Facing Feelings of Guilt and Responsibility in Pregnancy Loss

“Was it my fault?” Prenatal-care instructions draw a straight line from our bodies and decisions to the health of our babies. We’re told to avoid eating soft cheeses and drinking alcohol. We’re instructed not to exercise too rigorously and to stay hydrated. We’re counseled to take a daily prenatal vitamin with plenty of folic acid. The burden of responsibility that accompanies motherhood starts long before a baby is born. So, when the death of a baby occurs within a mother’s body, this is the sort of question that haunts us as we mull over things we did or didn’t do, or feelings we did or didn’t have. A Common Offer of Comfort I remember so clearly my doctor placing his hand on mine, looking into my tear-filled eyes, and saying, “This is not your fault.” His intention was to offer comfort, but I remember wondering how he could say those words with such certainty when he knew so little about me, my past, or my actions during this pregnancy. Just as my doctor couldn’t tell me the reason behind my miscarriage, I cannot possibly know the reason behind yours. Yet whether or not my doctor’s statement was true, the sentiment behind it was absolutely correct. There is no point in being consumed by guilt over your miscarriage. Of greater comfort than these scripted words from a physician with limited knowledge are the words of Scripture—the word of the God who does know all things, who is in control of all things, and who actually has the authority to forgive and to offer full assurance of pardon. Greater Comfort in God’s Sovereignty David’s declaration in Psalm 139 v 16 tell us that God knows all the days of a baby’s life before he or she is even formed in the womb: “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

Facing Feelings of Guilt and Responsibility in Pregnancy Loss2022-05-05T00:00:24+00:00

The Global Church: Sowing Seeds in Europe

I’m not a skilled gardener. I know little about plants, flowers, soil types, or gardening techniques. During the time of COVID confinement earlier this year, my kids and I planted a variety of seeds and have since harvested a sad handful of each type of vegetable. Just yesterday my son pulled a single red tomato from the plant, and we wondered if the other tiny green ones would ever become red. Because of my lack of horticultural knowledge or talent, I find great encouragement in the passages of Scripture that speak of God’s effectiveness and expertise as a gardener. Sowing Seeds One such passage, the parable of the sower (found multiple places – Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8), is a familiar one to most of us. We relate to the images of God as the sower and of His Word, the seed, falling on different types of heart-soils. As a missionary, I occasionally think about this parable as I talk to a friend about Jesus and pray that the good news takes root in the soil of her heart. The image of soil can also be a helpful one when we speak of missions in a certain context, be it a city, a people-group, a country, or even a continent. Just as one word cannot capture the spiritual landscape of the United States, no one adjective can describe the soil of Europe. Even within Western Europe, where I’ve lived for several years, many spiritual distinctions exist among different countries and cultures. In general, however, Europe is considered to be “post-Christendom.” Christianity has a rich history here, but Europe as a culture has moved beyond the Christian worldview into secular humanism. The spiritual soil possesses almost none of the cultural receptors to Christianity that one might find in many parts of America; Biblical Christianity and the God of the Bible are viewed at best as relics that some people still find useful and at worst as tools of oppression wielded throughout European history. Many Europeans have no concept of church other than the large building in the center of town that often attracts more tourists than worshippers...

