“Our baby’s life had slipped from my body, and the grief was overwhelming.”
That is a sentence from the opening pages of Jessalyn Hutto’s book Inheritance of Tears: Trusting the Lord of Life When Death Visits the Womb. Beginning courageously with her personal story, she continues with the gentleness of a sufferer and the powerful hope of the gospel to provide the church with a needed resource for those weeping from miscarriage, and for those of us who should weep with them. There are four reasons I believe we should be grateful for this book about miscarriage.
A Voice for the Sufferer
The first reason I believe we should be grateful for Inheritance of Tears is for the voice it provides to those suffering from the loss of a baby in the womb. Hutto writes, “After experiencing my first miscarriage, a whole new world of suffering in the church opened up to me. Suddenly I became aware of the many women going through similar trials – whether infertility, miscarriage, or stillbirth.” (11) She notes that “this specific type of loss, which is so overwhelmingly common, is rarely addressed from the pulpit – or even by women’s ministries.” (11) With her book, Jessalyn has broken the silence that she believes “unfortunately perpetuates the false notion that miscarriages are uncommon and easily worked through.” (11) In doing so, she provides not only a voice to those who suffer, but an ear for the local church to hear the cries of those who are weeping for their children, because they are no more. Whether we are a woman suffering in silence, the family member of one, a pastor, or the member of a local church, we need the voice and we need the ear.
A Theology of Suffering
A second reason I believe we should be grateful for Inheritance of Tears is for the rich theology of suffering it gives to those who are grieving and those who grieve with them. So often our theology of suffering is reflected in the question the disciples asked Jesus when they saw the man blind from birth in John 9:2: Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Without the deep well of a biblical theology of suffering, we conclude that losses such as miscarriage are punishments from God. In this we sound like Job’s friends and become miserable counsellors to ourselves.
Jessalyn is no miserable counsellor. She takes the reader to what the Scriptures say about our Sovereign Lord, why He can be trusted in the midst of our anguish, and how we can have an eternal perspective of our suffering knowing that God always sits on the throne. She is unafraid to raise hard questions like, “Why do babies die before they ever have a chance to be held by their mothers and fathers? Why my baby? Why yours?” (18) At the same time, she graciously leads the reader to consider “that in each and every event, whether good or bad, God is always doing more than we could possibly imagine in ways we could never anticipate. His plan to take something altogether awful, like miscarriage, and use it for our good and his glory is beyond understanding.” (18) Whether we have suffered from miscarriage ourselves, know someone who has, or experienced trials of another kind, we all need a bigger view of God and a richer theology of suffering.
Our Suffering Saviour
A third reason I believe we should be grateful for Inheritance of Tears is for the compelling way sufferers are directed to Jesus, our suffering Saviour. Hutto writes, “Few people understand the pain a woman feels when she learns that her unborn baby has died. The depth of her suffering is understandably intense, but because of the hidden nature of her loss, few people can relate to her grief. In reality, her suffering may go completely unnoticed.” (51-52)
In a way that grew my love for Jesus, Jessalyn assures us that Jesus alone “knows us intimately, understands our suffering perfectly, and comforts us effectively.” (53). By considering the sufferings of Jesus on our behalf, she shows how He understands the loneliness and isolation experienced by a woman who has lost a baby. She explains how He understands fear and anxiety. She explains how He is acquainted with intimate loss. Praise the Lord for this compelling demonstration of how we can find comfort in Christ in the midst of our suffering:
The woman who has miscarried desperately needs to fellowship with her Saviour in the garden [of Gethsemane]. What woman would not similarly ask the Lord to remove the bitter cup of miscarriage from her? As she begins to feel the cramps signalling the loss of her baby, remembering her suffering Saviour can be a precious balm to her soul, for he too was tempted to fear the road set before him. (62)
The Gospel of Hope that Overwhelms Our Suffering
A fourth reason I believe we should be grateful for Inheritance of Tears is for the triumphant hope of a new heavens and new earth that it reminds us of. This hope is more than mere wishful thinking because it is securely built on the foundation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ (see page 88). This hope provides us with a solid foundation for our future, which “lets us walk confidently through life’s various trials because it promises something better around the corner. But it is the substance of that future hope that makes even the most difficult trials bearable. In Romans 8:18, Paul writes that ‘the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.’” (89).
This hope also provides grieving parents with a solid foundation for the present reality of children they never held, or held for too short a time. Jessalyn writes that “Every mother who has ever lost a baby is plagued by the question of where her child’s soul is now. We desire above all else to know that our babies are in heaven with the Lord, but we may fear putting our faith in emotion rather than the authoritative Word of God. A careful study of Scripture will not only put these fears to rest but also provide great peace and hope to parents who have been temporarily parted from their child.” (92). She applies God’s Word and the gospel faithfully to this most pressing question, arriving at this wonderful conclusion, “All that is true for us in the future is true for miscarried babies in the present. Just imagine: the baby lost in miscarriage, now at this very moment alive in the truest sense – more alive than we are! They enjoy perfections we cannot imagine, free from ever suffering in a world and body marred by sin.” (96-97).
For this reminder of resurrection hope, the reasons above, and more that could be given, we should be grateful for this resource Jessalyn Hutto puts into our hands. From now on I’ll be keeping a few copies on my give away shelf to pass out when needed. You can buy a copy for yourself or someone else through Cruciform Press. As you read you will mine much more gold, such as this insight from Susannah Spurgeon:
Every heart knows its own bitterness, and every heart has bitterness to know. Sin must bring sorrow, tears are the inheritance of earth’s children; but in the city to which we are going, “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.”
Blessed be your dear name, O Lord, for this “strong consolation” – this “good hope through grace.” Tears may, and must come; but if they gather in the eyes that are constantly looking up to you and heaven, they will glisten with the brightness of the coming glory.
Sean Sheeran serves as the lead pastor Hespeler Baptist Church. He lives in Cambridge with his wife Meredith, high school sweethearts now in their 11th year of marriage, and their three children, Cole (8), Luke (5) and Hallë (3). When not engaged in pastoral ministry, chipping away at a Masters, or reading, you might find him and his family watching the Jays, playing catch, or off on an outdoor adventure.
*** Article originally published elsewhere in a slightly different form.