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Episode 35 - The Good She Brought Me + Draw Near to Him with Ashley Opliger


Join us for a discussion with Ashley Opliger about the good that came from the birth and death of her daughter, Bridget. Ashley shares how her loss shifted her focus to Heaven and living for God's Kingdom.

In this episode, Ashley encourages grieving moms to draw near to God by reading His Word. She invites moms into a relationship with Him because she believes He is the only One who can heal their broken hearts. His amazing gift of salvation gives us the hope of Heaven with Him and our babies who have gone there before us.



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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 1,300 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.

Connect with Ashley:

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Instagram @ashleyopliger

Pinterest /ashleyopliger

Follow Bridget’s Cradles:

Facebook /bridgetscradles

Instagram @bridgetscradles

Pinterest /bridgetscradles

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Episode 35: The Good She Brought Me + Draw Near to Him with Ashley Opliger

Ashley Opliger: [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast on the Edifi Podcast Network. I’m your host, Ashley Opliger. I’m a wife, mom, and follower of Christ who founded Bridget’s Cradles, a nonprofit ministry in memory of my daughter, Bridget, who was stillborn at 24 weeks.

Cradled in Hope is a Gospel-focused podcast for grieving moms to find comfort, hope, and healing after the loss of a baby. We want this to be a safe place for your broken heart to land.

Here, we are going to trust God’s promise to heal our hearts, restore our joy, and use our grief for good. With faith in Jesus and eyes fixed on Heaven, we do not have to grieve without hope. We believe that Jesus cradles us in hope while He cradles our babies in Heaven.

Welcome to the Cradled in Hope Podcast.

Ashley Opliger: [00:00:47] Hi friends, and welcome back to another episode of Cradled in Hope. Today it is just me and the Holy Spirit and my microphone coming to you from my home office, really wanting to share what's on my heart and open up this space for us to talk about grieving with hope.

[00:01:09] I have some things I want to share with you, but really I want God to give me the words to speak, and trust that the Holy Spirit will use my words to bring hope and comfort to your heart. And so today I'm just going to share some thoughts and Scripture and know that God is going to use it to minister to each of your hearts exactly where you're at, because I believe that God is a personal God. He is a present God. He is with us in each of our moments, and He's with you right now as you're listening to this.

I don't know if you're doing the dishes or folding laundry or driving in the car. Those are usually the situations where I listen to podcasts, but wherever this finds you, I pray that you would be able to calm your spirit and know that God is with you right now, and that you would soak up His presence so that you would tune into His Spirit, that you would get engaged with His Word.

[00:02:06] Right now, my husband and I are going through the Bible chronologically, and it has been such a blessing because so often we will hear a Bible verse here or there, or see something on Instagram, and even sermons, especially sermons that are not expository preaching, which is verse-by-verse preaching, a lot of times we get little bits and pieces of God, but there's such a treasure in knowing His Word and this whole story of Israel and the Israelites, and how the Old Testament connects to the New Testament and how His promises are never ending, and He's always faithful to these promises, when we’re living in this unique period of time right now after the Cross, but before His Second Coming.

[00:02:49] So we live between His First and Second Coming, which by the way, what a unique and beautiful time to be alive. It can be sometimes scary living in the times that we're living in, but I do believe that we're living in Biblical times and we get to watch God's plans unfold right before our eyes, and we have this amazing, play-by-play playbook that God has given us in His prophecy and His Word, showing us what's to come and what we should be looking for and watching for.

And as these times get darker and darker, not only in the world but in our own lives, as we're experiencing the loss of our baby and we're trying to navigate this deep grief that's come over our life, we have this amazing hope to look forward to. We know that one day God is going to make everything right. He's going to make everything new. And what an encouragement for us to be in His Word and to know that all of these things are true.

