Join us for a conversation with Alicia Michelle, host of the Vibrant Christian Living Podcast, about renewing our minds after pregnancy loss. Alicia is a Bible Teacher and certified NeuroCoach. She equips women with practical brain-and-Biblically based tools to overcome negative thinking and cultivate godly confidence.
After losing her son in an early miscarriage, Alicia struggled with overwhelming sadness. Through her journey, God has given her wisdom on how to cope with grief in a healthy way. She teaches us how to manage our thoughts and get out of the negative spirals that we get stuck in so that we can draw closer to God in our grief. In this episode, we discussed:
Giving voice and legacy to our babies in Heaven
The nearness of Heaven and how we can talk to our babies (through Jesus!)
What Alicia wishes she would have known when she was grieving her baby
How to honor our grief and allow it to exist
Sin tendencies and how our brains can trap us into negative habits
Self-sabotaging behaviors and why we do them
Amygdala hijack and how to stop moments of panic
The root problems of fear and control and why they impact our grief
How to trust in a God who allowed your baby to die
The American dream vs. the Kingdom dream
Going deeper in fellowship with God and being refined in our pain
How to combat the enemy's schemes to destroy your healing work
Surrender and the fruit of spiritual gifts and good works
Full transcript below.
Each episode has a special Hope Guide that you can download by clicking the button below. It is packed with hope-filled resources and extra information from the episode!
Discussion / Application Questions (leave your answers below in the comments!)
Alicia and Ashley discuss a quote about Jesus sitting our babies on His knee and talking to them about us. What would you want Jesus to tell them about you? Spend a few minutes talking to Jesus (His Holy Spirit in you) and reflect on the fact that He is also in the physical presence of your babies in Heaven. Does this bring you comfort knowing how near Heaven is to you?
In this episode, Alicia says that we shouldn't beat ourselves up for the things we wish we would have known (whether that was during our pregnancy or after our loss). We need to release regrets. She reminds us that each day is an opportunity to grow closer to God and to change and learn. What are the things that you need to release? What are the things you have learned?
We talked a lot about sin tendencies and negative thinking/behaviors that we do in grief. What earthly coping mechanisms are you turning to that are not healthy? What areas do we need to expose and bring into the light? How can we choose to turn to God in our grief instead of the need to control or escape our emotions?
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CONNECT WITH OUR GUEST
Alicia Michelle is an author, Bible teacher, podcaster, and certified NeuroCoach. She equips Christian women with practical brain-and-Biblically based tools so they know how to renew their minds. She is the host of the weekly Vibrant Christian Living podcast.
Alicia is a mother to five children: four on earth and a baby boy in Heaven.
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Ashley Opliger is the Executive Director of Bridget's Cradles, a nonprofit organization based in Wichita, Kansas that donates cradles to over 1,090 hospitals in all 50 states and comforts over 26,000 bereaved families a year.
Ashley is married to Matt and they have three children: Bridget (in Heaven), and two sons. She is a follower of Christ who desires to share the hope of Heaven with families grieving the loss of a baby.
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Episode 12: Renewing Your Mind after Pregnancy Loss with Alicia Michelle
Ashley Opliger: [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast where we believe that the hope of Heaven, through faith in Jesus Christ, has the power to heal our hearts after the loss of a baby. It’s a pain no mother should have to endure and we want this podcast to be a safe place for your broken heart to land. Here, we are going to trust God’s promise to restore our joy, use our grief for good, and allow us to spend eternity with our babies in Heaven.
I’m your host, Ashley Opliger. I’m a wife, mom, and follower of Christ clinging to the hope of Heaven. My daughter, Bridget, was stillborn at 24 weeks in my first pregnancy in 2014. In her memory, my husband and I started a nonprofit ministry called Bridget’s Cradles, and God has given us purpose in our pain and we’ve seen beauty come from ashes.
Although we wish you didn’t have a need to be listening to this podcast, we believe God has a reason for you to be here today. We pray this time would be a source of healing for you as we remember that Jesus cradles us in hope while He cradles our babies in Heaven. Though we may grieve, we do not grieve without hope. Welcome to the Cradled in Hope Podcast.
