I could talk a lot about what the Lord's been teaching us and I could talk for hours about prayer, community, healing, and faith..
But the one thing Chris and I are learning so deeply right now is perseverance.
Psalms 27:14 Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!
There is no question that this is by far the hardest thing we've ever been through. It's so hard not to be able to get a diagnosis, to have doctor's tell you they really don't know, and that it's all going to be a waiting game. We have to wait and wait--either for our little Ellie to grow enough to have a change at life in this world, or wait for her to pass away--it's so hard not to know. It's so hard to be told that they "only see this sort of thing once a year and it doesn't look like it even has a cause that we can pinpoint."
Romans 8:37-39 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
It's so hard to wake up each day and have all of this be the first thing that comes to mind. For a while--I was really stuck on the topic of faith in the midst of all of this. Like..do we have faith that God can and does heal? Do we have faith that he's holding us through this? And every question that came to mind ended in a yes...we do have faith. We haven't lost sight of that. But there was something nagging at me that went so much deeper than the topic of faith--and it was a question I have asked myself every day up until this point:
Am I physically and emotionally capable of getting through this? Is there really going to be life on the other side of losing our first child to a disorder that is so without cause? Am I ever going to recover from this? (Please don't get me wrong--we are not giving up on praying for healing, I'm just trying to be really honest about what's going on here and what we're going through.)
The bottom line was that all of the questions I had been mulling over are related to my ability to endure such an intense struggle. Our faith clearly isn't based on our feelings--as we've been feeling awfully broken and we still are grasping so tightly to God. We clearly aren't giving up on prayer as we've seen the power of intercession so strongly through this.
But what I haven't been sure of is this issue of enduring pain like this, especially for an unknown amount of time. We could get some answers today....or two months from now. How is anyone supposed to handle that? What does it even mean to endure that? (Cue some inserts about Job and various other scriptures related to trials. We are so thankful these exist...) Clearly we can follow these examples--but seriously, at the end of the day....what does it mean to actually experience it?
So then I just looked up the definition of endure. It's almost humorous. We think sometimes that to endure means to stay strong and to pray and to do a list of things that will lighten the burden a little bit. But the definition is actually much more simple:
1. to suffer patiently
2. to tolerate
It may sound pitiful--but that definition brought me so much comfort. Because literally--you couldn't pay me enough money to muster up any strength right now. But what I can do is just be. I told God recently as I was trying to go to sleep that I felt like the only thing to my being right now is just breath in my lungs, and that I don't even feel strong enough to breathe on my own "so it's a good thing you keep putting breath in my lungs, God." I felt/feel so weary and exhausted that the idea of "trying" to do anything to remedy the situation seems so pointless, and that's when Satan tries to tell me that I'm not doing enough. That I don't have enough faith, and that God wouldn't be proud of how weary I am.
But those are all lies. Because there isn't a way for me to snap my fingers and turn off the suffering. There isn't anything we can do to get ourselves out of this situation. But we can tolerate. We can keep breathing. And we can keep waiting. We do hope for this to end. We do continue to pray. And we do have faith that one day this is going to get better...but we live in a culture of self-help and remedies. Everything needs to be fixed. If you don't like what you're experiencing--change it. It's counter-cultural to endure.
James 1:12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
Maybe that's why many people in our shoes terminate their pregnancies; so they can get it over with and move on. Maybe that's why other people in our shoes do every medical test available to get to the bottom of it so they can begin searching for a cure. We aren't condemning these people. We are making the point that we live in a society that doesn't want for anything. And that can be toxic when we're finally faced with circumstances that are so far beyond our understanding and threshold for pain.
So what are we going to do?
We're going to tolerate and endure and persevere. I could list all kinds of things that we aren't sure about right now regarding the future of our family and what exactly we're persevering through, but what I'd rather do is tell you some things we know with confidence:
-We are sure that nothing will destroy our marriage. Experiencing such a huge trial with the person you've committed to spend your life with is indescribable. We have been married less than 2 years now but feel like our commitment to one another has grown exponentially just in the past month. I often think back to our wedding day and being so overwhelmed with love for Chris that I just couldn't imagine how I could ever love him any more than I did when we got married....I mean..I hoped that I would...you don't want the love to end there..but you just can't fathom it. Now I look at him and I am immeasurably more in love with who he is.
-We are sure that God will be glorified through this situation. I can't say much more on this right now regarding what it's all going to look like...but He will be.
-We are sure that the enemy will not be victorious in any part of this trial. He has been defeated, and he will reap no benefit through this hard season in our lives.
-We are sure that our community and culture of prayer will be strengthened. Bearing one another's burdens together can only strengthen the body.
We are sure that this is not the end for us or for Ellie. We are sure that despite what happens to Ellie's body--she will be made new when she meets Him, and we will spend eternity with her. And one day "He will wipe away every tear from our eyes; and there will no longer be ANY death. There will no longer be ANY mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away....and we who overcome will inherit these things, and He will be our God."