‘Joy may come in the morning, but first we have to endure the night...’
When Delia asked me to provide the inspiration behind this piece, I thought about being vague. I thought about saying, “I wrote this piece in response to my own struggle with infertility.” In the end, I decided to share the ugly truth. I don’t have any aspirations of “inspiring” or “uplifting” people going through what I’m going through, but maybe someone reading this will find comfort in knowing that they’re not alone.
I wrote this piece following a miscarriage. Not mine, though. The thing is, a couple close to my husband had gotten pregnant, and they wanted us to adopt their child. They knew they didn’t want to be parents, and more than that, they knew how badly we wanted to–and how we had been unsuccessful in the seven years of our marriage.
We knew better than to get our hopes up. We tried to be smart, or at least we tried to be. We talked about nursery ideas but didn’t make any purchases. I wrote a letter to our home church asking for financial support, but never sent it. We’d tried not to refer to the child as “our baby,” knowing that nothing was official yet. We spiked all our hopes with a healthy dose of pessimism.
But when we got the call saying that the mother had lost the baby, I realized the hold that hope had had on me. All of a sudden, it was our baby, and she (We always assumed it would be a girl.) had died. My husband cried all day. I was simply numb, that is, until little by little, the realization of what had happened chipped away at my armor of I knew this would happen. I went to bed early, but the nightmares were so bad that I cried in my sleep.
There was a flash fiction contest on Scribophile based on dark Bible stories. Initially, I wasn’t going to enter because I was so stressed and busy from work. This loss made it so none of that mattered, though. I found myself thinking of the many women throughout the Bible who had battled infertility, who had lost their children, and I found myself thinking of Matthew 2:18:
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” (ESV)
This quote followed the most beautiful stories of birth in the Bible–that of Christ’s birth. I found myself thinking about how during the month of December, Christians and non-Christians around the world alike celebrate and reflect on the story of the holy child in the manger, but never think of the hundreds of children cruelly slaughtered thereafter. No one pauses to think about the grief those parents endured at the hands of a jealous king.
Because we all know how the story ends, after all. We know that the child whose birth wrought havoc on Bethlehem would go on to heal the sick, cast out demons, save countless souls through his sacrifice. Those mothers and fathers didn’t have such knowledge, though. All they could do was endure their grief and pray for justice on their behalf.
People have been kind. They’ve said, “Remember that God has a plan.” They’ve offered prayers and support. But for me–and for the woman who lost her child–such encouragement sometimes feels hollow. Joy may come in the morning, but first we have to endure the night.
In times like these, I have to remind myself that it’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to ask God why. It hurts knowing that He didn’t act in the way I had hoped He would, but it’s enough to know that He’s by my side, crying with me as I wait for the dawn to break.
A Voice Was Heard In Ramah (Matt. 2:13-18)
“Come now, Child.”
Michal shook her head, still clutching her dead son’s blanket.
Eliezer sighed, fresh tears welling up in his eyes as he spoke to his daughter. “If you stay like this, you’ll drown in your own grief.”
“Then I drown.” Her voice was dark, full of glass-shards. She pulled the blanket closer to her heaving chest. Her whole body began to shake as she succumbed to another bout of weeping. The sound made Eliezer clench his fists, overwhelmed by a mixture of terrible grief and blind rage–and underneath it all, helplessness.
Her child–his grandson–was dead. Murdered. Murdered by the king.
Eliezer stooped down by the hollow crib, kneeling before it like it was an altar to their shared grief. He pulled Michal into his chest as her crying devolved into inhuman howls. “Why?”
Why, indeed, Eliezer thought. It all seemed like a cruel joke, even to a holy man like himself.
Why had the Lord made her struggle to get pregnant for years on end?
Why, after finally blessing her with a child, had He let her husband die young?
And now this.
As her sobs subsided, Michal tore herself away from her father’s embrace and looked up at him with red-rimmed eyes. “Am I cursed, abba?” she asked.
It was as though she’d been reading his mind. He’d wondered–perhaps foolishly–whether Satan had been gambling with God over Michal’s fervent faith; perhaps his young, sweet daughter had housed the spirit of Job all this time. But Eliezer couldn’t vocalize these thoughts. He shook his head and wiped the tears from her eyes.
“Have hope,” he said. “I’ve heard the Messiah has finally come.”
She rolled her eyes. “Hope only disappoints.”
As Michal slept, still holding onto the baby blanket, Eliezer sat on the roof and looked at the sky. He wished for the wisdom to read the signs written in the expanse of stars, that he could find some word of comfort in the heavenly realms.
He looked for the New Star he’d been told about. Rumors of a Messiah had been flying. Some blessed child had been born under silver starlight, and now all the children of Bethlehem were dead.
Eliezar’s feet dangled over the roof, and the sound of mournful wailing floated through the air like some ghostly choir. Suspended between the hopeless city below and the silent, silver-scattered sky above, the old man remembered the stories he’d been told, about how God had saved the Israelite children from death ages ago.
And he let himself do the unthinkable–he let himself question God: “Why, Lord? Where were you?” His voice shook, and soon his own weeping joined in with the distant voices below. “Why didn’t You save my grandson?”
Eliezar wept and prayed until he had worn himself out. As he climbed down from the roof and re-entered the house, he looked at his sleeping daughter. The night would be over soon, and all he could do was pray that the morning would be kinder.
My utmost thanks to Madison Wheatley for the courage to share her testimony of God's grace, as well as insight into how it inspired such a powerful, moving piece. Please leave her a message of appreciation below.
Find out more about Madison on her blog, and on Twitter and Instagram: @mwheatleywriter