A couple months ago, we took my daughter to the movie theater to see The Lion King remake. It was very nostalgic for me and my parents because The Lion King was my first movie to see in theaters as a child. I was so excited, and from the moment the sun rose on the screen, I was hooked. The Lion King has always been my favorite Disney movie, and I was thrilled with the actors and music in this new version!
But when the ravine scene arrived, I started getting anxious. I was already so attached to this new Mufasa, I didn’t want him to die. I kept thinking, maybe in this version, he’ll be okay. What a crazy thought! There would be no Lion King without that terrible scene. Simba wouldn’t be who he was without that pivotal life moment. There would be no “Hakuna Matata,” no “Can you feel the love tonight?” and not even a “Circle of Life: Reprise” without this heartbreaking scene. The movie writers twenty-five years ago wrote this tragedy into the life of Simba for a purpose. His story wouldn’t have been a blockbuster hit without it.
God brought back that memory to my mind last month, as my husband and I faced the greatest heartbreak of our lives. In October, we found out that I had a miscarriage. It’s something that I know is so prevalent, but I never thought it would be part of my story. Why did our family have to go through this? Why did God write this suffering into my story?
In the midst of my grief, I was trying to find the purpose in my suffering. I thought the answers to those questions would bring me hope. If I knew immediately what my Hakuna Matata song would be, then maybe the pain wouldn’t be so bad. If this moment could neatly fit into a movie climax, then I could have a “reprise” to look forward to.
God of All Comfort
But God doesn’t give us the final scenes of our story. I may never know why God chose to let us only have a few short weeks with our second child. My consolation is not knowing the meaning of this pain but knowing that God is here with me in the midst of it. I only know one reason why God allowed this tragedy to hit our family, and that is to draw us closer to him.
When Paul speaks of his sufferings (which go far beyond what I can imagine), he praises God for being “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). We cannot fully experience the mercy and comfort of God if we do not suffer. “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Corinthians 1:5).
As sweet family and friends tried to point my hope to a future pregnancy or adoption, I knew that those were uncertain hopes. There is no guarantee of those good things (though we pray that God will bless us with those gifts). The Christian hope is not “fingers-crossed,” anxiously hoping that some cosmic karma will bring a rainbow after a storm. Those platitudes bring empty hope, but we have “a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Peter continues, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith … may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7). We rejoice not because we have an earthly reward for our suffering but because we have an eternal reward waiting for us—Christ Jesus himself!
My hope is found in the God who is with me. My mom and sisters made me a Spotify playlist to encourage me during this season of grief, and each song points me back to the hope found in our relationship with Christ. “I can’t stop thinking about your goodness. I remember you have always been faithful to me” (“Remember,” Lauren Daigle). “My anchor, forever, You’re the rock I stand on here within the struggle” (“My Anchor,” Christy Nockels). “I didn’t know I’d find you here, in the middle of my deepest fear, but you were drawing near, you were overwhelming me with peace” (“Find You Here,” Ellie Holcomb).
God with Us
As we come upon the Christmas season, that truth of God’s presence is brought to the forefront as we celebrate Christ’s birth—Emmanuel, God with us. From our perspective, it would seem like a horrible turn in God’s story: the divine Creator of the universe humbles himself, puts on human flesh, and enters the world in a barn. He lives a meek life, rejected by his own family and hometown, misunderstood by his closest friends and disciples, and persecuted by those who claim to know God. The story of God’s Messiah seems to go terribly wrong when he is beaten, mocked, and scorned. He is hung on a cross to die the most excruciating and embarrassing death possible. He cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Yet God used the most infamous moment of suffering to bring us to himself. Christ’s death tore the veil of separation between God and man, allowing us to truly fellowship with him. In Peter’s first sermon, he preached, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death” (Acts 2:23-24). God used the temporal yet horrific suffering of Christ to bring about humanity’s redemption, freeing us from the pangs of death.
There would be no Good News without the death of Christ. Jesus could not be our Savior if he only lived and ascended. There would be no freedom from sin and death, no communion with God, no hope of eternal life without Christ’s suffering. Like Mufasa’s death in the ravine changed the course of Simba’s story, Christ’s death has changed the story of humanity. Christ’s suffering has purpose, and that purpose is life.
So while I will grieve the life I never held in my arms, I will at the same time live in hope because I am held by God himself. I will “consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). And I pray that while my suffering has eternal purpose, I will look for ways that I can “comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which [I myself am] comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 3:4).
“I have this hope in the depth of my soul, in the flood or the fire, you’re with me and You won’t let go” (“I Have This Hope,” Tenth Avenue North).