It’s Not Supposed to Be Like This

A year ago, I had to give up breastfeeding my five-month old baby.

No matter what I removed from my diet, he was still sick with food allergy symptoms and amoebas he couldn’t shake. When I bought that first can of formula and gave him a bottle, I felt like a failure. My body was supposed to be able to sustain my baby. As his mother, I was supposed to know what he needed and be able to help him. Instead, all I could do was grab another burp cloth and hold him while he cried. And even though his rapid improvement made it obvious we had made the right choice, the decision still devastated me. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

It wasn’t until I participated in the Velvet Ashes retreat this spring that I realized how much I was grieving. I was grieving both the abrupt ending to that phase of my relationship with my baby and the ways his sickness dominated those months of his babyhood. My memories of his first few months are clouded by the stress of lab results, messages with the doctor, and symptom-tracking instead of cuddles and giggles, and that breaks my heart.

I needed to lament, to grieve, and to give myself permission to acknowledge that this—the formula, the stress, and the unresolved grief—wasn’t what I wanted for my baby or for myself.

Don’t we all need that permission? Permission to acknowledge that this isn’t the way things are supposed to be?

We aren’t supposed to be stuck on the wrong side of a closed border. We aren’t supposed to raise babies in isolation. We aren’t supposed to miss weddings, funerals, huge milestones and celebrations.

When we answered the call to become cross-cultural workers, we knew it would come with challenges and sacrifices. But this doesn’t feel like what we signed up for. We are usually the privileged—the ones who fight against injustices done to others and work to alleviate the suffering of others. But this year, it wasn’t just “them” suffering—we were right alongside our global neighbors in it. It didn’t feel fair, and for many of us, it still doesn’t. 

It feels, if I dare to say it, like God is being unjust—maybe even unloving.

Have you had that same thought? Have you felt the same fear of uttering it aloud? Thankfully, God is bigger than our feelings, and we learn of His unchangeable character through Scripture and through His work in our lives.

We know that God is just. That He is good and loving and faithful. We also know that the cries of “it’s not supposed to be like this” entered the world the moment sin entered it. We’re right—the world is not supposed to be like this! Sin brought sickness, death, broken relationships, and so much suffering.

God not only hears our cries, but understands them. He created a perfect world where He walked closely with His people, and then sin broke everything. This broken world is not how God intended it to be.

Thankfully, He has already let us in on how the story will end. While we might not know how tomorrow will go, we know that Jesus conquered death, and that in the end, there will come a day when God will finally put an end to sin and suffering. In Revelation 21 we read this about the new heaven and new earth to come: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Let’s bring our laments to God, but let’s also remember how the story will end. We can hold firmly to the hope that anchors our souls. And even in our disappointments and frustrations, we can echo the Psalmist: “But I trust in Your unfailing love” (Psalm 13:5).

What grief do you need to name and lament from this past year? What promises of God have sustained you?

8 Comments

  1. Jennifer Hilton July 21, 2021

    So good to read this, Emily. Grief and lament are such important lessons for us! I am thankful to read of God’s faithfulness and that you are on the other side of this particular challenge. And hurray for baby doing well! 🙂

    1. Emily July 22, 2021

      Thanks for reading, Jen. 😊 I’m glad it encouraged you!

  2. Danielle Wheeler July 21, 2021

    Thank you, Emily, for sharing your lament, your honest emotions here in this space. Yes, we all need that permission.

    1. Emily July 22, 2021

      Thanks Danielle. And thanks for your part in creating space for lament during the retreat this spring!

  3. Ruth July 21, 2021

    Once again, God has used the stories shared by Velvet Ashes to uncover what I’ve been thinking and feeling and hadn’t properly recognised or acknowledged. Thank you so much, Emily, for sharing your story.

    1. Emily July 22, 2021

      You’re welcome, Ruth. I’m glad it resonated with and encouraged you.

  4. Theresa July 21, 2021

    This cut me to the core, Emily. Just this week a new-mom friend was asking for advice through breastfeeding struggles, and man, it brought it all back—the shame, feeling like a failure, challenged intuition, weeping out of helplessness when I just wanted to nourish my babies. I love this reminder that I can keep bringing these disappointments before the Lord, with any new way I might be hit by them (my youngest is already 3, but I still deeply hate my four-time breastfeeding struggle—and the littlest went through all the lab stuff cross-culturally which at the time felt like it would do me in). Thank you for this sweet balm and reminder that God doesn’t leave us in this miserable place.

    1. Emily July 22, 2021

      Thanks for sharing your story, Theresa. It’s so true that certain situations can bring up all the emotions again – even just seeing someone else breastfeeding! I’m glad my story could encourage you.

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