A dialog about suffering

Shannon wrote me the following after reading my post on the tragedy of our twins. I didn't notice it until it was too late to respond before his sermon. I responded yesterday. What he responded back was very comforting in a way. Here was our brief dialog, on exhibit for the whole world to see. It's also evidence, in case you were beginning to believe this, that I don't have all the right answers. Most times all you will receive in reading this blog is the view of a man struggling through the issues rather than a man that has an answer to all of the issues. Hopefully, in some way, this dialog helps someone else going through the same struggle.


Shannon's first email:

It has been very providential for me to finally start

reading your blogs this week. The sermon I'm
preparing is about trials. Reading both (Regan and
Brandon) of your accounts have helped me reconnect
with the reality of it. Hopefully, this will help me
not be trite.

Here's the thing though. The text is from James 1.
He says to consider it pure joy whenever you face
trials of many kinds. Frankly, I don't know what to
do with that after reading your blogs. It seems like
nonsense even more now than it ever has.

I hope that I'm not being insensitive. But there are
people here who are going through trials, and I don't
want my naivete to come off as insulting. I want to
be able to help them.



My reply:

Hi Shannon.

Sorry I didn't catch this email earlier in the week.
For some reason my eyes skipped over it. I never even
opened it. Maybe that will work out for the better.
I don't know.

As for finding joy in your trials, I am lost. I tried
and tried to convince myself of this message when
going through it. I need to be joyful. I need to
find the joy. I couldn't find it. Sitting in a
basket at the end of our bed was two dead babies.
They were small. They weren't too appealing to the
eye, but they were still precious. In the background
were the cries of other babies, of families in real
joy. Where was my joy?

I wish I could answer that. I really wish I could
make sense of the passage of finding joy in all
things. I really tried during that situation. It was
terrible. I received love through our friends. I
received comfort through those who trod that terrible
path before us. But is that joy?

Did we grow closer to God as a result of the
experience? I'm sure we did. Did Isaac arriving at
the hospital to run around the room give us joy? It
sure did. We found things to find joy in, but we
couldn't find the joy in not having our babies to do
all of the things we dreamed of doing with them.

A sad memory just came to my mind, so I will share it.
I remember when we got home from the hospital. Every
night I read a book to Isaac. That night I sat down
on the couch. Isaac was on my lap. We were ready to
read. I started reading, but I couldn't continue. I
just started to weep. One of the things I enjoy most
in the world is reading a good night story to Isaac.
It was something I would never be able to do for Luke
and Logan.

Am I selfish in all of this. Sure I am. Do I want my
children to be with me down here for a time rather
than waiting to see them in the afterlife? Sure I
do. Do I want them to experience the pains and suffering
of life in order for me to receive the joy they
would've given? You can bet your life on it. I'm
selfish. I would still love to have Luke and Logan.
Where is my joy in that situation? Maybe my
selfishness doesn't allow me to attain it. They were
a gift from God. The little time we had to dream
about our lives with them were a tremendous blessing.
The fact that we never lived out any of those dreams,
a tremendous chasm of sorrow.

I doubt that is any help. I have been struggling with
that passage ever since I saw their lifeless bodies on
the ultrasound. Still no answer.

Do you mind if I post your email question on my blog
along with my reply?

In Christ,


Shannon's reply to my reply:

Sure you can post this question along with the response. Anything to get you off the topic of paid ministers (he he).

I don't count you selfish. I certainly don't think that it was your selfishness that kept you from the joy that this passage talks about, or this passage would be for that one in a million saint who has completely cleansed himself from every last trace of selfishness. That doesn't make sense to me.

It seems to me (and this is what I preached) that the joy is not FOR the trials, but during the trials (whenever you face trails). The joy is not for the trials, but for the blessings which accompany them. That passage is all about what trials can bring: perseverence (3), maturity, completion, lacklessness (my word, but concept comes from v.4), and the crown of life (12).

James here reflects many other NT passages that talk about the blessings that accompany pain. This not to say that we would voluntarily make that trade. I would never expect that you would desire maturity over your twins. That would not be maturity. That would not reflect the character of the Father. But at the end of the day, it is good to know that some measure of blessing accompanies even the darkest tragedies... that you aren't left in the end with nothing.

Rick Warren says that God never wastes a pain. He uses every one. I believe that's true, and I'm glad he does. It dosn't make everything that happens to us okay, but I think it does make it at least a little better.

I talked about 2 Corinthians 4:17 where Paul says that our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us a glory that far outweighs them all. Though, you may have some sorrow about this until you die, it is momentary. It will not last past the day enter heaven. I would never call your suffering light, but by comparison to the glory (bright heaviness) that is achieves for us, Paul says it is light. I ended the sermon by reading Jesus' promises to those who overcome from Revelation. Perhaps they will be an encouragement to you.

Remember, that the love you have for your children comes directly from God. Do not shame yourself for it. I don't think that wishing they had lived is selfish. I think it is a natural outflow of the love God has poured into your life.

To think that I could solve your questions in this e-mail would be very arrogant on my part, and would be to underestimate the depth of your sorrow. But I hope this was a little bit of what you were looking for.



Watch out for the potholes.