On July 29, my wife gave birth to our first child, a daughter named Kaia. In the morning prior to Kaia’s birth, I had been reading Psalm 34, and my heart was re-captured by verse 8, which reads:
“Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” – Psalm 34:8
I was so excited for the day and for what God had in store for us that I posted that verse as my facebook status, in anticipation of tasting God’s good gift of Fatherhood. I had no idea how big of a bite I would be taking, or how intensely I would be tasting and seeing whether or not the Lord really is good.
Shortly after birth, Kaia was admitted to the NICU, due to irregular breathing. We were so scared. After the longest day of my life, I sent out an email at nearly 3:00 AM, sharing about Kaia’s birth and asking my friends and family to pray for Kaia.
Over the course of the next 19 days, I frequently wrote prayer updates in the middle of the night. I wrote to ask everyone to pray for Kaia, to pray for us, and to point them to the God who holds the entire universe in His hands. There were some good days, where I wrote with excitement, but there were more days where I wrote with tears running down my face. On August 17, Kaia died in my arms. That night I wrote my last prayer update, and many who had been praying for us wept with us and shared our sorrow. Many also shared our hope in a God who is good, in the midst of the pain.
As another Fall of Youth Ministry is kicking off in the church where I serve, I am still struggling to be anything other than an internal disaster. The truth is, though, I am learning a lot in the midst of my grief and pain. I know God has only begun to teach me through Kaia’s life and death, but here is some of what He is teaching me so far.
A friend and mentor came and visited us one evening while Kaia was still in the hospital. One of the best things he said to us was to “grieve well”. Though Kaia was still alive at the time, we were already grieving as we watched her struggle to hold on to life. To grieve well is to embrace the pain, rather than running from it or avoiding it. It is avoiding the temptation to hold back tears, and instead letting the tears fall, even in front of people. To grieve well is to be present in the pain, to talk about the feelings that come, and to share the experience with others. It means feeling every ounce of the pain, and inviting God to meet you and sustain you in the midst of your grief.
Your Grief Isn’t Just For Your Sake
Seasons of intense grief provide clear windows into your soul. Those who watch you grieve are going to get an uncommon, insider look at your soul. As you cling to Jesus in the pain, you will find the hope He has promised, and you will show others who are struggling where they can find hope, too. You also provide a roadmap for others who will later face pain, helping them to see what it looks like to struggle with the pain that life brings and, at the same time, to find Jesus to be all-sufficient.
God Really Is Good
I know more about God’s goodness now than I did before Kaia was born. He has truly sustained us and continues to sustain us. The example of God giving the Israelites manna in the desert is such a good example for our experience so far. Every day God has been good to give us the strength we need for the day, and to bring people around us to give us strength on the days when we have been lacking. He has fed us through the Psalms, where we see over and over again that we aren’t the first people to experience pain. We see in the words of David and others that God has been deeply good to His people in the past, and we find hope that He will be deeply good to us as we go forward.
The prayer updates about Kaia spread from our small circle of friends and family to thousands of people, who prayed for and loved Kaia during her 20 days of life. The prayer updates were put together into a book, in hopes that Kaia’s story would continue to point others to Jesus and encourage them to trust Him in the midst of difficult circumstances. Pray For Kaia: She Is Such A Gift can be found here, or for more information about the book and about Kaia’s story, go to www.prayforkaia.com.
This guest post was written by Ryan Donovan. He is graduate of Multnomah University in Portland, OR and serves as the Youth and Ministry Pastor at Evergreen Bible Church in Vancouver, WA.