Everything He promised before He fulfilled through Jesus coming the first time, He's going to continue to fulfill all of these prophecies that remain, and we have a glorious hope to look forward to. We have the New Heavens and the New Earth, God's ultimate plan of redemption, and one day we will get to be with our children again. So let's pray as we open up this time together and see where God leads this conversation.

Ashley Opliger: [00:04:07]

Lord God, I thank You so much for this podcast and for the ability for You to connect hearts across this country, God. And I thank You so much for the privilege that it is for me to be speaking from my home, but that You can share my voice across the airwaves, God, that we have this community of women that of course we wish we didn't have to be connected because of the loss of our babies. But You've given us this connection where we can grieve together with hope, that we can focus on who You are and this amazing hope that we have in You.

[00:04:42] And so, God, I thank You for this space and this time that we have together. I thank You for Your Word, that Your Word remains true, that You have given us this revelation of who You are and Your story and how everything is going to unfold, God.

And we just are so grateful that we get to live in a time period where our sins have already been forgiven, that You have made the ultimate sacrifice for us when Your Son Jesus came to die for us, that we don't have to atone for our sins by making any sort of animal sacrifices like the Israelites had to do in the Old Testament, God, but that You came and made an eternal sacrifice for us, that our sins are forgiven, paid in full forever and ever, God, and that when we believe in You and we trust that You are our Savior, that You are the Messiah that came, we can look forward to spending eternity in Your presence.

I thank you for sending Your Son. I thank You for His Holy Spirit that lives inside of us right now. I pray over each mom who's listening, God, whose heart is broken, who misses her baby more than her heart can stand. God, I pray over her today that You would be with her, that You would comfort her, that You would give her peace amidst the anxiety and the panic and the fear that so easily entangles us in this grief journey, God. So be with us. Let us focus on You and on Your goodness, and let this time be glorifying to You. It's in Your Son's Holy Name that we pray. Amen.

Ashley Opliger: [00:06:11] This is a topic that I find difficult to talk about, because I think as soon as we try to look for the “silver linings” in pregnancy and infant loss, so many people can get the wrong impression that we're just trying to look for the good in the bad, and that we're trying to spin something that's so devastating and that has so much pain into something that's good.

And sometimes that can make us feel like people are minimizing our grief or that our grief is not validated. And I first of all want to say that when I choose to look for the good that Bridget has brought in my life, I am in no means downplaying the pain that losing her temporarily has caused me or downplaying the magnitude of her loss in our lives.

But I feel as though it would be doing her life and her legacy a disservice if I chose to only focus on the pain and the grief and the sadness and all of those things. Because yes, her loss did cause me incredible grief and sorrow, but on the other hand, her life has radically changed my life for the good, and I believe that I honor her memory and honor her life and honor God who made her the most when I can focus on the good that she has brought into my life.

And so I'm just going to share some areas in my life that I feel that God has worked out for my good and for His glory because of her. And hopefully it would let you reflect on your own baby and the impact that they've made on your life, and open up our perspective to a more eternal perspective.

So first of all, I want to read from 2 Corinthians 4, and this is a section that says Treasure in Jars of Clay. It says:

“Now we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this surpassingly great power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on all sides but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always consigned to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

And in keeping with what is written, ‘I believed, therefore I have spoken,’ we who have the same spirit of faith also believe and therefore speak, knowing that the One who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in His presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is extending to more and more people may overflow in thanksgiving to the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, yet our inner self is being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that is far beyond comparison. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Those were the words of Paul to the church of Corinth, and those last few verses about, “our light and momentary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that is far beyond comparison,” those verses have been very convicting to me, because a lot of times when I think about the pain and the loss and the grief that I've experienced on this earth, it feels again like someone's minimizing my pain when they refer to that as light and momentary. How could losing a child possibly be a light and momentary affliction?

