Olive June Boga was born Wednesday, October 31, 2018. She was no bigger than the distance between two of my knuckles, but she had beautiful eyes, a heart, fingers, and toes. She was, and remains, our daughter. We cared for her as best we could, and we love her with our whole hearts. Olive June was miscarried at eight weeks.
To put it bluntly, and insufficiently, miscarriage sucks.
The hope of our second child to hold. The vision of our son playing with his sibling. The intangible expectancy of getting to know, see, and raise our child wrapped around the beautiful beating heart we heard just a day earlier. All of it gone in one terrible day we won’t ever forget.
All three of us lay on the bathroom floor weeping, cut deeper than any knife could ever go. Mother and father mourning what we knew was lost, our nearing two-year-old son clinging to us, and crying with us, because he didn’t know what was wrong — but he knew something was. It was, and remains, a family pain.
It’s probably obvious, but I’m writing this as a husband and father. I can’t even begin to imagine how much this pain was, and is, multiplied for my wife (and countless other moms that have had to experience this type of loss). She had to not only deal with the enhanced emotional pain from the absence of the child growing inside of her, but she had to deal with physical reminders for days on end of the tragedy itself. As her husband, I wanted nothing more than to take the pain on myself, to keep her from experiencing it, but the pain is necessary. Healing necessitates pain. There’s a wound, but someday there will be a scar, and scars are signs of life.
God is not aloof. Even (maybe especially) in pain, he’s working. He’s making good out of evil. He’s molding us into the image of his Son. He’s using the pain to persevere us to the end as he’s promised. He’s expanding our experience of his goodness, faithfulness, mercy, and love. Yes, even in the pain.
This whole experience has made us even more aware of our dependence upon God to provide. His providence for our pain through his word, his providence during our pain through his Church, and his providence for the defeat of pain through his Son.
Providence for Pain
In the pain, our minds wandered. We began to wonder things that many have wondered. Did we do something wrong? Is God punishing us for some particular sin?
In the pain, our minds let in the whispers of the enemy. How can God be good when he allows something like this to happen? Does he even care? Does he really love us after all?
We quickly concluded that the answer to the first set of questions was “no.” Even though this is the correct conclusion, it’s was cold comfort when our hearts were searching for a resolution. To the second set of questions, our answer was, and remains, in the cross.
Is God good, even when tragedy strikes? Yes. See the God-Man dying for his enemies on the cross.
Does God even care about our pain? Yes. Look at the Son of God willingly bearing immeasurable pain for us on the cross.
Does God really love us? Yes. Gaze upon his Son (the second person of the triune God) given for us on the cross.
Even when our experience is telling us otherwise, when the enemy is whispering fallacies about God, the cross is a louder testimony than it all. God’s resounding answer to all of our questions through our pain is “look to the cross.”
It didn’t make the pain go away, but knowing our Bibles well, having the reservoir of God’s word and a trustworthy theological bedrock enabled us to get past what we knew the answers to our questions weren’t so that we could, like Job, see God for who he is even in the pain (Job 42:1-6).
Providence During Pain
God has given us his church for times like this. To rejoice with us when we’re rejoicing, and weep with us when we’re weeping. God was, and is, with us by his Spirit and through his Church.
The nurse at our office visit the day after the miscarriage was saddened for us because we had to “un-tell” everyone we had told. We understood her concern, but this was the exact reason we decided to tell people early. Our closest friends and family had already joined us in our rejoicing. So when the worst happened they didn’t have to catch up to us emotionally. We simply shared what had happened and they immediately entered into mourning with us. We’d rather un-tell 1,000 people if it means that we had our blood-bought family with us in our grief.
This meant we had brothers and sisters coming over and sitting with us quietly. We had brothers and sisters simply weeping with us. Some sent kind words. Some sent meals. Some sent Scripture. Some waited at a distance as to not overwhelm us in our time of mourning. But everyone was praying, and we felt under-girded by the prayers of our family. We felt cared for through their prayers. We felt God’s body nurturing itself. We can’t describe it fully, but we felt loved.