Ashley Opliger: [00:01:26] Welcome back, friends. I am so honored to introduce you to my friend Alicia. Alicia Michelle is an author, Bible teacher, podcaster, and certified NeuroCoach. She equips Christian women with practical brain-and-Biblically based tools so they know how to renew their minds in order to overcome negative thinking and cultivate godly confidence.
She hosts a weekly podcast called the Vibrant Christian Living Podcast, which I actually had the honor to be on and share about Bridget’s Cradles. You can go back and listen to Episode 119 of her show if you're curious and want to listen to that conversation.
Alicia has a baby in Heaven as well, and we bonded over our shared grief and our shared hope. I know you will be so blessed by the wealth of knowledge that she has on coping with grief in a healthy way, so let's jump right in.
Ashley Opliger: [00:02:20] Welcome Alicia. I'm so glad to have you on the Cradled in Hope Podcast.
Alicia Michelle: [00:02:24] Thank you. I'm so glad to be here.
Ashley Opliger: [00:02:26] Yes. I got to be on your podcast a couple months back, and that was such an honor, and sort of cool to be able to have you on this side.
Alicia Michelle: [00:02:34] Yes, I know. I was just thinking this morning, it's an honor to bring voice to the legacy of our little ones who are lost. They didn't have a voice to share this message, but we get to share their story through what you're doing. And so it's an honor for me to share my son's story on today's show.
Ashley Opliger: [00:02:52] I would love for you to introduce yourself. Tell us more about you, who you are, as well as your motherhood journey and about your experience in losing your son.
Alicia Michelle: [00:03:02] I am Alicia Michelle. I am a Christian mindset coach and a Bible teacher and an author. And my heart is to help women learn how to manage their thoughts, specifically those thoughts that are self-sabotaging or negative spirals that we get stuck in, so that they can learn how to develop confidence, true God-confidence in themselves.
I do that through a course called the Christian Mindset Makeover, through lots of resources on the site, through a podcast, which Ashley just mentioned, and I am honored to do that work with women. So that's my “job”, quote, unquote, in terms of a career, but I have also been a mom for almost 19 years now.
I have been married to my husband for over 20 years and we have our son, who is almost 19, one who is almost 17, their birthdays are actually two days apart in November, and one, a daughter who is 14, and a son who is nine. And then we have a son who is in Heaven, who would be about 10 right now.
So we had three children at that point. And we just felt like we weren't finished, God still had more children. And we had tried for so, so long to get pregnant and were not able to get pregnant. And it was very frustrating, like, “God, why would You not allow us to have more children when we love You and we want to raise them for You?” And it was this really long period.
We finally got pregnant and of course we were so thrilled, telling everybody, telling our other three kids. And I remember going to the doctor's appointment for the 10-week visit.
When you're trying to get pregnant, as you know, you're checking every time you're late. The day after you're late, you're like, “Oh, I'm going to check.” And of course I found out straight away that I was pregnant.
And so I had known for probably about a month that I was pregnant and we'd begun making plans. We'd begun falling in love already. So I went to the 10-week appointment. We even had all the kids in there with us for like, “This is going to be a great experience.”
And I remember the doctor did the ultrasound and he said, “I wonder if there's …” He made some sort of story about the kids going outside of the room with my husband. And he looked at my husband in a certain way.
And he said, “Okay.” And so he took the kids outside and he shared that the baby had passed, that you could see that it was no longer attached inside the uterus.
And I just didn't understand. I was like, “How is that possible?” So it was at least a week and a half or two. I remember just being in the deepest, darkest hole I had ever felt.
Now, I had gone through a time of deep depression in my early 20s, and it was a darkness similar to that, but it was a loss. It was like somebody had just come in and just taken something from me, stolen, that I did not want them to take.
And I didn't understand. “Why would You do this, God? You made us wait all this time. We waited. We were faithful. We believed and You gave us, why would You take it away?” And so I just remember grieving and grieving.
