Editors’ note: Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. For more on trusting the Lord amid the heartbreak of miscarriage, pick up Jessalyn Hutto’s book An Inheritance of Tears: Trusting the Lord of Life When Death Visits the Womb (Cruciform Press, 2015) [review].
Her eyes welling over with tears, my friend looked me full in the face and asked an honest question: What does the gospel have to do with my miscarriage?
The question sounded simple, but I knew the answer could be life-changing. I also knew there was nothing simple about her grief—the pain and bewildering loss that flows from having a baby stripped from your womb too soon. And I knew my empathy wouldn’t be nearly enough to mend her broken heart. She needed genuine hope for her future, and a biblical explanation for her pain.
Twice now, I’ve been her. I’ve been the one sitting in a doctor’s office staring at grainy black-and-white images of my dead baby, tears pouring down my cheeks. Twice now, as the cold news of an absent heartbeat met my ears, I’ve been plunged into the deep, wrenching grief reserved for mothers who’ve lost an unborn child. The sting of death is in no way lessened by the invisible nature of such loss. It is real, and it is horrible.
Yet the truth of the gospel has provided immeasurable comfort to me in the midst of such pain. So when my friend posed that question—that crucial question—my heart leapt at the opportunity to point her wounded soul to the comforting, joy-inducing reality of Jesus Christ. Because his gospel truly is everything to a woman who has miscarried.
Inheriting a Curse
To understand how the gospel relates to miscarriage we must start in the garden of Eden, where sorrow has its roots and the gospel story begins to unfold.
It was there, in that beautiful oasis created just for them, that Adam and Eve chose to rebel against their good and loving Father. They chose to eat what had been forbidden and to trust a liar (the serpent) rather than their Creator. It was there that death first entered into humanity’s collective experience (Rom. 5:11), and it was there that miscarriage became a possibility.
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbirth,” God said to Eve as he delivered her specific punishment, and again, “In pain you shall bring forth children” (Gen. 3:16). How personally this aspect of the curse is felt by those, like myself, who’ve lost babies in the womb. For us, the pain God decreed for the female sex isn’t confined to the terrifying yet passing moments of childbirth—later compensated with the blessing of a baby to love and cherish. No, for us the physical pain of childbearing is followed only by the aching horrors of a cradle that will never be filled. In the case of miscarriage, the curse inherited from Eve robs women of the fruit of the womb entirely.
And yet this particular manifestation of the curse is only a small portion of the suffering humanity experiences as a result of Adam and Eve’s sin. After addressing Eve, God turned to Adam and explained that their bodies would now begin to decay, eventually returning to the dust from which they came rather than living in unhindered fellowship with their Creator forever.
Since that day, death has been the enemy of every single person to walk this earth. Pain and suffering are common experiences for each of us, as our bodies groan under the devastating effects of the fall. This is why the apostle Paul said our bodies are “wasting away” (2 Cor. 4:16) and awaiting their coming redemption (Rom. 8:23). Though the worst consequence of the fall was certainly spiritual death (outside of salvation in Christ), there were also painful and fatal implications for our physical bodies.
Every human’s DNA has been compromised as a result of sin—our material bodies are broken at a foundational level. Not even the smallest, most helpless of our race—those yet to be born—are immune from the pull of death’s cold and unmerciful grip.
When a woman experiences a miscarriage, then, she isn’t simply suffering a random “pregnancy loss.” She’s experiencing, in stark reality, the extreme depths of our fallenness as a human race. She’s partaking bitterly of the inheritance purchased for us by our first parents; she’s experiencing the horrid wages of sin, which is death (Rom. 6:23).
This is the dark valley many women like myself find ourselves in as we go about the ordinary business of trying to bear children in a fallen world. Though we hope and pray for healthy pregnancies that will end in the safe delivery of rosy-cheeked infants, we often find that the little ones we’ve loved so dearly have passed from this life into the next before we’ve even felt their tiny kicks. Sin’s dark consequences claim our babies and leave our wombs—as well as hearts—scarred.
This is where the gospel story begins, in a broken and needy place. But it is not where it ends. The sting of death is real, and it is horrible. But it is not final.
If there’s one thing that got me through the loss of my precious children, it wasn’t my husband, my family, nor even the healing hand of time. No, the only thing that allowed me to remain joyful and face the future with hope rather than cynicism was the practice of turning my mind to another woman’s precious baby. A baby conceived within a frail, sin-infected womb, just like mine.
But this baby was different. He was God, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit within a young girl’s womb for the purpose of delivering us from the curse of sin, thus defeating death and giving us a new inheritance.
For we know that in that same garden where Adam and Eve received the curse that led to the existence of tragedies like miscarriage, they also received a promise. It was the promise of a Serpent-Crusher. God, being rich in mercy and abounding in steadfast love, didn’t leave humanity without hope on that terrible day. He assured Adam and Eve that a man would be born into their world who would defeat the snake and reverse the curse (Gen. 3:15). He would be the second and better Adam—living in perfect obedience where the first had not, and then dying a death he wouldn’t deserve. He would be the perfect substitute for fallen men and women. He would bring life where once there was only death (1 Cor. 15:45).
By the power of God the Spirit, Mary’s womb bore the God the Son. He entered this world on a mission to save sinners and to conquer death. And in everything he succeeded.
Inheriting a Future
Because of Jesus’s miraculous birth, perfect life, substitutionary death, and victorious resurrection we can know with certainty that pain and suffering don’t have the last word in this life. The sorrow of miscarriage isn’t the end of my story, my friend’s story, or that of any other woman who’s lost a child in the womb. Jesus has conquered death (2 Tim. 1:10) and we are headed to a world where suffering, pain, and sorrow will be no more (Rev. 4:21). Soon, in the presence of our holy and loving God, we will rejoice around his throne throughout eternity.
There is hope for the woman who has miscarried since a baby was given to her more than 2,000 years ago. He lived for her, he died for her, and he will return for her. And on that final day he “will wipe away every tear from [her] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things [will] have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
So this is where the gospel relates to miscarriage, and this is where women can find joy in the midst of terrible anguish. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given . . . (Isa. 9:6).