by Pastor Dan Miller
Editor’s Note: This article was reprinted with permission from Dan Miller’s book Spiritual Reflections
She was a young, single college student: no money, no husband, no children. Yet her hands nearly quivered with delight as she held at arm’s length the several pieces of a white, crocheted set of clothes designed for an infant girl. Meticulously handcrafted, these delicate treasures proved simply irresistible. She quickly purchased the set—matching bonnet, booties, sweater and blanket—and had them wrapped for safe-keeping.
She had no immediate plans to bear a child, just an innocent dream that she would someday know the joy of dressing an infant daughter. With light heart and a twinkle of hope in her eye, she brought her purchase to her dorm room and placed it in her Hope Chest. It remained there for a very long time.
A Hope Chest stores treasures that symbolize one’s dreams. Tangible items are tucked away in such a chest with keen hope that the future will play out so as to permit their use. But sometimes a Hope Chest becomes a casket where dreams are buried.
She graduated from college, and before the crocheted treasures were much more than a year old, she married her college sweetheart. A few years passed. Then the happily married couple decided the time had come to have children. With confident expectation they pursued their dream of raising a family. But God had a different agenda.
There was a painful miscarriage, then another. Tears were shed. Fervent prayers were offered. Friends and doctors were consulted. But another miscarriage was suffered, then two more. The last one threatened her life.
A renowned infertility specialist was finally consulted. Hopes soared. But despite his bold assurances to the contrary, a sixth pregnancy was lost. Humbled, the initially confident physician quietly announced the dreaded news. “I can’t help you,” he admitted with a finality that cut deeply at the yearning hearts of a would-be mom and dad. The passing of time seemed to drain opportunity from the hourglass of hope. But God was working. He always is.
I am proud to say that not long ago I held the newborn daughter of that woman in my arms. I say “proud” because I am the daddy. Beyond expectation, our daughter was born into an already noisy home where she was awaited by her three preschool brothers. What for years seemed impossible became our reality: four healthy children, conceived naturally, without medical intervention, born at full term, without complication.
After giving birth to three boys, one might imagine Beth (my wife) was desperate for a daughter—determined to finally realize the dream still buried in her Hope Chest. To the contrary, submerged in the rigors of raising our sons, Beth was content to never have a daughter. In fact, she had entirely forgotten about the crocheted items purchased so many years before. Then one day shortly after our daughter’s birth, Beth rediscovered her delicate treasures during spring cleaning. Seated on the floor of our bedroom and once again holding them in her hands, she told me their story. I will never forget exactly where I stood as I heard her account, realizing a much larger story had come full circle for us.
We have experienced years of infertility. We have experienced the birth of four children. What an amazing journey it has been—an adventure that continues.
We consider our children an immense treasure and gift from God, but we have also learned to treasure the benefits of suffering. Our experience is certainly very limited in comparison with that of others, but God has deepened us through our ordeal.
As husband and wife, we have learned that any experience that compels us to test the love and power of God is really a friend—no matter how painful the trial. Faith is like a muscle; it is strengthened by exercise and testing. To say that you trust unreservedly in God when you have all you want is one thing. To find God trustworthy and loving when He withholds something so very meaningful from you is quite another (and richer) matter.
It is often in the absence of ease, success, and prosperity that God most clearly demonstrates that He is the ultimate joy of life. It is often when we are most empty that God most powerfully proves His worth and splendor to us (John 4:10-14). In fact, God characteristically opens blind eyes to the reality of His greatness and love by first arresting one’s attention with pain. Suffering, then, is not a meaningless, random, cosmic joke. Broken dreams are the soil in which character grows, and suffering is the tap root of a vibrant faith which sees more clearly the glories of an awesome God (James 1:2-4).
So while there is much to lose in suffering, there is also much to gain. And when we realize that a deeper sense of God’s power and love is won through suffering, loss becomes gain and tears of sorrow are transformed into tears of joy—not after the realization of our dreams, but before them (1 Samuel 1:1-18), and even in their utter absence in this life (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).
I share with you here our hope and joy in Christ with the prayer that God will prove Himself your soul’s deepest pleasure and haven of rest. I pray that He will awaken you to the splendor and joy of His presence (Psalm 16:11)—a presence so glorious it is not deflated, but is rather deepened, by suffering.
|Dan Miller has served as senior pastor of Eden Baptist Church (Savage, MN) since 1989. He graduated from Pillsbury Baptist Bible College (Owatonna, MN) with a B.S. degree in 1984. His graduate degrees include an M.A. in History from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and M.Div. and Th.M. degrees from Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). He is nearing completion of D.Min. studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL). Dan is married to Beth, and the Lord has blessed them with four children.