And then the thing that really helped me in that moment, I feel like looking back on it now, I wish I had known some of the things that I learned through all this time, of course you learn so much, that would have helped me then, but what God allowed me to see and experience was a true gift.
I remember one morning sitting in bed being really upset and just having a vision is the closest thing I can describe it, because it’s the only time I've ever had anything like this, but I had a vision of Jesus holding our baby is all I can describe him as. I knew he was our son. He looked to be about a year. He wasn't a newborn baby. He had blonde curly hair.
And I was like, “Wow!” And he looked straight in my eyes and he said, “Mommy, stop crying. I'm with Jesus. I'm okay. I'm okay. You can stop crying now.” Like, “I know you're sad, but I'm okay.” Like that’s just what he kept saying. “I'm okay. I'm okay.”
And I was like, “Okay.” And that was a double gift for me, because I first of all knew that our baby was okay and he was with Jesus. I saw it. But I also saw that it was a boy. And one part of the grief for me was that I never got to know, was this a boy or a girl? It was always such a gift for me when I was pregnant to be able to go, “Oh, it's a girl. Okay.” I could imagine this child. I could think about them.
And I was like, “God, You didn't even let me know when the baby passed.” And so that was a gift from God to let us see that. So yeah, ever since then, I mean, you never think something like miscarriage or stillborn, any of these really tragic things that happen, you never expect them to happen to you. But when they do, you begin to see little glimpses of how these are part of your story, that this child's story has a testimony still to encourage others.
I can't even tell you the number of women that God has brought into my life, who have gone through miscarriage, who have lost a child. And I can sit with them and cry with them and understand that pain.
I'm grateful that He gives a legacy to these little ones that we lose, even though my child never lived outside of my womb. But he still has a legacy, so to me it's just incredible.
Ashley Opliger: [00:08:13] Absolutely. And what a beautiful image that God allowed you to see. There's actually a quote from Billy Graham, the late evangelist.
He actually lost a nephew that was three months old. And when talking about his loss and his family's loss, he explained to people that if we could only get a glimpse of Heaven for even a second, we would never want our loved ones to come back to this broken earth.
And that really stuck with me because I think so much of it, when it comes to the hope of Heaven, it's faith. We have to believe in something we can’t see yet.
And so we know our babies are in Heaven. We believe that our baby is in Heaven, but because we haven't actually seen it, I do think sometimes it's hard for us to really take comfort and rest in knowing: Yes, they are okay. They’re more than okay. They are fully alive in the most beautiful, perfect place that we could ever imagine.
And I love that God gave you that vision and peace and comfort, knowing that your baby is sitting on Jesus' lap. It actually reminds me of this quote. I want to read it because it's so beautiful and it reminds me of exactly what you just said.
It says, “Jesus. I wanted to sit my babies on my lap and tell them about You. As I can't do that now, will You sit them on Your knee and tell them about me?”
And I just love that quote because it's something that you don't really think about, but the fact that Jesus can talk to our babies about us because His Holy Spirit is in us, and Jesus knows us so intimately that He can talk to our babies about us. And as well as our loved ones that have gone on to Heaven before us, I imagine, are able to hold our babies and talk to our babies, and that just brings me so much comfort.
Even on Bridget’s headstone, we have Jesus holding a baby. It's just so much comfort knowing that our babies are in the presence of Jesus. And one thing I like to say is Jesus is physically in Heaven, holding our babies and His Holy Spirit is in us. I feel that Heaven is so close. It's so near. We're connected through Heaven, through His Spirit.
And when I'm missing Bridget, I always think, ”I can just talk to Jesus because she's right there with Jesus and Jesus is in me.” So Heaven is so much closer than we think.
Alicia Michelle: [00:10:32] Mmm, that is beautiful. I love that picture that you shared. That's actually very similar to the vision that I saw.
It was literally Jesus holding a baby, just in His arms. It was sitting on his hip kind of, because it was a bigger child. So comforting and so true. And even to think, like I shared with you before we started recording, we lost our mother-in-law a few weeks ago, my mother-in-law, my husband's mom. And she loved her grandkids. And that she's holding our baby, that's just a beautiful picture. So thank you for that.
