October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. And this awareness hits home for me because it gets personal. You see, on October 12, 2008, we lost our first baby to miscarriage.
I had attended the very first True Woman Conference with a group from my church. We hadn’t told many people other than family that we were expecting yet, so my sister kept my secret as we traveled the three hours to the hotel. We arrived at the conference to a sold-out crowd and worshiped and learned along with thousands of other women.
During that conference, I attended the breakout session on family/kids with Holly Elliff. I was excited to glean some new insights as we were about to enter this journey of parenthood. I sat next to a kind lady who introduced herself and asked how many kids we had. I blushed as I told her we were expecting our first in June. She congratulated me, and placing a hand on my shoulder, she prayed for our baby to be—for protection, for guidance as we entered parenthood, and for peace.
A couple days later, we packed up and headed home. We made a stop at an oasis over the toll road for dinner. I excused myself to go to the bathroom, and when I got in the stall I froze as I saw brown and pink on my toilet paper—not a color you want to see when you’re expecting. My head and heart started racing. Being an OB nurse at the time, I tried to rationalize that I shouldn’t worry yet. It wasn’t bright red, and I wasn’t cramping. But I still couldn’t help worrying. I sat quiet the rest of the way home.
When I got back to my house, I quickly told my husband what was going on. The spotting continued all evening. We prayed together for God to protect our child, and we went to bed in the hope that He would.
Sunday morning, the spotting was no longer brown, no longer pink; it was now bright red and getting heavier. My stomach began to churn and cramp. The pain came in waves. I knew what was happening. I had seen this before. I called into the OB department where I worked and let them know what I was dealing with, and I paced the floor with a heat pack on my belly as I cycled between crying and praying. My husband made the phone call to my family to tell them the news.
Two days later, Tuesday evening, I delivered our baby at home. Being in the first trimester, we couldn’t tell whether the baby was a boy or girl, but in my heart, I felt it was a boy. We named him Sam Azrial, meaning, “His name is God, and God is our aid.”
That may have come from a heart of faith in the moment, but fast forward past our baby’s memorial service in our yard and into the rest of the fall busyness—getting back to work, dealing with my grandfather’s death the same week we lost our baby, and heading toward the holidays—much of my heart buried the pain and grief.
Tasting the Lie
How could God be good and allow something like this to happen? I had attended True Woman, and we had prayed for this child. We prayed for protection. And God didn’t protect. We prayed for peace, but my heart felt torn to shreds. Thus began a subtle lie that I began to chew on. Prayer doesn’t work. Everything is just coincidence. Life is going to happen; bad things are going to happen whether I pray about them or not. A root of bitterness took hold, and I began holding back my deepest desires from the Father who loved me so intimately. Why pray about something if it doesn’t change the outcome?
I lived with this lie eating away at my soul for about eight years. It became so natural, so normal to think this way that I couldn’t see the depth of the bitterness that was growing deep into my heart.
When the marriage amendment came before a vote, I prayed, but not with faith. I figured whatever was going to happen would. When we were asked to pray for the unborn and for a decrease in abortion, I said the words, but my heart was not in it. When my family would ask for prayer, I might utter a few sentences, but that’s as far as it went.
The Beginning of Change
In 2016, we had a special speaker come to our home church. His topic was prayer. I rolled my eyes when I heard what he would be speaking on. What did I need to know about prayer? We can pray for whatever we want, but God still does (or doesn’t do) whatever He wants.
During his message, he brought up a passage of Scripture: 1 Samuel 12:23. “Far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you.” We are called to pray and are given a responsibility to intercede for ourselves, our family, our friends (1 Thess. 5:17; Eph. 6:18).
He went on to share stories of how our prayers here have far-reaching effects. We can touch someone around the world with our prayers that we may never be able to touch on a physical level. Prayer is our link, our connection that spans the distance of space and time. And one of the Holy Spirit’s great missions is to intercede for us (Rom. 8). And to be like Him, we must be intercessors, too.
God began to work in my heart as I thought about my denial of His power over the past years. My heart broke at my own pride and lack of willingness to offer my requests to God as a fragrant offering.
How could I, as the clay, ask the potter what he was making (Isa. 45:9)? The loss of my child didn’t make any sense to me, but maybe God was working toward a bigger plan that I could not see. I had asked God for the good gift of protecting my baby, and because He didn’t answer that prayer the way I asked, I denied that He answered prayer at all. What I couldn’t see at the time was that He had answered my prayer—just not in the way I had anticipated.
“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11–13 emphasis mine).
I had prayed protection for my child, and God brought my child into His presence—the safest place my little one could be. I had prayed for peace, and God gave me Himself (Eph. 2:14).
Breaking the Lie
The next month, I arrived at True Woman 2016. Low and behold, the theme “Cry Out” was centered around the concept of prayer. As Russell Moore and Stephen Kendrick spoke, God chiseled away more hard edges of my heart. And on the second evening, when we arrived at the time of crying out as a community, God finally had me where He wanted me—seeing the power of communicating with the God of the universe. My heart broke as I realized my pride, my unwillingness to humble myself before Him. I cried out to God with renewed vigor. He forgave. He washed clean.
Walking in Truth
I find myself now asking like the disciples, “Lord, teach [me] to pray” (Luke 11:1), or like the father of the demon possessed child, “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
As I have learned to boldly approach the throne of grace with confidence, I have seen God work in ways I could never imagine. From providing physical safety for a friend’s baby at risk in utero to providing finances for an “impossible” project and bringing some of my children to faith in Christ.
Yet sometimes the answers don’t look like what I prayed for. In many moments I find myself still struggling with prayer. Occasionally, those old lies try to sneak in once again. And in those times, I must remind myself of the truth of who God is—that He is all powerful and nothing is too hard for Him (Jer. 2:17), He cares about my heart (Ps. 34:18, 139:17–18), and He loves me. Oh, how He loves me (1 John 4:9–11)!
Taking every thought captive, I stand on these truths and pray along with David: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Ps. 43:5).
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen (Eph. 3:20–21).