Vol. 6, No. 2
~ Page 12 ~
I was on my way out the door of our office to visit a coworker and his wife who were at the hospital delivering their second child when the call came. Hearing the voice of a dear friend on the other end of the line, I settled down into one of our secretary's chairs near the front door. In less than three minutes he turned my world upside down, forcing me on a long, hard, emotional roller coaster ride. He started out by telling me he had some good and bad news. The good news was that he and his dear wife had learned they were pregnant a couple of months ago. As I began to congratulate and tease him on what would be his third child, he quickly interrupted me and dropped the bombshell -- his wife had just experienced a miscarriage.
As I sat there in free fall, I groped for the right things to say. There I was about to rejoice with a coworker who was having a baby in the hospital, and yet at the same time my best friend just revealed that he and his wife had lost one. As I inquired as to how he and his wife were doing, my friend went on with some of the details of the pregnancy. If this had occurred a couple of years earlier, my wife and I would have been on their doorsteps within minutes (literally) -- even if all we did was sit in the floor and wipe away tears. A year earlier my wife and I had moved to Montgomery to join the work at Apologetics Press and, as such, our visits were now limited. During my tenure at the hospital, I watched many couples leave arm-in-arm, with tears blinding their path, as they made their way to the parking lot after realizing a pregnancy had been cut short. But this was the first time it hit so close to home.
Within the medical community a miscarriage is known as a spontaneous abortion. While no one knows the exact statistics (especially considering many occur before a woman realizes she is pregnant), many suggest that one out of every two or three pregnancies end in miscarriage. Being the father of two young boys, I know firsthand the anxiety parents feel as they sit in a doctor's office, as the technician tries to locate a heartbeat. Those seconds drag by like hours until that familiar rapid whooshing sound is finally detected. For those who have experienced a miscarriage, the silence can be deafening as father and mother strain to detect a heartbeat. Consider those who have struggled for years to have children. They hear the thrilling news that they are pregnant. But before the paint dries on the nursery walls, their dreams are silenced.
Sadly, it occurs to me that we have a double standard of life that is encased within the womb. We dote on expectant mothers, showering them with compliments, praise and attention. We talk openly about the life they are carrying, and ask if names have been picked out. But the second that life is cut short, everything changes. The "standard operating procedure" in dealing with those who have experienced a miscarriage is often to leave them alone and give them lots of time and space to heal. The notion being that maybe if we don't make a "big deal" out of it, it will help in the healing process. But friends, it is a big deal! If we are going to argue (rightly) that life begins at conception, then we should not just whitewash individuals that experience this horrendous loss -- this loss of a life. When James observed that "the body apart from the spirit is dead" (James 2:26), the corollary must also be true in that if the body is living, then the spirit must be present. Since at each stage of its development the zygote/embryo/fetus is living, it must have had a soul/spirit instilled at conception. No other view is in accord with both the biblical and scientific evidence.
Consider what emphasis the Bible places on that unborn child. Job, who was undergoing a terrible life crisis, cursed the day he was born when he said: "Why did I not die from the womb? Why did I not give up the ghost when my mother bore me?" (3:11). First, how can something die if it is not alive in the first place? Following that, we observe in Job 3:13-16, where the patriarch listed several formerly-living-but-now-dead people with whom he would have had something in common if he had died in utero. Included in the list -- along with kings and princes -- was the child who experienced a "hidden untimely birth" (i.e., a miscarriage). Job considered the miscarried child to be in the same category as others who once lived but had died. Obviously, the Holy Spirit (Who gave guidance to the author of the Book of Job) considered an unborn fetus as much a human being as a king, a prince or a stillborn infant.
In the Old Testament, even the accidental termination of a pregnancy was a punishable crime. Consider Exodus 21:22, "If men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart, and yet no harm follows; he shall be surely fined, according as the woman's husband shall lay upon him ... but if any harm follows, then thou shalt give life for life." The meaning of the passage is this: If the child was born prematurely as the result of this accident, but "no harm follows" (i.e., the child survived), then a fine was to be exacted; however, if "harm follows" (i.e., either mother or child died), then the guilty party was to be put to death. Look at it this way. Why would God exact such a severe punishment for the accidental death of an unborn child -- if that child were not living?
Sadly, I think in the rush to try and "do the right thing," Christians often wind up doing nothing. We reassure ourselves that since (in many cases) the baby was not held or named then maybe it is not as "real," thus it could not hurt as much. We contend that given time, the memory of this "accident" will go away. And so, week after week, Christian couples find themselves alone as they cope with enormous amounts of grief. Friends, while there may not be an elaborate funeral, no hearse, no flowers, there has still been a death in the family. How many countless Christian woman have gone to sleep feeling the joy and pride of a swelling belly, only to have those feelings ripped out the following day for no apparent reason? While other mother's are pasting up handprints and colored hearts on Mother's Day, many Christian women are just trying to make it through the day without breaking down.
Consider just how traumatic it is to go from having everyone rejoicing with you about your pregnancy to suddenly having no one speak to you. As faithful Christians we need to realize the irony of fighting for unborn life in the case of abortion, but then remaining silent in the cases of miscarriage. Often, instead of getting sympathy and support, those experiencing miscarriages come away feeling that it is somehow their fault -- when, in fact, it is not! Why not send them flowers, or a note on Mother's Day, just to let them know that you are thinking of them and praying diligently for them? Paul, in writing to the church in Thessalonica, admonished: "Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do" (1 Thessalonians 5:11, emp. added). By giving a shoulder to cry on, we help our brothers and sisters know that we share in their pain and loss. Jesus stated: "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted" (Matthew 5:4).
In almost every auditorium of the Lord's church there are families that have been touched by miscarriages. Oftentimes these individuals remain silent, questioning their own actions or inactions. As Christians we need to work harder at consoling and comforting our fellow brothers and sisters who experience the unexpected loss of a child. There are no magic words that will make the situation better. But as Christians, we need to understand that this was a life in which God instilled a soul -- and thus our comments and consolation should reflect that fact. Let us remind them that one day that individual will be in heaven happily awaiting the arrival of his or her faithful parents -- "I shall go to him," David stated at the death of his child (c.f. 2 Samuel 12:23). "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God" (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, emp. added).