Ashley Opliger:[00:11:04] That’s beautiful.
Alicia Michelle: [00:11:05] Sorry to break down.
Ashley Opliger:[00:11:07] No, it's okay. That is so beautiful and so comforting to know that. My mom always says, she's still on earth, but she always says she's going to get to Heaven and see Bridget before me. So they're going to have already bonded and been hanging out and exploring Heaven without me.
And so when I get up there, then they'll be able to give me a tour and catch me up on everything that they've been doing. And I just sometimes picture Bridget being like, “Come, Mommy, look!” Like, “Come and look at this beautiful waterfall, this special little place I found!”
There's just so much glory and beauty that we're going to see and, I think, colors that we've never got to see on this earth, and smells, and sights, and tastes, so many beautiful, amazing wonders that await us in Heaven I think we can't even fathom with our human minds. So yes, thank you for sharing that.
Alicia Michelle: [00:11:57] Yeah. No, it's going to be an incredible time and that's amazing that our children are going to get to show us, like you said, all of the intricacies and the beauties, give us the tour, so to speak, the grand tour of when we get there.
Ashley Opliger: [00:12:09] Yes.
Alicia Michelle: [00:12:11] Yeah.
Ashley Opliger: [00:12:11] You said something, when you were talking about that deep grief that you entered into after your son went to Heaven, and you were just wading through those deep waters of grief and trying to figure out what was up and down.
I feel like after loss, your whole world flips upside down and the world's spinning, but you feel like you're stuck and you're in this space where you're looking out at the world and thinking, “How are people continuing to move on and live life and my world feels like it's stopped?” And you're really in survival mode when you're going through grief like that.
And you said you've learned so much now that you could have used back then. What are those things that you wish you would've known during your grief that would help another mom who's currently going through that deep grief after losing a baby?
Alicia Michelle: [00:13:01] That’s such a great question. First, I would say, which I have to tell myself, I would say to the person who lost someone, a child, a loved one, whoever it is, and it's been a while, that don't beat yourself up for what you wish you had known then, and think, “Well why didn't I just do that?” Or, “Why didn't I respond in this way,” because God gives us every day the opportunity to grow in Him and to change and to learn. And we can't view our circumstances then from the lens that we have now. We just can't.
So release that, if that's where you're like, “Oh, I wish I had known that. What's wrong with me,” kind of a thing, which is easy for us to step into. I really wish that I had been more emotionally healthy then. I grew up really not learning how to handle emotions, how to manage my thoughts, which is of course the work I do now, but not learning about that at all and just pushing it down.
And when it did come up, to yell at it and tell it it was wrong and bad. So in that time, part of what I was going through along with the grief was this inner struggle in me to be like, “Just whatever. It's over. Move on. Stop grieving. It doesn't matter.” Not doesn't matter, but, “Yes, it happened. Okay. How long are you going to sit in this?”
Like the impatience that we try to just push ourselves through. And recently, again, I was thinking about another situation where somebody was sad. A friend of mine had lost her dog and again, a dog that she's had for 14 years and it's a really big deal.
And I was tempted to think, “It's been like five months since she's lost this dog and she's still mourning.” And I was tempted to think like, “Really? Come on. Get over it.” And then I thought, “Alicia, that is your old mindset.” Again, like grief is tricky. It takes time. It needs to be honored.
The difference between dwelling in it and honoring it is that we allow it to exist. We allow ourselves to have compassion for it. We recognize why it makes sense. We recognize it's part of the human condition of suffering. We are all in this world going to suffer and we recognize that God is with us through it.
And we don't have to try to just make ourselves move on from it, that it isn't the goal of our life to just continually live in joy and happiness. I think that's a huge disservice that the Church tries to share all the time, that joy is the ultimate goal. Joy is nirvana.
Joy is great. Joy is always present. It's like a flowing river that we can tap into it. It doesn't change. But there are other emotions that are highly valuable as well. And we don't need to rush over them or run over them to get to just find joy and to be past it.
