Revive Our Hearts Radio

It's Okay to Be Silent

Leslie Basham: Mark Vroegop has learned to embrace suffering for the glory of God.

Mark Vroegop: God has gifted us with this pain, and it’s time to make it a platform for worship. It’s hopeful, because you can actually transform pain from your enemy to the means by which God is glorified. If you think about it, that’s just the gospel.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts, with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, for Thursday, May 9.

Nancy is continuing in the series, "When a Heartbeat Goes Silent," Mark and Sarah Vroegop’s story.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We’ve heard about a lot of pain, a lot of loss, and I’m sure that this series, with Mark and Sarah Vroegop, has been really difficult for some who are suffering the loss of a child, miscarriages, empty arms, unfulfilled hopes and expectations.

But I hope you’re also seeing light and hope and grace and Christ in the midst of this. I’m so thankful, Mark and Sarah, for your willingness to not only live through this (which you didn’t really have much choice about), but what I see in you also, and that is letting God make gold in your lives out of suffering and loss.

And to our listeners, if you haven’t been with us the last few programs, I’d encourage you to go to ReviveOurHearts.com. You can listen to the audio of this interview with Mark and Sarah, you can read the transcripts. I think you’ll want to listen to the audio if you can, because you’ll get more of the heart of what Mark and Sarah have been through.

Some might say, “Boy, this is tough stuff to be talking about.” As Mark has reminded us repeatedly, “Hard is hard”—there’s no way around it. Life is hard in this fallen world—but “hard” is not necessarily “bad.” In fact, Sarah, as you reminded us on the last program, the things that hurt the most can, in fact, be a gift from the Lord, in the sense of making us utterly desperate for Him.

You’ve shared so beautifully how you’ve found yourselves clinging to the Lord in this time of desperation. So, Mark and Sarah, thank you so much for being willing to share with our listeners, out of your journey.

Mark and Sarah Vroegop: You’re welcome; it’s good to be here.

Nancy: Do you ever feel like, “when it rains it pours”? Grief upon grief. You experienced normal childbirth, with having a set of twin boys and then another son—those joys, but also the hardships that go with parenting three little ones. Then you had a couple of miscarriages. That’s a different kind of hardship. Then there was the stillbirth of your nine-pound baby girl, at full-term . . . burying a child.

Then you went through another miscarriage, and then a ablated ovum. I didn’t know what that was until you shared that story. It's where all the signs are that you’re pregnant, that your body has prepared a house for the baby—but then finding out that there’s no baby there. Do you get to the point where you just kind of cringe and think, “I don’t want to wake up. I don’t want to think what else could possibly be coming down the pike.”

Do you kind of recoil at the thought of what else could happen?

Sarah: Absolutely. There were times when I just really didn’t want to get out of bed because I was afraid of what could happen that day. I struggled with a lot of fear. I struggled with fear of other things happening to my other children. I remember not allowing them to go away from me for over a year after Sylvia died. I was just very fearful of something happening to one of my kids.

I was definitely afraid of the future, but I knew I couldn’t live in that, and I was constantly telling myself to trust the Lord for the future. “He’s taken you through things; He can take you through them again.” It would be horrible with a child or another difficulty, but I experienced that grace once, and I know that God has more grace to give.

So I know that truth, but living that out definitely is hard after so many disappointments in life.

Nancy: This whole issue of fear can be so huge. I know it is for a lot of women, in particular. You struggled with that when you, once again, got pregnant—this time with Savannah, who is your precious six-year-old child. But after having had multiple miscarriages and a stillbirth, fear had to be something you battled during that pregnancy.

Sarah: Yes, it was. When we got another positive pregnancy test, we had joy, but also continued fear. And we were a little bit cynical . . .

Mark: . . . guarded. Trying to be self-protective.

Sarah: Yes, I struggled with self-protection throughout that nine months, not really wanting to get real excited about this baby.

Nancy: Well, the more attached you get, the more excited, the greater the disappointment you have if something goes wrong.

Sarah: Exactly. It was a long nine months of fighting for our joy and not being ruled by fear, afraid of the future. It was just really trusting the Lord, whether He was going to allow us to keep this child or not, and to be okay with whatever God chose for us. It was still trusting in the sovereignty of God, but afraid at the sovereignty of God.

