Healing: Not a Moment but a Journey by Hannah Estes
I sat frozen in the car for a minute before driving away from our park playdate with friends. My new friend had just relayed her happy surprise-pregnancy news, sharing that she was expecting again after years of secondary infertility and a couple of adoptions. She was praising God, for this dream completely surrendered had been returned to her as a gift as he did the miraculous in her womb and in her heart.
You see, hers was the story that I coveted for years, her announcement like so many others I’d heard before and marked as a “happy for her, sad for me” moment. But on this day, I sighed with relief, recalling my reaction to her news - not only what showed on the outside but also my true feelings deep inside: I was only happy for her.
This was new! I welcomed the feeling and began to wonder when in my journey God had lifted this hurt I’d carried over his clear “no” answer to my same dream. The dream that she was now granted. When had the healing come??
I find healing nearly impossible to pinpoint as it’s happening. It’s not been a moment but a journey, and don’t we seem to live out healing in stages? The realization of healing often hits for me in retrospect.
So I look back and ask: how did we get here? To comprehend the answer, I first direct my memory to the pain and longing that was once so constant and I make myself remember what it felt like to both hurt for and hope for another pregnancy. A pregnancy God never gave.
Months before adopting my now six-year-old son, a delightful surprise pregnancy ended in miscarriage, and suddenly my whole body ached to give birth to another baby. The unmatched joy of adopting didn’t erase the grief. My desire for pregnancy grew while my husband’s lessened, and all I knew to do was move forward in mothering my three and at a couple of other points fostering other mothers’ babies as we’d been called. Daily I begged God to make this happen or please, please, make me stop wanting it. And every day he did neither. Instead, he made me hope.
After a couple of years of this struggle, God drew me into a new season of overwhelming hope, and during that time, my husband came and expressed to me his changed outlook, his new desire for us to have another baby. We had a new goal, and every way I looked at it, the Lord had to be leading us towards another pregnancy. I waited in expectation of the good news.
The year of hope was a strange one, mixed up in the usual way life works: heavy, yet there was a lightness curiously present as I began to see and feel God at work; hard because every door I thought God was opening slammed shut just as I started to walk through. There was a stinging pain each time I realized God had said “no” to my desire yet another month, but hope wouldn’t die. Anticipation remained as I pushed through the disappointment, fully believing He would do this thing I was asking for.
I’ll never understand why God did it this way, but I no longer need to know. He gave me more of himself, and I’d rather have more Jesus than more answers.
But at the time, I was desperate to know why. Why change my husband’s desires to match mine? I’d held onto that as a miracle, a personal gift of love from the Father, and I couldn’t understand why else God did that except that he must be planning to fulfill those desires.
I remember all those inner battles I had to fight back then, the recurring opportunities to forgive those whose insensitive remarks injured my heart, and my failure at times to love those friends well. They meant no harm but nonetheless inflicted it by telling me their pregnancy news in an uncaring manner or begrudging the gift they’d been given, unaware that I wished so desperately for their pregnancy burden to be my blessing.
Then there were the people who, upon hearing that we were adopting a second time, teased, “Oh! You’re adopting! You know this means you’ll get pregnant now…,” clueless I was joyfully adopting a baby I loved while simultaneously heartbroken by the shattering of this dream to birth one.
I’ll never forget the loneliness - the isolation brought by walking infertility in a form uncommon to the people I knew. I didn’t share the experience of the mom facing difficulty conceiving for the first time. Here I was a mom of three - then four - while battling this, and my story wasn’t like hers. Yet she was the mom facing some of these same inward battles, the mom who knew exactly what those friendship struggles were like. She’d received the unhelpful comments, and she knew the frustration of unanswered prayer juxtaposed against the celebration of answered ones for so many others. She would get it, but did I have the right to empathize with her? Would my attempts to connect and relate be seen as belittling of her pain when I was already a mother? I wasn’t sure, so I stayed quiet though aching to talk about what I was going through.
But God knows how to be good to a lonely heart, so he carried me when I didn’t know how to move through the hurt. In time, the gladness of our surprise adoption - our fourth child to enter the family - eclipsed the grief of my miscarried baby and pregnancy dream. But for a time, they walked right next to each other - joy and grief - in the strangest way, each felt so immensely, neither emotion overpowered by the other. The gratitude of the gift didn’t cancel out the sorrow of the dream I was letting go of. In some ways, for a time, it even heightened it.
There’s a specific brand of sadness that stems from believing God for so long for something and discovering later it turned out not to be his will at all. It’s the kind that takes aim at the soul, the sadness the enemy uses to try and crush our interest in ever hoping again. Questions flood the heart - How did I miss that so completely? What is wrong with my ability to hear God? Do I even know his voice like I thought I did? How will I ever again trust that I’m hearing him right?
It took me a while to see that at the heart of those questions are lies from the devil.
And they’re not the only lies he threw at me. Will I ever get over this desire? I cannot imagine life without this longing, without the pain of missing this one thing I’ve been crying out for. The grief of my lost baby will surely stay with me forever, a permanent dark shadow will be cast over my memories of these family-building years.
My questions turned to declarations of darkness, yet God continued to teach me to question him in a way that would lead to more light, to greater understanding of his heart for me.
During that season, Habakkuk’s story in the Bible reminded me that God invites real, honest conversation about pain, allowing me to bring my questions to him even if wrapped in anger, bitterness, and skepticism. And just like God worked with Habakkuk’s questioning to bring about true joy, he would use mine to transform my view of him and sweeten our relationship.
I didn’t work my way out of sadness (I was clearly powerless to do so), but pressing on in his Word eventually revealed to me that his work on the cross covered even this pain, the blessings of the gospel enough to fill all of my missing parts with more of HIM. My truest need wasn’t about another baby; it was and has always been about my soul, and in Jesus that need was met - in both a once-for-all, “It is finished” way and as an ongoing, daily reality of his love.
This is why I’m now convinced that healing is discovered looking back, that keeping focused on Jesus as we run towards him for the bandaging of our wounds means our eyes can’t be on self or too obsessed with the action steps we need to take. This makes it hard to discern the exact moments healing has come, but maybe that’s the best way. Eyes trained on him long enough leads to later discoveries of the repair work he’s done on our souls.
This mysterious work of the Spirit fills my heart with gratitude today and strengthens me for clinging to him in new battles and other journeys of healing. (There’s always something to work through!) Even a heart that’s barely hanging on can find that Christ will take the tiniest, most pitiful bit of trust and cultivate it into the real-deal fruit of faith. But this comes from the hand of a God who loves us enough to sometimes keep our dreams from coming true so that we don’t trust in our own methods for peace, comfort, and abundant life.
I’m so glad he moved me out of that season of pain and confusion, but I’m also grateful that before he did he led me deeper into it so I could know a deeper Love inside that pit. Without the hurt and without the hope, I may not have learned the most beautiful lesson he ever taught me: He gave me my empty spaces so I could learn that He’s enough to fill them.
And it blows my mind that this girl who doubted so much, who truly believed she’d never stop hurting, can now testify that he is indeed enough and he is Healer. Only Christ could do that work.