And that's what I think I was trying to do is just be joyful. Just try to think of the good things. Sure, you can, but you don't need to dismiss the difficult, hard parts of it. And so going through that and being that honest and real and raw through it, it can feel harder, because when you're going through deep grief, you just want to push it away because it's already super painful. I don't want to open it up.
So we're not saying you have to do that straight away, like yes, this instant everything. But it's so helpful to be real with yourself about what you're feeling and to let God do the healing in His time and not be afraid to sit in the emotion and to understand that it's reasonable to feel this way.
I wish I had known that it was reasonable and okay to grieve for longer than quote unquote, “what I thought was necessary.” That's what I would say,
Ashley Opliger: [00:16:45] Right, giving yourself that permission to grieve and to sit in your sadness. We talk about that all the time, how it's so important. And I do think it goes against our human tendency to feel pain, because we don't want to feel pain.
So we try to do everything we can to avoid it, which it can be rushing through. It can be just getting back into a normal routine and staying busy. That's one of my tendencies, is to distract myself from pain. And so I keep myself super busy. I love my to-do lists.
And God’s given me a personality to be driven and productive, which is a good thing, but it can be sinful when I try to use that to escape my emotions or escape allowing God to do a healing work in the deep parts of my heart versus trying to control it and handle it on my own.
That's when I think it can be almost sinful, really, if you think about it, when we try to control our grief on our own terms and figure out our own coping mechanisms, which most of the time, because we're human and we're sinful, we're going to lean toward something that's negative or not necessarily healthy for us because we want to escape it.
And so for other moms it might be that we're going to alcohol or we're going to retail therapy or shopping to avoid it, to make us feel better. For me, sometimes it's stress eating sweets or things like that. And I know that it's kind of hard to talk about these things and just expose my own sin here on the podcast.
But I think it's important that we expose that darkness and turn to God when we realize, “You know what? I'm trying to turn to earthly pleasures or trying to turn to earthly coping mechanisms instead of allowing God to come into these deep and hard and scary emotions and heal me from the inside out.”
And I think that's what you're saying, is that we need to sit in it and we need to allow God's work through that. So what would you say to a mom who's feeling overwhelmed by her grief and loss? What should they do in that moment when they're feeling overwhelmed and they want to sit in it, but it's hard and it's scary to do that?
Alicia Michelle: [00:18:56] Before I answered that question, can I say something based on what you just said a second ago? Because I think it really needs to be said that when we respond in all the ways you're talking about, these behaviors often are self-sabotaging. And we think, “Why do I do that? Why don't I just go to God,” or whatever, we have to understand that we're not only fighting our spirit, we're fighting our biology.
So our biology, our brain is telling us, always trying to keep us safe. It's always trying to protect us. It's always trying to keep us alive. So if it sees pain, it's going to try to subconsciously try to divert us away from pain, because again, it's trying to keep us safe.
So if we are going through something difficult, if we're just listening and not paying attention to what we're feeling, what we're experiencing, allowing ourselves to sit in it, then we just can almost step into that subconscious mind where we're just needing the relief or needing the pain relief of whatever it is.
And so that's why it's so important, when we're talking about learning about grief and coming over whatever we're trying to work through emotionally, that we're aware of what's happening and that when we see ourselves responding in these ways, we can almost laugh at ourselves.
“Okay, here I am again, trying to make myself feel better through retail therapy or binge eating,” or whatever, and not be mad at ourselves but to say, “Hey, obviously I'm in pain. Obviously I'm suffering. And I understand what my brain is trying to do. That's not going to solve it.”
We have to learn to practice that muscle from the logical mind to learn how to calm that other side down. Like, “This isn't going to solve it.” What we really need is to be able to be real with it, let God heal us. And that comfort is good, but that it becomes bad when it becomes a coping mechanism.
Ashley Opliger: [00:20:43] So it's almost like the behavior is a red flag that something deeper within us is going on, like a check engine light comes on.
Alicia Michelle: [00:20:51] Yes, absolutely.