[00:10:20] However, when we compare it to eternity and we compare anything that we experience on this earth, no matter how devastating or heartbreaking it may be, when we compare this short vapor of a life that we have compared to the eternal glory that is to come and what eternity is going to be, and thousands and thousands and thousands of years with Jesus in Heaven, and after those thousands of years are finished, there'll only be thousands and thousands more, and our earthly minds can barely comprehend eternity, what that looks like and how it would just keep going on and on.

But when we can compare this blip of a life that we're experiencing now, and the struggles that we experience compared to eternity, we can consider these trials and tribulations light and momentary because they truly are momentary. Our separation from our babies is temporary.

That's something that I always like to say, especially when I use the phrase, “I've lost Bridget.” I don't actually believe that I've lost her. First of all, she's in Heaven. She's not lost.

But secondly, and more importantly, a lot of times when we think of death, it seems like a permanent separation, but the hope of the Gospel is that death has lost its sting. Jesus has overcome the grave. And so we as believers do not have to fear death and fear the grave because one day we will be resurrected just like our babies will be. And our babies, their souls right now are living in Heaven.

[00:11:57] And so we have this amazing hope to look forward to and we can try to not minimize our grief and our pain, but we can try to see our pain through the perspective of eternity. And when we do that, that is when we really have an accurate view of our pain in knowing that it's temporary.

In Revelation 21, which you may know as the part of the Bible that talks about the New Heaven and the New Earth, this is after the Thousand-Year Millennium, which if you've listened to past podcasts, I go into Bible prophecy and End Times chronology and the order of events. And so you'll know that the Thousand-Year Millennium, which is outlined in Revelation 20, precedes the New Heaven and the New Earth.

The New Heaven and the New Earth are the final outcome, when the holy city, the New Jerusalem that God has prepared, it will come down from Heaven prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And that is when we will live forever and ever in this good and perfect Paradise. It's going to be essentially Eden redeemed, what God had always prepared, and this is going to be a place without sin and death.

[00:13:13] And so I'm going to read from Revelation 21:3-5. It says:

“Behold the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning, or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away.” And the One seated on the throne said. “Behold, I make all things new.” Then He said, “Write this down for these words are faithful and true.”

I love that! God has given us this amazing promise that He's going to restore Creation to what He had originally designed, a place without sin, without illness, without death, just this perfect Paradise. And this is when we get to dwell with God Himself, God the Father.

[00:14:11] Jesus, of course, is coming back and He's going to live on this current earth in the Millennium, and we'll get to be with Him, with Jesus in that timeframe. But this is when everything is going to be made right and Satan will have been thrown into the Lake of Fire.

There can't be death because the wages of sin is death, and so when sin and Satan are cast away for eternal torment in the Lake of Fire, we will never ever have to worry about separating from our babies again, and we will always be in the presence of God.

And so first of all, I would love for you to go into Revelation 21 and read more about the New Jerusalem and what the New Earth is going to look like.

[00:14:58] You can go down to verse 22 where it talks about the city and how there's not going to be a sun or a moon anymore because God is going to be illuminating the city with the light of Himself and His presence. And it's just going to be the most amazing place! And so I just pray that you would go into Revelation 21 and read that because that gives me so much hope.

[00:15:23] And honestly, as I talk about the Bible, one of the things I mentioned to you that my husband and I are reading a chronological plan and we're going book by book, verse by verse through is that it is so important to read the whole counsel of God, His whole Word.

It's so easy to be distracted. It's so easy for us to interpret the Bible when we take bits and pieces and we cut out different parts, but really to get a good theology around who God is, what His story is, and what we are promised as believers, you really have to get into your Word.

We really have to be studying the Bible for ourselves and not just taking what a pastor says or what someone on a podcast says, including me, by the way. Spending time with the Lord in His Word, I promise you, that will never turn up void, that you will know Him in deeper ways, that questions that you have about Him and His character, about His story, He will be faithful to answer those questions, doubts that you may have.

