Encountering God in the unexpected.

By Stefanie McGowan

Our baby turned one this month.

It’s an incredible season of celebrating firsts, and recognizing the kindness of the Lord in the gracious gift of our children. My two girls are Ebenezers for me… precious reminders of God’s faithfulness, and mercy. As my youngest turns one, my heart can’t help but praise as she is proof that God is able, and God is good. Able to make the impossible, possible. Able to lift our heads, amidst doubt. Able to grow big faith when we seek Him, and to be our water in the drought.

We lost two babies before Hope was born. It was a hard season. We clung to Jesus, prayed about adoption, and asked God to bless us once more. As we poured out our hearts, we trusted that He knew what He was doing. His thoughts are not my thoughts. His ways are not my ways. They are better. And in his kindness, God answered our prayers and gave us baby Hope. But there was a long and dry season before her, where we longed for more for our family, and needed to trust the will of the Father.

Two years ago, I was pregnant for the fourth time. And then I wasn’t. For almost 4 months I carried another little life as a part of my own. And with an all too familiar feeling… gone. Just like that. And many of you reading this know what that feels like. How the loss of something precious can resonate even still.

Our oldest was just little then, and our youngest just a dream. It was a hard season of growing + waiting + being pruned. But God.

He heard my prayers, he walked with me in the suffering and the questions, the loneliness and the healing. He met me in a way I’d only read about in His Word. And I clung to Jesus like I was drowning. Because I trusted Him. And I wanted Him more than the gift He was giving. Because He is life itself.

And on the morning of losing that pregnancy, I encountered God in a way I’d never known.

It was a normal morning. The house was quiet.  Everyone was still asleep. I was headed to read my Bible, and stood in the kitchen, waiting to fill a water glass. I’d said good morning to the Lord. Standing there in the dark, in my sleepy stupor, I tried to pray.  Suddenly, I remembered verses in Lamentations that I’d not read in quite some time. I thought, “Why would I be thinking about lamenting verses?  Hmmm. That’s weird. Why Lamentations?” I mean, who thinks about Lamentations? And these verses flooded my thoughts:

“Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to my mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations‬ 3:19-26‬)

Little did I know that moments later, the growing life within mine would cease. A baby I’d never met, would go home to be with its Maker, the Creator of it all. And as the Lord went before me, to fix my eyes on what was unseen, He ministered those words over me, of Jesus and His suffering, as I did the hard things and dealt with the details of my reality.

It was in the detailsin the very heart and ache of it all, that I realized our Father really is the Comforter. The Prince of Peace. The Lord of all. In His great compassion, The Holy Spirit had gone before me to fix my eyes on the unseen. On Jesus. On what is eternal. So that I was not consumed by what was seen. And He did this over and over and over again as the weeks and months followed, in my grief and through the suffering. Reminding me that because Christ Jesus conquered the grave, death is a lie, and this life is temporary. And as The Spirit brought truth, scripture after scripture, verse after verse, was brought to my remembrance when I needed it most. Because I needed Jesus in a way that left me breathless at times, and exceedingly joyfully in others. That sounds insane, yet for those who’ve carried life inside their bodies, and then been carried by the Lord when that life was no longer… you probably understand. It’s a tangible ache, and a mourning that’s hard to describe. A time of lamenting I had never known. A time of deep and desperate surrender to the Creator of it all. But He comforted and counseled me. He walked with me in it. Because that’s who the Heavenly Father is: an Abba, a Daddy.

As years pass, and seasons of bereavement come and go, and as I study of Israel’s wandering and Yahweh’s relentless pursuit of his kids, I am coming to KNOW: That the faithful love of the Lord really never ceases. His mercy knows no end. He is faithful. And His mercies are new every morning.

He is our hope and our portion. And as this becomes truer and more tangible in my life, I hope I never forget the deep grief of the loss of life, or how our Jesus will leave the 99 to go after the one. You and I are that ONE. And I pray it ever resonates with me, the value our Father places on each life. And the beautiful and powerful responsibility He has placed in us to go love on people and show them their worth in His eyes. To celebrate the value of a life, and the privilege we have to share life through the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That not one would perish. My friend, the details matter to the Lord. The suffering, the celebrating, and the surrender of it all to the Lover of our souls. It’s here where we find that our King Jesus is the hope we’ve longed for all along. I pray my suffering, your suffering, just as Israel’s in Lamentations – would always lead us back to the heart of the Father.
Because He is good. And we are His. And His kindness leads to our repentance. Be it all for the glory of the Lord.❤️

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