Ashley Opliger: [00:20:53] It's, “Okay, there's a check engine light. Something's wrong with the car that needs to be fixed.” If we're going to retail therapy or we're feeling the need to make brownies and eat a whole pan, which I could do, and I love chocolate, but it's not good to be eating in excess. Right? So if I'm feeling this need to do this, it's a check engine light.
“Oh, okay. I need to be in tune with the pain. I need to be in tune with what's going in my heart and in my soul and in my mind, because these behaviors are really just signs of something deeper that's going on within me.”
And another thing that you said that reminded me of my counseling experience after I lost Bridget. I had a really wonderful counselor. And I'm sure with all your work with brain anatomy that you know about this, but we talked a lot about the amygdala hijack and how essentially for me, a lot of times when I am going through grief or loss, I will experience anxiety that comes on as panic.
And what's happening is the amygdala, which is that part in the back of your brain that is the fight or flight response and controls, basically, your survival instinct, whenever there's some sort of trigger or something in the world that happens, it will pop off.
The amygdala hijack goes into motion and the prefrontal cortex, which is where your logic and your reasoning and all of that part of your brain can reason with you and say, “No, it would be best if you didn't do X, Y, or Z, this is how you're feeling,” that part goes offline when your amygdala takes over, which is why they call it a hijack, and you're no longer able to reason and rationalize with yourself.
And so my counselor would talk a lot about the whole left brain/right brain, and even we did some EMDR therapy and things like that to try to help my body, because I'm more of a left-brain person, focus on how can I get my body to calm down so that my brain can focus and I can reason and have a logical sense when I get panicked in grief. So maybe you have more to share about that.
Alicia Michelle: [00:22:57] Yeah, I would. That is exactly what happens. And there's some very interesting research by Dr. Jud Brewer. He's a psychotherapist, he does more of the research side of reward-based behavior and working with people struggling with addiction, understanding why do we go back to these addictive behaviors when we know quote unquote, “what we're supposed to do.” And he talks exactly about that, that the amygdala jumps in, tries to save it.
And literally, like you said, the prefrontal cortex goes offline and we can't process. What we can learn to do though, is through things like being mindful of what's happening, being aware of what's happening. And that's a skill that we can learn and practice, being aware of what we're feeling and not dismissing it and shutting it down, just being like, “Okay, it's existing.”
That makes it easier for the prefrontal cortex to learn how to manage and break that amygdala hijack faster so that it's not just so you get lost. He describes it like you sit down and you've eaten the whole box of donuts and you're like, “Wait, what happened? Oh.” And then the guilt sets in. So you can break it faster and you can understand faster when you can practice that.
But yeah, what I've been thinking about lately is a lot of how, again like we said, safety, but fear. So the fear of things hurting us or of us being hurt more. Fear is the root, and then that self-sabotaging behavior is the fruit that comes from it. It's that that's the root of it all.
So if we try to just be mad at ourselves for the self-sabotaging behavior, that's not going to fix it. We have to know what's the root that's causing that fruit of the self-sabotage and it is, most of the time, fear. It's that pain stepping into it.
And the other thing that I was going to share is that I just did a podcast recently with a woman named Nancy Hicks, who is an author and a speaker. And she recently lost her 28-year-old son to colon cancer.
And so we were talking about: How do you manage? How do you mentally prepare yourself for grief at the holidays? She had just lost him in May, so this is going to be her first holiday without him. And how do you realistically deal with that?
And she was saying, “When you go through something like that, where you have prayed and fasted and done all the right things, and God doesn't answer your prayer, you have a different perspective of who God is as protector.
You realize that He's not a protector if He does what you tell Him to do. He's your protector through the pain. So it's like you make a decision in that moment where you're either going to be mad that He didn't answer your prayer, like He didn't save your baby, or you have to realize, “Am I only following Him because He does what I want Him to do? Or am I following Him because He's good and He loves me, and so therefore I'm going to trust Him?”