The Global Church: Sowing Seeds in Europe2022-05-05T00:01:21+00:00

Covenant Friendship

On this day he looked more like a man than a boy. The gore of war had spattered and stained his person. Adrenaline laced fingers intwined themselves in the trophy’s scalp – a bodiless head swinging slack-jawed before the king’s throne.[1] David presented the head of the giant to King Saul. The king grunted his approval. The palace court humbled itself into silence. No warrior had been found to stand for Israel against the blasphemous enemy – none but a young shepherd with his sling shot and an unwavering faith in Yahweh. From the corner of the room, King Saul’s son, Jonathan, watched and listened. “Whose son are you, young man?” the king inquired. Bowing his head, David replied, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.” At that moment Jonathan’s heart swelled with affection. A love that only the power of Yahweh could provide burned within the young prince. Jonathan saw beyond the simple clothing and the country accent. He saw a brother in the Lord and a friendship that would endure for a lifetime. If David could slay a seasoned warrior with a smooth river rock, what could he do with the proper equipment? Pulling the young shepherd aside, Jonathan began to disrobe the finery he was born into. The opportunity to outfit a new hero would not be lost to the prince. Jonathan saw potential. He would play his part in shooting this champion to stardom! Over David’s rough, wool tunic a royal robe was draped, and a fine belt was strapped. David’s heroic heart was protected by princely armor. A well-balanced sword and a finely strung bow completed the arsenal in the shepherd’s hands. Jonathan gave David a royal outfitting. He gave his beloved friend power, protection, and a new identity. David was a more than a man when he hit the return road home. He was a celebrity. From every city, clogging every road, women surged forward with instruments and voice. Colorful skirts twirled in delight. Eyes sparkled with victory. Bracelets jingled on dainty wrists to the beat of the tambourines. The contagious smiles reenergized David on this day that was for him. This day the women celebrated and sang:               Saul has struck down his thousands,               and David his ten thousands.  The Blessing of Godly Friendships God unites people together for all sorts of reasons. He places encouragers to lift us up when we’ve hit a low point. He rallies champions when we’ve lost the power to fight another minute. He brings admonishers and counselors to guide us through sticky decisions. He gifts us lovers and friends to sweeten our days with laughter and joy. Godly friends are easily identified by their actions...

Covenant Friendship2022-05-05T00:02:08+00:00

The Global Church as Family

Almost ten years ago, when I moved to South Africa, I had no idea how much of an impact this place would have on me. One of the greatest impacts on me is the value the African culture places on the family, as well as community. You see this in the way they sacrifice for one another. You see this in their sense of togetherness. And you see it in the way they come together and celebrate one another for special occasions, especially weddings. It is a community wide event, not just in attending the ceremony, but also in putting the event together. On that special day, hundreds of people come to celebrate the bride and groom. That’s because their community is like a family. And in a similar way, so is the church. The Body of Christ In 1 Corinthians 12:12-30, Paul compares the church to the human body. He begins with “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many are one body, so it is with Christ.” Paul illustrates that while a body has a head, eyes, ears, etc. all those parts belong to the same body. So it is with the global church; there are many members scattered throughout the globe, but our oneness in Christ makes us family....

The Global Church as Family2022-05-05T00:03:05+00:00

Five Ways Women’s Ministries Can Care for Victims of Domestic Violence

Most likely, around 25% of the women attending your church are victims of domestic abuse.[1] When you see that number, is your first thought disbelief? Mine certainly was, and I am what some would call an expert in this area. But in ministering to the women in my church, I have sadly witnessed its truth firsthand. We struggle to believe that domestic abuse is in our churches for three main reasons. First, abuse is a hidden reality. It happens behind closed doors. The sinful tactics used by an abusive husband are inconceivable, in part because abusers strive to keep their deeds hidden in darkness (John 3:20). Second, abused women often do not identify as victims; they feel responsible for their oppression. Most women come to me for counseling about something else, such as anxiety, depression, or guilt. Oppressors confuse their victims to control them; a common by-product of sin is “disorder” (James 3:16). Victims often do not possess the clarity required to conceptualize what they are enduring is abuse. Third, we struggle to identify abuse because the oppressor usually attends our church. We have talked and prayed with him. We think we know him. In reality, we only see how he presents his public face. At home, oppressors are very different people. Even though Scripture warns us about deceivers (2 Timothy 3:13), we struggle to identify them among the people we think we know. Although we often are not aware of abuse, the Lord sees victims and is active in their rescue (Luke 4:18–19). I also believe that God calls us to join him in their rescue. Below are five ways the women’s ministry in your church could help identify and care for the sufferers in your midst...

