Editor’s note: Living in a large city in eastern China, this author is married to a pastor. This is the story of how her personal experience of suffering following miscarriage led her to see and rejoice more deeply in Christ.
Wang Jianguo is the collective pseudonym for a group of Chinese house church pastors thinking and writing about issues related to the spread of Christianity in their nation. They are committed to preaching a grace-centered gospel, developing resources for the church, and loving China’s urban centers.
I have gone through two surgeries in the past six months.
The first was related to the loss of my baby and the surgical procedure that followed. This allowed me to experience a small amount of the Lord’s suffering on the cross, and the separation and isolation that comes with death. The second surgery addressed a problem with the uterus caused by the previous surgery. In my weakness, these surgeries allowed me to experience in a much deeper way, the fear, weakness, loneliness, temptation, and inner battle of the Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane.
I got the pathology report in mid-February, and the result was good. I was thankful that God was merciful and did not put a burden on me I could not bear, yet I knew that everything I was afraid of, he had already suffered for me. During the two weeks of waiting for the pathology report after my surgery in early February, I had many internal battles, fears, weakness, tears, anxiety, and prayers. My body was recovering, but the inner battle never stopped. I kept preparing for the worst outcome. I thought: “If suffering comes, how should I face it?”
Would You Pray With Us Today?
This new year was destined to be filled with apprehension, but at the same time, there was peace within me. It seemed there was a power that kept diverting my attention, allowing me to switch from anxiety, to family warmth; from encouragement from our fellowship, to immersion in the truth. Yet the cloud of fear remained—sometimes high, sometimes low—floating in the sky above my head.
One night I read my daughter a picture book about a dog called Fearless: Sons and Daughter. The title grabbed me; at once I remembered that I should be a fearless daughter of Christ. My inner fears needed to be calmed by the truth, and I was curious to see the story. The dog, named Fearless, was afraid of everything he thought unsafe, including goldfish in the pond. He thought the goldfish were sharks, so he kept his family away from the pond. The last page of the picture book had a drawing of a goldfish with shark teeth. Ironically, not only did the dog’s name not match his behavior, but his fear was ridiculous, having no basis in common sense.
I laughed after I read it, because I saw myself. I too had unfounded fears and was afraid of the “teeth of the goldfish.” So what if they were really shark’s teeth? The deadly poisonous hooks were removed by the Lord; of what was I afraid? During the Sunday sermon, my husband read Hebrews 2:14: “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” Although I often reminded myself of this passage, I was in tears when I heard it read. Even though I am a child, I live as a slave.
The lies still attacked my weaknesses. I was confronted with my fears, fears that scared me to tears before surgery and gave me a splitting headache after, when I thought about the results of the pathology report. This fear was subdued by the truth, but it often roared. In one of my morning devotions, I read the passage about Jesus walking on water. I was amazed how a short verse had so many words to describe fear: “terrified,” “cried out in fear,” “afraid.” I listened to Tim Keller’s sermon on fear. Jesus did not rebuke the disciples but responded, “Do not be afraid…you of little faith.” I also read John Piper’s devotional on worry. When fear and worry come, that is when the battle begins. The weapon of war is truth, and only the truth sets people free. I buried myself in God’s Word to fight Satan’s lies.
The Bible is full of lament when it comes to fear. One prophet after another was called to suffer and preach the message of the Messiah in an eccentric, almost insane, way. The apostles suffered. Paul wrote, “Our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within.” This is not to mention the suffering of Jesus. Suffering seems the only right way to live, yet I avoided it. I thought God would fulfill his good will by giving me suffering. I thought I deserved cancer and death, and must undergo suffering to fulfill God’s plan, the only way to glorify God. If God wills, I must obey and accept his providence. I can’t escape his hand anyway. But I am not like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, obedient to the point of death. It is in my nature to want escape, but I know escaping will bring greater suffering.
In the midst of such challenge, I could not pray, “Thy will be done.” I was anxious I would become bitter and resent God. I was afraid I would not be able to bear the call of suffering. I was like a warrior trembling on the battlefield with a sword. I tried to cheer myself, but God only showed me my own cowardice and how scary the enemy is. Yet, when I finally confronted the enemy with fear and trembling, I found the trumpet of victory had been blown, and the enemy had turned into clouds of smoke.
I had held onto a lie. I was afraid of becoming holy, because the holier I become, the closer I was to death. The closer I got to holiness, the more I had learnt my lessons of dealing with sin, which meant God would take me away. (This was my application of the verse, “the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”) Now, the closer I get to the Lord of holiness, the more I realize how deeply rooted my sins are, and the more I thank God for his salvation and grace to an unworthy person like me. I do not need to fear being struck down for not being holy enough, or being taken away for being too holy—holiness does not come from within me, but is external, coming to me. I do not need to guess God’s heart or guess the script he will give me. I just need to follow the Holy Spirit to repent of my sins, follow the Lord’s leadership in each step, and receive every grace he gives.
When I got the pathology report, I learned I was safe and sound. The doctor said, after taking time to recuperate, I could prepare for the next pregnancy. I was thankful for God’s endless mercy, but I began to struggle with whether I was ready to welcome a new child. Paul’s life-and-death dilemmas were for the Lord, while my considerations were for myself. I began to worry again about how to live the rest of my life. I knew I could not handle peace or suffering well, so no matter the situation, there was new anxiety.
After the miscarriage, I began to see doctors and take various Chinese and western medicines to prepare for a safe pregnancy. However, each doctor prescribed different medication regimens. One doctor callously questioned the previous regimen and the pain I faced from various potential risks. I began to question if I was ready to carry a second child. I wondered if all the planning and struggling was my putting my own intentions ahead of God’s.
The night I received the pathology report, I was walking by the river. Suddenly, I felt sad and wept, remembering my miscarried child. That very day was his due date. After more than eight months, I had returned to the original point. My hopes for a second child went from nothing, to a longing that burned in my heart; from a decision I was struggling with, to a journey that required me to face my heart, putting my fears, worries, expectations, and longings together as I waited before God.
At the end of his gospel, Luke recorded the emotions of the disciples. They did not believe Jesus had risen. When they saw Jesus, they were frightened and worried. It was not until Jesus opened their hearts, blessed them, and they saw him ascend to heaven with their own eyes that they turned to great joy. My own heart was also slow to believe. I saw the suffering of the prophets, the apostles, and Jesus, so I carried my cross with trembling. My eyes were still confused.
Then, suddenly, I understood. I saw the fulfillment of a greater promise, one the eager eyes of the prophets never saw; I saw the song of joy behind the song of lamentation. All suffering points to the greater and ultimate joy. I cannot stay in lament; I want to hear the psalm of joy, the song of triumph. My story—no longer my story—is actually about him. My life—no longer just my life—is actually him in my life, echoing in my dirge with the symphony of his joyful song.
He died for me; he left me his peace; I will live well for him.