So that is a mindset, that's a struggle we have to go through, but if we can get to that place, that can give us the courage and the ability to sit in deep grief more easily and allow us to let God do that work. Because that's the hardest thing about grief too, with so many emotions, is we can go to that place, but we don't have a magic wand to fix it.
We as moms, we are so good at solving problems all day, figuring things out, but when it comes to this kind of stuff, that is that supernatural healing that has to happen. It's laying ourselves before God on the altar, and then He has to bring the healing work. But we have to get on the altar first. Right? So it's this partnership, but it's a very vulnerable partnership that God has to bring us to.
Ashley Opliger: [00:26:42] We hope you are enjoying this episode so far. We wanted to take a quick break to tell you about some other hope-filled resources our ministry provides to grieving families.
On our website, bridgetscradles.com, you can find many resources on grieving and healing including memorial ideas, quotes & Scripture, blog articles, featured stories, recommended books, and other support organizations. We share ideas on how to navigate difficult days such as due dates, Heaven Days, and holidays. We also have a page with ideas on how to care for a friend or family member who has experienced pregnancy loss.
In addition, every month I lead free Christ-centered support groups for bereaved moms called Hope Gatherings, both in-person and online. You can find a list of upcoming dates and sign up for our next support group on our website. You can also join our private Cradled in Hope Facebook group for grieving moms to find friendship and support. We would be honored to hear your baby’s story and be praying for you by name.
Lastly, our Pinterest page has beautiful graphics of quotes & Scripture from this episode, along with many other resources that you can pin and save. We would also love for you to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram. You can find us on these three pages: @bridgetscradles, @cradledinhope, and my personal page @ashleyopliger. We’d love for you to follow along and spread the word about the Cradled in Hope Podcast. Now let’s get back to our episode.
Ashley Opliger: [00:28:18] And that brings back to trusting God to be your protector and trusting in His character.
One of the things that I see a lot of women, I'm in some Facebook groups for pregnancy loss and not necessarily for believers, but for any mom who's experienced loss, and one of the comments that I will see so often after someone has lost a baby is, “How could a good God allow this to happen to me?”
I've literally seen comments where they say, “I don't want to believe in a God that would allow this to happen to me. I don't want to put my trust in a God who would allow my baby to die.”
And they're so mad at God, which they're acknowledging that God exists, but not believing in His good character. And that's, I think, one of the most important things to set straight in order to have a healthy mindset toward God is that God is good and He is not doing this to punish you or to cause this pain on you for any reason.
It's the brokenness of our own sin that has caused this. It's humanity, starting with Adam and Eve, because of the Fall of humanity and our sin that has allowed death and sickness, and brokenness to enter the world. And so that is why we have lost our babies.
Yes, God has allowed it to happen in His sovereignty, but that doesn't mean that He's purposing it. And I think that's one of the biggest roadblocks to women trusting God is that they do feel that God is responsible and, “How could I trust someone who did this on purpose?”
And I think for me, that's one thing I really try to set straight with moms is that yes, God did allow it and He is sovereign. He allowed it, but He has made a way to redeem us and He's given us the ultimate gift of salvation. Through our faith in Jesus, we are reconciled with God, because of His grace. By faith, through grace, He has saved us and that is the ultimate gift. And He is worthy of our praise. He is worthy of being trusted because of that.
But it is hard and I would be lying to say that I didn't go through those questions and feeling abandoned by God and asking those tough questions of, “God, why did You allow this? Why me? What did I do to deserve this?”
But when I studied who He is in Scripture, in the Bible, which is God's authoritative Word on who He is and the story that He's writing in humanity, I know that it's not because He's trying to punish me. He can redeem our pain.
And going back to something you said earlier, He really does work through our pain, and we can become the closest to God and be sanctified and refined the most by the Holy Spirit in pain and suffering. I grew so much closer to Jesus in my pain after losing Bridget and other trials in my life than I ever did just in the happy mountaintop experiences.
Alicia Michelle: [00:31:10] Sure. Right. Oh my gosh. A couple of things can I add to that? Because it was like that's exactly a huge lie that's going through our churches right now is something that our pastor this week spoke about. And he phrased it as, “Do we want the American dream or do we want the Kingdom dream?”