Mark: And to be clear, Nancy, there were some days when that trusting the Lord thing did not go well for both of us. So, this idea of trusting the Lord is a fight, it is a battle, and there were some days when we would have to end the day confessing, “Lord, today was not good—we were not victorious. We’re just going to believe that you understand our frame and you’ve never given us more than we can bear (see 1 Cor. 10:13), but we’re struggling and we didn’t do well today. You know it. We’re sorry, please forgive us and help us tomorrow.”

And we did that again and again and again. It isn’t just this once-for-all trust the Lord, “Hey, I’m over the mountain.” But it’s this rugged daily battle that goes well, but there are times when it’s really, really hard, and times when you don’t do it very well.

Nancy: I think all of us can relate to the challenge of having emotions that just really want to run your life. Fear is one of the most powerful ones, especially for us as women. How do you fight for grace and joy and faith when you have, humanly speaking, reason to. These fears were not irrational—you had been through some really tough stuff. How do you keep those emotions and fears from running your life?

Sarah: That’s a really good question. Like Mark said, we didn’t do it beautifully every day. So, even now, like you said, we all struggle with fears on a day-to-day basis. I know, for me, I stay in the Word of God, I believe the Word. I’m memorizing Psalm 37: “Trust in the Lord, do good, dwell in the land, feed upon His faithfulness.”

Feed upon His faithfulness, recounting the many ways He’s been faithful to us throughout the years, the way He’s poured out His grace and goodness in giving us three healthy kids, and being thankful for them. It is having a level of contentedness and just really clinging to His Word.

Also, I just work on filling my mind with the truth. Going through all these difficulties was the first time we really started listening to good Christian music that was going to help us think right throughout the day. So, filling our home with songs that spoke truth to us and constantly memorizing the Word and just trusting it.

Nancy: Renewing your mind.

Mark: Yes, and realizing, too, that there is a reason why the Scriptures talk about the darkness of the night . . . realizing that the evenings were some of the most difficult times . . . realizing that silence in our home created too much margin for fear. So we wanted to prepare for the evenings, knowing that joy comes in the morning and realizing that tiredness and the busy activity of the day would wear on our soul. We needed to see everything in that context.

Also, coming to really understand that just because we feel something doesn’t mean it’s true. Just because I feel this way doesn’t mean it’s right. And the other thing is really focusing on who God is. As we look at the book of Job, there’s a huge thing going on and God never tells Job why.

God’s solution to help Job was to tell him all about God. God rehearses, “Were you like this . . . was I like this . . . haven’t I been like this . . . etc.” It is just this “who” question. Who God is,is so much more satisfying than the “why” question. So we were re-orienting the mind on who God is and His faithfulness. It’s all part, I think, of this fight for joy and perseverance when you’re really grieving and really struggling, especially with fear.

Sarah: Another part of that psalm that was so helpful to me was, “Trust to the Lord and do good.” I clung to the “do good,” and I got myself busy in doing good. That’s when the Lord laid upon our hearts to start doing foster care. We had a ready crib and . . .

Mark: . . . we filled it.

Sarah: We were licensed for foster care, and over the next two years fostered five children. It helped our soul. We kept doing ministry at church. I was trying to help ladies through the fears of their pregnancies and just trying to be obedient.

Mark: This whole grieving thing gave us a new level of empathy for hurting people, and it created a desire within us to enter into their pain, by presence. We didn’t have to say a whole lot because people knew we had been through pain. So funerals were really different. We had a whole new avenue of ministry that was just opened up to us.

So while we’re still afraid, we’re also seeing all of the strange and unwanted lessons that this pain has brought. I would have never chosen a ministry like that—never—yet God pushed us into that. Embracing that has given a sense of joy and freedom. God has gifted us with this pain, and it’s time to make it a platform for worship.

Let’s get up there and let’s praise the Lord and use it for His glory. That was a struggle sometimes, but God used it.

Nancy: That’s quite a line, Mark, and I would just like to say it again here, “God has gifted us with pain, and it’s time for us to make it a platform for worship.” That’s powerful.