That first Sunday church service was, emotionally, the hardest worship service I can remember being a part of. But there was no place that we would’ve rather been — surrounded by family that loved us and worshiping our God. We prayed through tears, we wept with brothers and sisters, we listened to God’s word read and preached, we ate from the Lord’s table, and we sang of his goodness, faithfulness, and love.
Earlier in life, we would’ve been reluctant to raise our hands in worship while singing because we were self-conscious. That Sunday we found it difficult because we knew that raising our hands was signifying that we were agreeing with what we were saying and hearing. We were agreeing that God’s steadfast love endures forever. That he is good, merciful, just, faithful, and true. That he will never leave us nor forsake us. It was an act of faith for us to lift hands and sing through the tears. But God is those things, and our experience at that moment in time does not erase the truth of who he is, and how he’s proven it. We worshiped through tears (our brothers and sisters with us), but it may have been some of the truest worship our souls have ever felt.
Through his Church, God has given us a bigger family that is unified not by the blood in our veins, but by the blood poured out of his. His body given, and blood shed, has provided for us a depth of intimacy with those around us that nothing in this world has to offer. If cold cups of water in the name of Christ are remembered for a reward in heaven, I can only imagine how much more warm tears shed for family in his name will be remembered.
Providence for Pain No More
One thing that I had been meditating on for the past half-year or so has been the doctrine of our Union with Christ as it relates to him as our seated victor. This too was God’s providence.
I think I can speak for Verena as well, but I’ve always had a great appreciation for the substitutionary atonement aspect of the cross. That God, in Christ’s crucifixion, took on our sin and paid its penalty so that we can stand blameless before him in the imputed righteousness of Christ.
This is a wonderful truth, but it wasn’t the aspect of God’s promise to us in Christ that we have held on to in this season. More than anything, what has brought us comfort is knowing that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father. Laborers don’t sit down until the work is finished and kings take their thrones after the war is won.
The fact that Jesus is seated means that when he said “it is finished” he meant it. It means that the tomb is empty because its captive is risen, ascended, and seated on his throne. And if he’s seated, and through union his redeemed are seated with him, then Olive is there too. She is, right now, in the presence of her risen and conquering king. She is experiencing a more perfect love than we could ever give her. And if she’s there, then that means someday we’ll see her again.
We’ve found comfort in this quote from Tolkien’s The Return of the King,
“Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?”
A great Shadow has departed,” said Gandalf, and then he laughed and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days upon days without count.”
This quote has comforted us because it’s a take on a greater reality. Everything sad will come untrue. Christ is risen, ascended, and seated. He has won. Death doesn’t have the final word. The sway of sin is broken. Every tear will be wiped away and death will be no more. There will be no more mourning, crying, or pain anymore. One day all of the wrongs sin has caused will come undone, we’ll know nothing but never-ending joy, and we’ll see that God has worked all of it, even the death of our daughter, for good.
No other religion or worldview can give us this. We have an unbreakable hope. One that says we’ll one day be physically with our savior, and we’ll also physically hold our Olive. Our child is with her king, and while we wish she were in our arms, we’ll wait with patience, expectancy, and hope for the day we’ll be there too.
We named her Olive June because she’s buried beneath the olive tree in our backyard, and her due date was in June. We don’t have any way of knowing that she was a girl, but it just feels right. As my mom pointed out, we may get to eternity one day and find out that Olive was actually Oliver all along.
But that’s not all. On the night he was betrayed, Jesus took his disciples to pray with him at the foot of the Mount of Olives, in the Garden of Gethsemane. Gethsemane means “oil press” which is fitting for what took place that night. Jesus, as he peered into the cup of God’s wrath, was pressed to the point of sweating drops of blood. He, the true tree that his redeemed would eventually be grafted into, was hewn, pressed, and cut off so that we could be brought in. He died and was raised so that our Olive would be raised with him.
Her name is Olive because she’s at the foot of a living olive tree in our backyard, but also because she’s at the feet of our true and living olive tree in heaven.
**A version of this article also appeared on The Gospel Coalition’s website.**