Five Ways Women’s Ministries Can Care for Victims of Domestic Violence2022-05-05T00:03:55+00:00

How the Church Can Encourage Front Line Workers

COVID-19 placed a drain on medical personnel we nurses didn’t see coming. We’ve managed infectious diseases before, handled cumbersome PPE, and even ventured into uncharted waters with a diagnosis we weren’t sure how to handle. But I must admit, the Monday morning when the COVID numbers at my hospital unit jumped into the double digits, and doubled again by the end of the week, pandemic seemed an appropriate word. I placed a call to my pregnant daughter, Anna, and told her that until I was no longer caring for these patients, it would be safest if I did not see them. My two-year-old granddaughter didn’t understand why she couldn’t go to Grandma’s. On my way into work one morning a woman stopped me. “Can you get a message to my husband? I can’t go in, can I?” The eighty-something woman gripped her walker and seemed frantic. I recorded her message on my cell phone and left her on a nearby bench. Outside her husband’s hospital room, I grabbed a gown, shoe coverings, hair net, mask and face shield, and gloves. I put my cell phone in a clear plastic bag and prayed it wouldn’t obscure the picture too much. Her husband listened to the message as tears streamed down his face. He mouthed a thank-you through his nonrebreather. I couldn’t do all the usual satisfying nurse things like hold his hand or give him a hug. Neither could I offer that to his wife. It felt so pathetic, holding up a cell phone in a plastic bag, hoping he could see her, hear her. Afterwards, I tramped back downstairs brushing past a coworker who asked if I was ok. I nodded a yes, but I meant no. Outside, that sweet wife was waiting. At least I could tell her he heard her voice and seemed to know it was her. I swallowed hard, wrote my cell number down on a piece of paper and handed it to her. “Anytime you need to get a message to your husband, you call me. Anytime, ma’am. I will meet you here.”

How the Church Can Encourage Front Line Workers2022-05-05T00:04:37+00:00

What Do Missions and Child Birth Have in Common?

My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you. (Galatians 4:19)  Any woman who has given birth to a child knows the pain of childbirth. With my first child, I was obliviously idealistic about what childbirth would be like. Other women might have tried to explain it to me, but nothing could have prepared me for the experience of labor. Giving birth to a child is a complete investment of oneself— body and soul. The pains of childbirth are, of course, a part of the curse. What is true on a physical level about childbirth, is also true on a spiritual level about the labor of love called missions. The gospel worker must endure hardship in the process of watching and participating in the birth of spiritual offspring. The Pains of Missions Missions, like childbirth, is painful because of the curse. People are blind, deaf, and rebellious. The Bible says we are all “dead in our sins.” (Ephesians 2:1) We do not naturally want to know and obey God. Oftentimes, God uses painful experiences in people’s lives to make them aware that they cannot be fruitful on their own. Without God, they are only giving birth to wind. It’s painful to go through, and almost just as painful to watch someone go through that process. We groan, as Paul did, as if in labor, because the work is so agonizing. Sometimes our endeavors remain without fruit, sometimes labor progresses so slowly, we get discouraged. The saddest experiences are the spiritual stillbirths when people’s initial interest suddenly aborts, and we are left empty-handed and grieve the loss. One friend to whom we had been witnessing for years died before accepting Christ; another was on the brink of conversion only to say, “The Gospel is like a fairy tale, it’s too good to be true!” and walked away from the church. We groan in pain at such losses. But we must not forget that there is also great joy and hope in the labor of missions because Jesus has promised us his comforting presence and to do the work of calling and redeeming his own. A Life-Giving Opportunity The pain of childbirth is nothing compared to what good comes through it! What keeps us women going and enduring in childbirth is the thought of holding that precious newborn in our arms when all is over. Similarly, the pain of missional engagement is eclipsed by its ultimate goal: seeing new birth happen. We get front-row seats to watch Christ’s life being formed in others, growing, and bearing fruit to God. Jesus describes regeneration and conversion as a birth account...

What Do Missions and Child Birth Have in Common?2022-05-05T00:05:37+00:00
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