On grief and brokenness

I wanted to share some about the anguish/distress I experienced in those first weeks following Ronin’s diagnosis. Not to gain pity, but to point back to the amazing lesson all this has been teaching me.

Those first weeks were clouded with grief. Grieving the joys of a normal, healthy pregnancy; grieving the life I had imagined for my son. Whether or not Kübler-Ross’ theory holds water, I definitely wandered in and out of various stages of grief.

Shock and denial was initial. Feeling that it must just be a bad dream that I’d wake up from any minute. For the first week or so, every time I fell asleep I’d wake up and briefly trick myself into thinking it wasn’t real. Then I’d realize.

Guilt. I felt guilty for being excited to have a 5th baby. Guilty that I somehow did this to our baby. Guilty that I had let down my family. I knew it wasn’t my fault, but I still felt like it was.

Anger and bartering went somewhat hand-in-hand. I never felt angry at God or at any person, but I felt angry with the situation. I was hurt seeing healthy babies with happy parents and upset when maternity clothing ads popped up in my email inbox. In my prayers, I tried to barter with God. I’d do anything if He would just make this situation go away.

Depression, or what I’d describe for me personally as “overwhelm.” Things felt heavy and my head was foggy. The normal day-to-day things like teaching the girls, doing laundry, and making dinner were a lot harder. Some days I’d be okay, others I’d just want to curl up and cry myself to sleep. At 11am.

All in all,
I felt


But in that brokenness, something good started happening.

Walking through my own experience with brokenness reminded me of when Jacob wrestled with God. Jacob, whose name meant “deceiver” or “heel-grabber,” lived much of his life according to his own craftiness and wit.

“And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day has broken.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ And he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then he said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.’ Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him.” (Genesis 32:24-29)

The video below gives a little more detail on Jacob’s circumstances leading up to the big wrestling match. I like a lot of Dr. Jordan B. Peterson’s discussion on what it means to wrestle with God. However, I believe that Jacob actually wrestled with God – not that he only dreamt it.

Jacob’s story depicts the power and grace of God to change us from who we were, to who He’s calling us to be.

God wanted to enter into a closer relationship with Jacob, but He wouldn’t do so until Jacob admitted his weakness of self-reliance, deceit, and trickery. In order to bring about this transformation, Jacob had to be broken down and put in a desperate situation. He had to be stripped of all self-sufficiency and realize how much he needed God.

Jacob said he wouldn’t let go of God until He blessed him. And what did God do? He asked Jacob his name. This always confused me because of course God already knew Jacob’s name; but what I’m now understanding is that God really wanted Jacob to confess – to come to terms with – who he actually was. He was Jacob the “deceiver,” the liar, the cheat. He had been a man who didn’t honor God and trusted more in himself.

Then God gave Jacob a new name, Israel, meaning “he who wrestles with God” – and with it a new identity. He was blessed by God in being a new creation with the divine purpose of establishing the Israelite nation.

Quick recap: God humbled Jacob in his brokenness, gave him a new identity, and then blessed him.

Jumping back to 2023 and my own – albeit metaphorical – wrestling match with God.

Now looking back on my struggle during those first weeks, I have a better grasp on the work God was doing to my heart. Just like for Jacob, God had to first break me to bless me. Brokenness was an essential part of my transformation from who I was, into who God is calling me to become.

On the other side of grief, I see that my pain had a purpose. God took my brokenness and has replaced it with His blessing. As I’m writing this I’m 32 weeks pregnant and still in the thick of things. I’m still struggling with uncertainty, fear, and anxiety. But I’m no longer broken.

My prayers are no longer wrestling matches where I’m trying to pin down God, bartering with Him to remove me from my circumstance. He’s actually using my circumstance to transform my heart.

Brokenness leads to blessing.

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He said “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom in heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)

God has blessed me.

My brokenness gave way to humility, and allowed me to truly realize that I am nothing apart from Him.

There’s a phrase people say in tragic situations: “God only gives you what you can handle.” But one of my friends from high school reached out to tell me it should actually be: “God gives you more than you can handle.” And I’d have to agree.

If Ronin’s diagnosis and the uncertainties ahead were something I could handle myself, then I wouldn’t need God. But this situation has stripped me of all control and self-sufficiency. And even outside of this situation – in every aspect of my life – I know that only He can sustain me.

Now I can say that I am thankful for my brokenness because of His blessing. I needed it so I could have a deeper appreciation of everything good He’s doing in my life. I needed it so I could begin transforming into the woman He’s calling me to be.

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