During our commissioning ceremony, standing before hundreds of people, my wife and I leaned toward the microphone to share why we would soon board a plane with no ticket home. “It is for God’s glory and our joy that we long to make much of Christ among the people of Central Asia. So we go . . . knowing the journey will not be easy, but that Jesus is worth it.”
We had no idea how soon we would need to remember those words.
When Suffering Settles In
Soon after we arrived in Central Asia, we found out my wife was pregnant with our first child, a boy we named Aydin. We spent nearly nine months anticipating the day when we could meet our son face to face. That day, however, didn’t happen as we had imagined.
About a month before Aydin’s due date, my wife realized she wasn’t feeling him move, so we went to the hospital to get some answers. The nurse, sliding the heartbeat detection wand over her belly, found his heartbeat right away, and our new mom and dad fears quickly dissolved.
The next day, the same thing happened. One kick in the morning, then nothing. That night my wife tried for hours to do kick-counts with him, but Aydin never kicked. Finally, we decided through tears to go back to the hospital. This time our doctor prepared my wife for an ultrasound. He moved the monitor around, but the only thing that appeared on the screen was the black and white silhouette of Aydin’s motionless body. He tried again, pushing harder on her womb. Still nothing. He solemnly issued his conclusion: Aydin’s heart had stopped beating.
“So we go, knowing the journey will not be easy, but that Jesus is worth it.”
As the reality of his announcement washed over us, the only thing we knew to do was pray. We confessed to God that we didn’t understand why this was allowed to happen, but we told him, and ourselves, that we knew he was good, he was faithful, and he would see us through the difficult times. That night we found ourselves at the edge of what we believe Christian suffering is: complete brokenness, carried by an absolute confidence in God.
As Christians, we know that suffering is part of this fallen world. That knowledge doesn’t mean heartache is easy or that we are necessarily prepared when it violently interrupts our lives. The pain my wife and I experienced through the loss of our son will always be with us, but we can look back and see what helped us endure in the work the Lord called us to in Central Asia.
God’s All-Surpassing Sovereignty and Goodness
When we lost Aydin, many people expected us to pack our bags and move back to the States. Surprisingly, the option of going “home” was never on the table. God brought us to Central Asia, and he knew these things would happen prior to our coming. We had both settled in our own hearts that we were where we were supposed to be, so we had confidence that God would sustain us through whatever came our way.
“Surprisingly, the option of going “home” was never on the table . . . we had confidence that God would sustain us through whatever came our way.”
In the midst of suffering it’s vitally important to remember that all things that come from the Father to his children are an extension of his never-ending grace—all things (Rom. 11:33–36). Nothing is allowed to transpire that is not from him and for our ultimate good. To be honest, after Aydin’s passing we didn’t see how God’s grace was being extended to us through our darkest hour. But it wasn’t important for us to know. All we needed to know was that God was good and would use every last tear to the glory of his great name. Because we clung to those truths, we, like Christ in his darkest hour, were able to say, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Matt. 26:39).
Know the Importance of Being the Body of Christ
We marvel at how God has eternally bound Christians together in Christ and called us to care for and love one another. Losing our son allowed us to appreciate the church’s importance from a new perspective. For the first time, we were the “suffering member” spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12. We were astonished at how our spiritual brothers and sisters (both on the field and in the States) held us up when we didn’t have the strength to stand on our own. It’s our deepest belief that the local body in Central Asia and our sending church are crucial for our long-term endurance on the field. We cannot imagine going through our loss with either of them removed, as they both had a unique role in our healing. If you serve overseas, do all you can to cultivate relationships with your local and sending churches.
Prepare for Trials Now
No one is exempt from the Fall’s effects, so it’s important to prepare for suffering ahead of time. It’s during the calm in your life that you must ready yourself for the storm. If you wait to find shelter until the storm is raging, you’re far more likely to be overcome by it. Hide God’s Word in your heart prior to that. Surround yourself with people who will remind you of Scripture’s deep truths— the words we so easily profess when things are going well but so easily escape our minds when things get hard. Make sure that you know in the deepest parts of you that Christ is worth all things, forsaking all things, and losing all things.
Don’t Seek the End of Suffering to the Degree That You Fail to Seek God in the Midst of It
With everything we learned through losing Aydin, perhaps the best piece of advice we can give is this: It’s natural for us to want our suffering and trials to end quickly, but we can never forget that there is an incredible gift awaiting us in the thick of our grief: God himself, and the affirmation that he’s our true source of comfort, hope, and joy. In the moments when sorrow comes upon us, may we resemble Job as his own world crumbled: “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped” (Job 1:20 ESV). May we also allow our suffering as a fuel that further perfects our worship. To God be the glory.