The American dream of God says. “I follow this rule. You give me what I want and You prosper me. I don't have any pain. And if I have pain, then I did something wrong. If I have any suffering, then You don't make sense. Why would You make me suffer? You're a good God.” It's this whole mindset that we've put on there. “If I do the right thing, God's going to bless me.”
The Kingdom dream says. “I love you. I'm with you in your suffering. You will have suffering. Look at what happened to My Son. He suffered. And I am good. You're following Me because I am good, not because of what I give you or don't give you.”
And so that's to say that, but to also to say it is so normal and I think healthy to have those kind of questions about God. “Why would You allow this to happen? Why would You do this if You love me, You love my children, You love our family?”
I think that is, first of all, our God is big enough for us to ask those questions. We don't ever have to be afraid that He will be mad at us, He won't like us anymore if we ask questions like that. Those are the questions that may be have been simmering in our hearts for years that we've never dealt with.
But He's, “This is an obstacle. I want to allow this question to come to the forefront so we can deal with it”. Maybe this is the way that He's allowing there to be more fellowship with Him, more honest, authentic connection with God, because this question has come out and you've wrestled with it.
We cannot be afraid to wrestle. I think it's been lost in our generation and in our culture. We don't like wrestling. We want it to be solved. We want it to be moved on. We don't want to deal with it anymore, but that is not the way of God. That is not the way of deep friendship with God, with fellowship, and we have to be okay.
So for those women who would have those questions, I would say, “Good. Go to God, ask those questions. Look at how He treated His people throughout Scripture. Look at chapters like Hebrews 11, the Hall of Faith.
People, amazing saints, who we get to meet one day in Heaven, who've followed God, people who did what God told them to do and they never saw the Promised Land. They never saw the full completion of the promise. They never saw it. Was it because God didn't love them? No. He was with them through all of their trials, but this was just part of their story. It wasn't that He wasn't good to them.
I think we can't be afraid to wrestle. We can't be afraid to ask the deep questions. God is bigger than those questions. And that was actually how I came to faith in Christ at 19. If I'm going to believe in a God, He has to be big enough for me to ask the questions like, “How do I know this is true? How do I know Your Word hasn't changed over the centuries? How do I know this? How do I know that?”
I had to go through all of that and get those questions worked out before I was able to honestly say, “Okay, I'm giving my life to You.”
And some of us have grown up following a religion, and when hard times come, that is the opportunity for us to see: Is this a true faith? How deep is my faith? How deep are the roots? Like the seed being thrown on the ground, are these roots that are within rocks or are they in good soil?
God is allowing us, like you said, being refined in the fire to be stronger through these times. So if we could reframe it to be, yeah, it's really hard, we're not saying it's not, “How could this be an opportunity for me to grow deeper in Christ and to really be more authentic in my faith,” I think that would make a huge difference.
Ashley Opliger: [00:34:57] I love that. And I love what you said about the American dream versus the Kingdom dream.
And I 100% agree that the prosperity gospel, the American gospel, you could really call it, is not the Gospel.
Alicia Michelle: [00:35:12] Right.
Ashley Opliger: [00:35:12] It's not the Gospel. And it's bold to say that out loud, but when you study Scripture and every single person that God loved in the Bible, Job, Paul, His disciples, Jesus Himself all went through incredible suffering.
And just like you said, it didn't mean that He didn't love them, but that was part of their walk. Even God Himself came to earth and suffered. In our American mindset, that suffering is not supposed to be part of the walk, and that if God really loves us, we wouldn't suffer.
He never promised us that we would not suffer on this earth. In fact, He promised that we would suffer. He said, “Take heart. I have overcome the world, but in this life you are going to have trouble.” And that's part of it until God comes back and restores this earth to be the New Earth in the New Heaven. But until He has defeated the enemy, we are going to be dealing with all of this and we are going to be dealing with the effects of the Fall.
And I think it's very important to purge ourselves from some of these false theologies and false gospels that are out there and, quite honestly, false teaching that's in the Church right now.