I am learning something new every single day that I go and read His Word. and it also brings up more questions and things that I want to research and study. And that is part of the sanctification as a believer of learning who God is. And that's something we're always going to be learning, who He is, because He's an infinite, all-knowing, all-powerful God that our earthly minds can't fully comprehend, especially in our mortal bodies. But we've been given this gift in His Word.

[00:16:56] And so as we just read 2 Corinthians and we know that these trials and this loss that we've experienced that is causing our hearts so much pain, we know that this is light and momentary, but how does that change what we actually feel? Because studying the Bible is not just for having more knowledge.

Of course it's for knowledge and knowing His story and history and all of those things, but also it's about drawing into a relationship with Him. The more that you know Him and the more that you desire Him, in James 4:8-10 it tells us, “Come near to God and He will come near to you.”

And so this is not just about head knowledge. This is also about heart transformation. And when we spend time with God, that is our goal, not only to learn more about Him from a cognitive theology level, but more so from a heart transformation, that His Word actually changes us. It changes how we feel.

And that's my hope for you is that His Word and His presence would heal your broken heart from the inside out, that the God who created you, that knows you, He counts the hairs on your head. He knows you so intimately from your own mother's womb, and He knows where you’re struggling. He knows where you're doubting. He knows where you're questioning Him. He knows if you're angry with Him.

So often I have moms come in for support groups and say, “I'm just so mad at God. I don't understand how a good God could allow me to lose my baby.”

[00:18:34] And one of the things I say is, “Have you told Him that? Have you expressed these things? Because He is not afraid of our questions. He is big enough to handle your honest truth in how you feel about Him.” Because honestly, sometimes it takes that honesty and vulnerability to God to break through and allow Him to come in and do His work.

And that's ultimately what I want for you, is to find a place where you can just be with Him and draw near to Him so that He can work in your heart and change your heart and change your life.

[00:19:10] And so it's been almost nine years since Bridget went to Heaven, and some days it feels like just yesterday that I held her so carefully in my hands in the cradle that my Mom had knit for her.

I soaked in every second. I tried to memorize her face and features. I distinctly remember just putting my lips on her little nose and on her little lips and trying to freeze time, and closing my eyes and trying to remember exactly what that feels like.

[00:19:40] And to this day, as I'm closing my eyes right now, envisioning it, I can remember exactly what she felt like. And even though that was just such a short amount of time that I got to spend with her, less than 24 hours, I can still remember those things so vividly.

[00:19:58] But other days it feels like there’s this infinite chasm that divides the only moment in time that I had to hold her and the time that keeps on ticking right now. Time can feel elusive like that. And since you've experienced the loss of a baby, you also know how precious those moments are and how fleeting the time seems to disappear into what was and what is now.

[00:20:19] And on this earth, we know we won't get those cherished seconds back, time that was quickly stolen in a desperate attempt to strip us of all the hope or joy. But praise God that we are promised eternity with them.

And so as I'm reflecting on all the good things that God has done in my life because of her life, I often tell people that other than Jesus Himself, I feel that my daughter, Bridget, who never took a breath on this earth, impacted my life more than any other person in this world.

[00:20:51] God knew the number of beats her heart would beat inside my womb, and He had counted the days of her life before they even came to be. And even in those earth-limited days, she came and turned my world upside down and changed my life for the better for all of eternity.

One of the most immediate changes that happened after Bridget went to Heaven was that my focus shifted from thinking only of my time on earth to now focusing on getting to spend eternity with her. It gave me an eternal perspective and fixed my eyes on Heaven more than ever before.

[00:21:28] Burying Bridget and sitting at her grave in the cemetery reminded me that I will not live forever. One day I'm going to die and end up being buried there too, unless the Rapture happens first, which I give a strong possibility to, but that's a conversation for another day and perhaps another podcast.

[00:21:48] But because that fact that I have a mortal body for now until the Resurrection, that used to be an uncomfortable truth for me, but now it's a welcome promise. I get to see her again. I know that eventually we will put on our immortal bodies and that we will get to spend forever there.