Tiny. Unseen. Hidden in darkness and safety. An intricate wonder. A display of the creative and glorious power of God. Precious. Loved—by family and even more by God. Each little baby in the womb of a godly mother is a life, with a soul, and a specially determined, God-given purpose. This purpose may be carried out in a long life with many years on the earth and many visible works accomplished. Or this purpose may be carried out entirely in the mother’s womb, ending after a few brief months, weeks, days, or even hours. The inscrutable wisdom of a loving heavenly Father determines the length of each life, but whether long (humanly speaking), or a brief blip in history, the death of all of His saints is precious to Him.
The more mankind discovers about the mysteries of the womb, the more God’s people stand in awe of His design. With scientific discoveries such as ultrasounds, we understand more of the truth that David proclaimed in Psalm 139,
For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them (vv. 13–16).
Similar scientific discoveries have allowed us to grasp in a greater way the truth Scripture speaks in Genesis 3:16 when God told Eve that as a result of her fall into sin He would “greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception” (emphasis added). Miscarriage, the spontaneous loss of a baby before the twentieth week of pregnancy,1 has always been a common part of childbearing. However, now that scientists and doctors know more about the early stages of human life, our estimate of the number of miscarriages that occur has greatly increased. Currently, some experts believe as many 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage.2
Certainly there is pain for both the godly father and the godly mother who have lost a child in a miscarriage; but given that the baby’s whole life was spent inside the mother and given that the physical suffering of the miscarriage exclusively affects the mother, her pain is often greater. The experience of a miscarriage can vary greatly in the circumstances that surround it, and in its physical and emotional/spiritual effects. As with all suffering, it can be hard to separate these effects, with the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of life being so intertwined.
While miscarriages that occur before a woman even knew she was pregnant pass unnoticed, other miscarriages happen after a woman has rejoiced that her prayers have been answered, announced her happy news to friends and family, and begun planning and looking forward to her child’s arrival. A mother may miscarry after having already suffered for months with the intense sickness that accompanies early pregnancy. Or she may have endured many doctor’s appointments, medications, and procedures trying to maintain the pregnancy. Other mothers may have been shocked and even disappointed to learn of the pregnancy, perhaps because they recently gave birth, were struggling with depression, or felt more than overwhelmed with the children for which they already had to care. After much prayer and battle to conform their hearts to what appeared to be God’s plan, the baby is taken. This type of miscarriage is understandably an emotional roller coaster.
Later miscarriages can be as long and painful as the labor of childbirth, only instead of welcoming a sweet baby, a mother is faced with the emptiness of loss. After a miscarriage, suffering may continue with various complications including severe anemia, infections, invasive surgeries and procedures, infertility, and more. Emotionally, some women may bounce back quickly, while others carry a tender sorrow for the rest of their lives. Some mothers experience a miscarriage once or twice in their child-bearing years; others look back on years riddled with one loss after another. For still other women of God, their only experience as a mother in Zion is the brief weeks or months they spent carrying a dear one inside.
While the pain, discomfort, and physical suffering of many maladies are well known, the suffering of a miscarriage is often endured in silence. And, though common, miscarriage is rarely publicly spoken of or written about. In fact, Christian women may even feel pressure to keep their miscarriages secret, and this can add to their suffering. Because of this secrecy, many church members may not be aware of the difficulty experienced during and after a miscarriage.
What does all this mean for the people of God? It means that when we sit in our local congregations, looking around at God’s children, we can rejoice greatly in the wonder of each new baby. But it also means that, seeing the faces of the women of Zion, we can know that many, many of them have experienced the sorrow and suffering of miscarriage. Or perhaps you, dear mother in Zion, are one of the women who has been through this trial once, twice, or many times. In either case, this trial is not rare, and no church body is left untouched by this pain. The likelihood of being able to share this painful circumstance with someone who has experienced it is great.
Furthermore, we can know, as with all difficulties God sends our way, He has a loving purpose in sending so many miscarriages to His people. The path may be treacherous, but the destination is breathtakingly beautiful. For all this difficulty, pain, and loss is not without a spiritual purpose, especially for the beloved mothers who have suffered.
While miscarriage is a general result of the fall into sin, it is not necessarily sent to a woman as a result of any of her specific sins (Gen. 3). However, in a tender emotional state after the loss of a miscarriage, it can be tempting for a Christian woman to question, “If children are a blessing, and my child was taken from me, am I cursed?” No, dear daughter of God, the curse has been taken by Christ! While you suffer the effects of the Fall, for you this trial too is actually working for good. You are being beautifully sanctified; even in this painful, sorrowful loss, you are being made more like Christ. After a miscarriage, you may be blessed as you grow in your understanding of God’s tender promise to “gently lead those that are with young” (Isa. 40:11). Your resolve to thank God for each new life He brings, and your conviction that the children of God are truly blessings may deepen. Your prayers and reliance on God for strength and comfort will intensify. If your miscarriage is known by others in the church, I am confident you will experience as I did, a new level of the sweet fellowship of Christ’s body as many individuals step forward to comfort you in your loss. In turn, your calling to “comfort those who are in any trouble by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted by God” (II Cor. 1:4) develops.
By God’s grace, enduring a miscarriage is part of your gift of sacrifice and love to the kingdom of God, as we “have no reason to doubt” that each lost life is welcomed straight from the womb into the hands of the loving Father in heaven.3 This can especially be a comforting thought to those mothers who are never able physically to hold any of their dear children on earth. The time each mother spends carrying a child in the womb, no matter how brief, makes a woman in the church a mother in Zion, and her dear ones are as much a part of the kingdom as those saints who die in old age. She may also rejoice in the fact that these children who die in infancy receive the special blessing of not having endured the suffering of a long life on earth battling the threefold enemy of the world, the flesh, and the devil. And you, godly mothers who have suffered miscarriage, can be comforted looking with expectation to that one glorious day when the earthly pilgrimage is ended, the loving Father welcomes you home, and you will have the joy of meeting your (His!) child/children in glory.
3 Canons of Dordt, I, Art. 17.