Mark: It’s hopeful, because you can actually transform pain from your enemy to the means by which God is glorified. And, if you think about it, that’s just the gospel, right? God takes the most the most horrific event in all of human history (the crucifixion) and He makes it the means by which He redeems people to Himself.

So, entering into that felt so Christian, felt so Christ-following, so much the heart of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. It’s why James says, “Count it all joy when you encounter various trials.” It made sense. That didn’t mean it was easy. It was really hard. Sometimes it was, “Lord, I don’t want this life.”

But God had chosen this life for us, and we saw beautiful things happen as we entered the pain of the foster kids and being able to empathize with pain in general, having tasted it and lived through it.

Nancy: I know we have a lot of listeners who have a friend or a family member who’s going through a really painful time. They want to know, “How can I be helpful?” Think about things that people have said to you, or on your journey as the body has ministered to you . . . You’ve talked about what a blessing other believers have been to you.

As you reflect on all that, what has been helpful, or not helpful? Give us some wisdom on that.

Sarah: I think, first, there’s not much you can say in the midst of their initial grief. Really, less is more, and just, “I’m sorry for your loss, your pain.” People try to relay their story and make comparisons to your situation, and it’s not helpful.

Mark: Not just not helpful, it’s really painful to compare—for instance—a stillbirth two days before delivery to a miscarriage at twenty weeks. Both are painful, but the comparison is really hard.

No one did this with us, but we have friends who, at the loss of their daughter, somebody said, “We’re really sorry. We know what you feel. We had a dog die two weeks ago.”

Nancy: Somebody really said that?

Mark: Somebody really said that. I know folks are just trying to enter in—they don’t know what to say—but the person talking should not feel like they need to relate. They don’t need to, and they shouldn’t. It’s better to say, “I have no idea how you’re feeling. I’m so sorry. I wish I could help, and I’m here.”

Sarah: Just your presence is important. That’s hard for some people—to be present and not to say anything. It’s okay. It’s okay to be silent—just to be there . . . a hand on the back . . . a meal to help, or just a quick stop by to check in and see how you’re doing.

Mark: The other thing, too, is just to realize that (particularly with stillborn children) for the mom and dad, they count as kids. It’s hard for people in close proximity to the grieving family, because nobody has a relationship with the child who has died—but Sarah did.

Sylvia was inside of her body, there was movement inside her body. It’s not the same relationship you would have with a child born alive, but there’s a real conflicted feeling that happens in the heart of a grieving mom and dad who have had a stillborn child.

Someone says, “So, how many kids do you have?” It’s really hard. Do we say this, do we say that, do we explain, do we tell the story? It’s very conflicted. I think it’s important for people around the folks who are grieving. It was very meaningful to us when folks viewed her like we did . . . as a member of our family who just isn’t here.

That’s hard because of the absence of the relationship. But it’s really important and a part of both the healing process and the memory process, because really, memories are all that you have. We don’t have very many. We have pictures of a short little window of time. So, to not have her count is challenging.

Sarah: I’ve had a few women who have gone through a stillbirth ask me how I handled that. I told them to do what they’re comfortable with. Initially, I counted Sylvia and would say, “I had four,” and then, “I had five,” after Savannah came. But then I’d have to explain where Sylvia is.

When you explain it, it’s a sad story, and you’ve made someone sad. That was another very hard thing for me. People would ask us why there’s so much space between Jeremiah and Savannah, and so I fill that in, “There’s a big story between Jeremiah and Savannah.”

Nancy: Well, I thank you for being willing to share that story, hard as it is. But as you’ve been reminding us, “hard” is not necessarily “bad.” God can take even the hardest things of our lives and make Himself known to us in ways that we might not otherwise have seen Him.

I’m thinking about a woman listening to this series, this testimony, over these last several days, who’s in the midst of something very, very hard—particularly as it relates perhaps to the loss of a child. Mark, you’re a pastor; you’re a dad, a husband.

You’ve walked through this, and you’ve given us a lot of wisdom over these days. Just give a word of hope, encouragement, perspective that may minister grace to that woman right now.

