Lord crucified, O mark Thy holy Cross
On motive, preference, all fond desires;
On that which self in any form inspires
Set Thou that Sign of loss.
And when the touch of death is here and there
Laid on a thing most precious in our eyes,
Let us not wonder; let us recognize
The answer to this prayer.
-The Sign, Amy Carmichael
She began weeping as she told her story. The baby she had always wanted had finally come. She and her husband had prayed for this day. After several miscarriages and years of anguished longing, she had a son. She held him tenderly in her arms. For a moment, her joy was complete. Then he was gone. The baby had complications at birth and died before he had lived a full day. The woman seemed embarrassed by her tears. It had been 50 years ago, and the pain still comes. She wonders if her grief will ever subside.
The woman told me about her developing friendship with a younger woman who is suffering with infertility. She said, “I just listen to her. I understand, you know.” She recalls how people tried to offer her well-meaning words, and the loneliness she had felt in them. She doesn’t think that she is doing anything significant or special. She can’t see the beauty of how God is using her. Her grief has bloomed in sensitive compassion and loving care for this younger one walking the way of familiar suffering.
Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). As I listened to her story, I could see the mark of the Cross on her life. This is the fruit of daily following after Christ.
She smiled through her tears when she said it. “She’s pregnant, you know. Due in the spring.” Her eyes light up as she talks about the baby to come. She says the expectant mother calls her often, overcome with fears. Can she really hope for this child? She doesn’t know if she will live through another loss. The woman shares a little of their conversation with me, “I tell her, we have to have faith. We are going to be watching that little one run around barefoot in the grass this time next year. You wait and see.” Amazingly, the woman who has lived through so much loss herself is the one who has the eyes to see, the one with words of life. True faith is birthed out of pain and loss. Death brings life. The woman can now see a glimpse of the joy set before her. A day is coming when her grief will turn to everlasting joy. The glory of it overshadows the cross she still bears after all these years.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the Cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
I wonder as I write, what kind of suffering and loss are you enduring? Where in your life can you see the mark of the Cross?
The barren woman who longs for a child
The one who has loved and lost one
The woman who longs for a husband and family
The one who has loved and lost one
The woman whose body is weak and torn
The one who walks in the daily pain of limitations
The woman who grieves when her children have gone astray
The one who prays for her lost ones
The woman who carries a burden of suffering and loss
The one who can see beyond
“Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord” (Isaiah 54:1).
“Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them…I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born in the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything” (John 16:19-23).
Joy is coming. You wait and see.