Over the last couple of years, many of a pastor’s worst fears have shown up on the front porch of our churches — conducting funerals for multiple church members who have lost their lives because of a terrible disease and losing other church members due to a convictional stand or a difficult policy decision. Many pastors who believed their positions were secure now worry about losing their jobs.
Depending on your countenance, you may be more or less prone to fear the worst-case scenario. If you’re a mental prepper — you know, the kind of person for whom giving into anxiety and fear is more of a temptation — you’ve probably played out the situations in your mind. But if you’re less prone to or acquainted with fear, your body, mind, and soul may not understand how to respond.
My wife, Kaitlyn, fits the first category. She plays out the scenarios in her mind, down to the smallest details. I tend to shrug things off as unlikely, and I’ve tended to view fear as an enemy of the human experience.
It’s all fine until the situation is real
In the midst of all of the other pressures of pastoral ministry, Kaitlyn and I have been longing for more children. And expanding our family hasn’t been a quick and easy journey.
When we find out we are pregnant, the joy is uncontrollable. After praying month after month, we feel like God has finally answered our prayers. Given my wiring, I can live with daily joy and excitement without even the slightest reservations about having a child. Kaitlyn’s joy comes mixed with hesitation. She can’t help but think about the worst possibilities.
The worst-possible scenario for us was a doctor telling us that our child — the child we’d begged God for — had miscarried. Then it happened. The hardest day imaginable was harder than anything fear could have prepared us for.
What do you do when your worst possible fear comes true? How do you respond?
We grieved, and we grieved hard. Friends and family loved us well. People in our lives taught us how to lament and cry out to the Lord in our pain. But days after that doctor’s visit, when Kaitlyn and I were processing what had happened, she spoke what has been a life-altering statement for me. She said, “You know, this is the worst possible scenario I could have imagined, but I’m here, and we are okay.”
Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Even in experiencing hell on earth, God gave us his sustaining presence. Kaitlyn’s heart and emotions said, “Yes, I always fear the worst. Now I’m here, and it hurts. But God is here, too.” God’s unique wiring in my wife, which I can be tempted to be adverse toward, was the gift I needed to endure in this season. Her ability to see the brokenness of the world before the shards of pain got to us was the Lord’s providence in our life to give us hope.
We’re embracing hope in the Lord, but that doesn’t mean our circumstances aren’t still hard. It’s incredibly hard. Our story has not been wrapped up with a neat little bow. Since that doctor’s visit, there have been more doctor’s visits and procedures. We continue to trust the Lord about our family, but losing our child has honestly stirred up more fears.
Yet Christ has used suffering to produce hope in us amidst the fear. Sure, we know that more fear will come. Before this life is through, more worst-case scenarios will show up on our front porch. We will suffer loss. We will experience hurt. The hope we have is not wishful thinking nor blind optimism. Our hope instead is rooted in Christ’s sustaining presence. I’m grateful he has used this particular suffering to produce hope in us now and, I pray, again when future difficulties arise.
What about you?
You may have lost someone to an illness, or you might have lost a job. Like us, you may have endured a miscarriage — unable to bring the child you longed for home. There are no simple answers to grief. Everyone grieves differently, because everyone’s story — everyone’s griefs — are different. But know that in your grief, God is with you.
Maybe you are prone to fear, play out all of the worst-case scenarios, and try your best to avoid them. Or maybe you’re feeling paralyzed due to the weight of difficult circumstances that you never foresaw. Wherever you are, there’s hope in Jesus. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. Call upon him in the midst of your fears, amid your difficult circumstances. Let the hope you have in the Lord and his sustaining grace carry you through.