracious. God is merciful no matter the outcome.

God is good. God is gracious. God is merciful no matter what our situations look like.

And His goodness, mercy and graciousness are in constant pursuit of us all the days of our lives.