As a young pastor, I sometimes have to preach and counsel about areas of life that I simply haven’t lived long enough to experience on my own. On some level, all pastors inevitably deal with areas of life in which we are not personally familiar, but nevertheless we can turn to the Scriptures and apply God’s Word, perhaps with the assistance of other Christians who have walked in the shoes we’re trying to lace up. By God’s gracious providence, my life has been mostly void of the pain of personal loss. I have lost family members to disease and old age, and had friends who were killed in combat, but their deaths weren’t shocking, and while sad, felt as normal as they truly are in the cycle of daily life in a fallen world. However, back in March my wife and I experienced the most shocking loss we’ve encountered to date, and the weeping, mourning, and pain that I’ve preached about and counseled others through came to rest in my own home for the first time.
In January of this year, my wife and I were delighted to learn that she was pregnant with our third child. We have two little girls, and were so excited to see if they would get a brother or a sister – was I going to have some masculine assistance around the house, or is it my lot to continue solely in the world of princess dresses, pink bows, and strange bouts of crying (All of which I am now quite fond of and capable of handling)?! Having girls has changed me – even I sometimes feel like I might just need a good cry, and what’s not wonderful about being nose to nose and laughing about nothing? Simply stated, I love my children in a very special way, and the thought of a house full of them is exciting! However, this year it wasn’t God’s plan. After the 11 week mark of pregnancy, the heart beat had stopped – our baby had died, and we were stunned.
Prior to experiencing the miscarriage of my own child, I had talked with many women and their husbands who had experienced the miscarriage of theirs. Having been in several of those situations, it was easy for me to assume that it’s a normal part of pregnancy, and that it wouldn’t be overly difficult to deal with. Likewise, my wife is a Physician’s Assistant and spends her days dealing with all kinds of medical issues that change people’s lives forever – this never seemed to be one that would land on us the way it did. Ignorance is bliss.
The days that followed were painful, and full of intermittent and intense emotions that seemed like they would never end. We spent time thinking through God’s Word and being reminded of His promises to never leave or forsake us, to comfort us in our affliction, and to bring beauty from the ashes. And that’s just what He did, in a very unsuspecting way. I’ve preached quite a few sermons on the topic of suffering as well as many others on the importance of the local church for every child of God. Little did I know, the two would come together in a dramatic and powerful way that has for me, forever highlighted the importance of a solid foundation of both in the Christian life.
One of the most striking moments in my pastoral experience thus far was standing in front of the people of Ephesus Church and saying, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). It was in that moment that all the preaching, all the Sunday school lessons, all the private conversations, all the books I had read about the importance of the body of Christ had come to rest in a dramatic and important way – God’s people began to weep with us (Romans 12:15). Through the tears in my eyes, I saw the tears in theirs. Part of the body was hurt, injured, afflicted, and so the rest of the body was likewise burdened with the pain and shared in the grief (1 Corinthians 12:26). Soon after we had made it known, we heard from many other couples who have experienced the same pain, and were encouraged by their words and actions, full of overwhelming love and support. Never had we felt like we needed the church as much as we did in those days, and all of God’s promises about the church proved to be gloriously true. We were the recipients of the love of God’s people who love us because Christ first loved them. And while I feel completely inadequate to do what I’m called to do as a pastor each day, I am indebted to Ephesus Church and, Lord willing, desire to give the remainder of my life to serving her. I was once told by a well meaning, older pastor who had spent 30 years moving around to different churches that it was important to not let too much of my life be on display before God’s people – in essence, I was told to resign to the fact that my life wasn’t intermingled with the lives of everyone else in the church, so I would be lonely and detached. I am glad the Scriptures taught me otherwise. I need the church, I need them to know my life, and I need them to know of my joys and sorrows – I can’t rightly respond to life without them.
Undoubtedly, in this fallen world we will endure a tremendous amounts of sorrow, but the more sorrow we bear the more we learn of the Lord’s compassion provided in both the means of grace and His people. He alone has the power and the authority to cause us to persevere, He has bore our griefs and sorrows, and He knows our pain. In the midst of the hurt and pain, it may not seem like it, but it truly is for our greatest good and for His greatest glory. He will bring his mercy and compassion to bear on the points of pain and sorrow in our lives. He will bring healing. He will bring life. And I am all the more convinced that without the body of Christ, without the church, there really is no healing. Yes, Jesus is enough, but I cannot love Jesus and despise, shut out, or ignore His bride. Ephesus Church has loved us well, and I will never forget that when the clouds rolled in, they wept with us, and the truth of God’s Word was on display. Soli deo Gloria.
(By: Nick Kennicott)