Mark: At the end of the day, Scripture tells us, God is God. He’s good, and His ways are beyond our ability to comprehend. There is something incredibly hopeful in knowing that God controls all the events of our lives, even the hard ones. He gives us grace for everything we face. Life is based upon that central promise.

That begins in the cross of Jesus Christ. On the hardest day of all of eternity, God did something more glorious than we could possibly imagine. If He did if then, certainly He can do it now. We may not know all the reasons why, but we do know who’s in charge.

Anchoring hope in times of pain and suffering is not in trying to figure out, “Why, why, why?” That’s not a satisfying answer, even if you can get your mind around it. The ultimate satisfying answer is “Who?” Who’s in charge? God is good, He’s loving, He’s kind.

I’m reminded of the words of William Cowper, that “Behind a frowning Providence, He’s hides a smiling face.” We anchor our souls in this, that God is good, even when life is really hard. And it’s hard—man, is it hard. But it is not bad, because God’s good.

Leslie: That’s Mark Vroegop. He and his wife, Sarah, have been talking with Nancy Leigh DeMoss about what they learned about worship while going through a time of loss. That conversation is part of the series, "When a Heartbeat Goes Silent."

We’ve been hearing this moving story all week. If you’ve missed any of it, you can hear all the programs at ReviveOurHearts.com, or order it on CD at ReviveOurHearts.com. We’d like to send you a music CD that will help you when you face painful situations in life. Here’s Nancy, to tell you more about it.

Nancy: As you’ve been listening to Mark and Sarah share their story over the past few days, maybe you’re thinking of a really painful experience that you’ve had in the past or maybe something that you’re going through currently. When it comes to difficult moments in my own life, I always need to be reminded of the truth of God’s Word. That’s what settles my heart and calms my spirit. It’s what gives me hope in those very dark hours.

Sometimes I’ll go to the piano in my living room, just by myself, and I’ll begin to sing hymns or choruses to the Lord. Sometimes I just recite Scripture promises from God’s Word. A couple of years ago, I came across a CD that combines those two things. It’s a collection of Scripture passages that have been set to music. They’re actually lullabies.

That CD is called Hidden in My Heart. It has ministered to me in a very deep way. I have listened to it over and over and over again in recent years. I’ve given away, I don’t how many of these, to people who are in difficult seasons of life. I also just sent one to my oldest niece, who just had her first baby.

So for people in all seasons of life, I just think this is a very powerful tool—a way of getting God’s Word in your heart. Now, I’m so pleased that the producers of this CD have come out with a follow-up, the second volume of Hidden in My Heart.

I know that God is going to use this CD to minister much grace to people’s hearts, and to point them to His truth, just as He has with the first volume.

Listen to just a short clip from this very special CD:

Music from Hidden in My Heart:

The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make His face to shine upon you,
Sshine upon you and be gracious unto you.

Nancy: I think you’ll agree that that is really beautiful music. We’d like to send this CD to you, the second volume of Hidden in My Heart when you send a much-needed gift to help support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts at this time.

Each summer our ministry is stretched and challenged to lean hard on the Lord when it comes to His financial provision. We depend on contributions from our listeners each month in order to stay on the radio and sustain our other outreaches.

Giving can tend to drop off some during the summer months. During the month of May, as we anticipate the coming summer months, we’re asking God to provide $350,000 dollars or more in donations from listeners like you. Now, if you’ve never before supported the ministry of Revive Our Hearts, can I give you a challenge?

You may have listened to this program for some time, and it’s ministered to you. It’s helped you grow in your faith; it’s provided a resource you can share with others, but maybe you’ve never sent a contribution to help support the ministry. Can I just say that your gift, during the month of May, would mean so much to us.

If you’d like to give online, you can visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com, or you can call us at 1-800-569-5959. When you make your gift, be sure and ask for the CD Hidden in My Heart. We’ll be glad to send that to you as our way of saying “thank you” for partnering with us in this ministry.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy.

Have you ever heard of a spiritual birthday? Nancy Leigh DeMoss always celebrates hers, and she’s about to mark a significant spiritual birthday. Find out why, tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts. 

Revive Our Hearts, with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

 

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.

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