From the time I was a little girl, the hymn “It Is Well” has been one of my favorites. I remember the first time I heard the story of Horatio Spafford’s remarkable faith in the midst of Job-like crisis, during which he lost both family and fortune. It taught me about a God who works in weeping, and comforts in chaos. I loved the song, but one verse confused me, even into adulthood:
My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole; Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
I liked it, but wondered why this verse about sin is in the middle of a song about suffering and loss.
Sin and Grief
After my miscarriage, it hit me—grieving and sinning go together. Perhaps the most confusing and ongoing part of miscarriage recovery was fighting temptation and rooting out the sins laid bare by suffering. Grief came as expected, but the intensity of emotions made it so difficult to distinguish temptation and sin from grief that I was paralyzed—unable to move forward toward healing.
An avalanche of pregnancy announcements buried me after my miscarriage. Sin and Satan struck at my weak point. At every announcement of pregnancy, every sight of a pregnant friend or the perfect stranger with a newborn at the Target check-out, and every ultrasound photo on Facebook I felt three simultaneous reactions: genuine joy for their happiness, genuine grief for my loss, and temptation in manifold expressions. The constant need to fight temptation was exhausting. Most of the time it was easier to stay home and avoid people.
One reality about miscarriage, though, is there will always be children the age our baby would be. There will always be pregnant people around me. Once it’s gained a foothold, sin doesn’t just go away on its own.
Descent to the Depths
As weeks progressed my struggle, though subtle, worsened as I became increasingly tired. Selfish and sometimes mean thoughts were crowding my mind. I was lost in the mire of sin and grief, unable to distinguish one from the other. My heart was wounded, angry, hard. My desire for righteousness was weak, my devotions wasted as my ability to concentrate waned. I didn’t know what to do—all I could do was pray “Jesus, help me” and struggle to believe Psalm 34:17: “When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.”
There in the depths, I felt like the 100th sheep—lost, weary, and alone.
But “the LORD is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18). The shepherd was coming.
Three Main Struggles
It’s hard to fight unknown enemies, but through prayer and fellowship the Lord tenderly untangled my sin and temptation from my grief, bringing three primary struggles to my attention. I list them here as a life raft to anyone whose heart may need to hear words of confession and conviction from a fellow sufferer and fellow sinner.
- One of my first reactions was to minimize the joy of others. When I gave in to this temptation, I would purposefully not enter into the joy of my pregnant friends. I tried to make their joy seem trivial and unworthy of desire in my own mind as a way to diminish my loss. It was self-defense, in part, and yet even in my grief it was sinful to minimize the blessing and value of new life and to not rejoice with those who were rejoicing.
- Another frequent response was annoyance and anger. With every congratulatory comment offered to friends, every Facebook picture of another newborn or ultrasound, or every “early” announcement, my annoyance would rise and urge me to inform people that a healthy, live birth is no guarantee. Although I never actually opened my mouth, I still gave into an internalized anger and bitterness that was unjust.
- I also felt a despicable jealousy. I’m ashamed to admit this. Wanting a baby wasn’t even so much the point of my jealousy; I was jealous of the joyful attention other expectant parents received for their pregnancies. Giving into temptation didn’t mean I was jealous of their healthy baby; I just wanted my grief to overshadow their joy. Oh, the stench of a sin-ridden mind.
At root these temptations were a selfish response to grief, and they pulled hardest when I failed to trust in the sovereign goodness of God. In my best moments I would remember he doesn’t withhold good from his people (Ps. 84:11). I would trust that in his infinite wisdom this was the best plan for our (and our baby’s) eternal good, to bring the most glory to him. Nothing is left unfinished. Nothing is outside of his will. Remembering this was hard, and the period after my miscarriage marked a time of deep grief and abounding sin. But his grace abounded more, and in my desperate inability I was given daily strength to fight for the fruit of the Spirit.
If you’re in a similar place, I want to encourage you: God’s remarkable provision of sin-fighting grace is sweet in the darkest of nights. Though I struggled to embrace it at the time, Ephesians 2:4–7 is true:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
If you are in Christ, then your sin—even amid suffering—will not have the final say. You can say now, as you will in ages yet to come, “My sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”