Her Stillborn, Him Sovereign

by Lianna Davis November 12, 2018

There in the ground was a pristinely carved—yet, stark—rectangular hole. Lowered into it was a pink casket far too pretty for this spot and not nearly pretty enough for the body inside. Within was my darling newborn’s frame.

The day her body lowered into the ground, we sang, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow,” to conclude the service that marked her departure from this world. Fixed on our faces as we finished the doxology were expressions of steadfast knowledge flowing from our convictions about God’s grander purposes for the world. Anguish and confidence met to form sonorous, singing agreement: our God in heaven is sovereign.

Not many days prior, a monitor made her heartbeat audible. Our preparations for her arrival had been in sync with this beat. Our feet drummed to its rhythm as we readied our home; our baby was coming. One day after hearing the textbook heartbeat from the doctor’s monitor, I went into labor naturally. We drove to the same hospital to be monitored by the same machine as the day before. But the results were different. A perfect, pale-pink nursery at home, an already-doting father, a glowing and bonded mother, but there was no heartbeat for our little girl. She was born one day later.

Staring at a motionless image on an ultrasound machine’s screen, my mind reverberated with a refrain I had been taught long before I was pregnant or married. A college professor—Kevin Zuber—had delivered a lecture that powerfully set in my heart this theme (I am paraphrasing): “Do the work in advance to know that God is sovereign because when difficulties come, this is what you will need to know.” Thanks to the Lord, this was the message I remembered with clarity those seven or so years later—despite having no reason to believe I would need to prepare for such pain.

In the hospital, I held precious weight born from my own body. There were no pounds and ounces like hers. Her hands and feet wore many wrinkles; death was already taking over her body by the time we were face-to-face.

I beheld beautiful her while His sovereignty kept me, as her mom, alive. For as I looked down to my lifeless newborn, there was no other answer—she was not made for this earth at all. While my eyes poured over her for the first time, the first sight I have hope she already beheld was of Christ. I said these words aloud, wanting to verbally etch a permanent memory into the blur of labor and delivery: “She was made for a different land.” My mom, dad, and husband nodded in heartfelt agreement.

Weeks after her burial, still fixated—in my mind’s eye—on the hole in the ground and the baby body far too beautiful for it, still, this question poured from my inward being: What more could I ask Him to do than He has already done? What more could I ask Him to do than He had already sacrificially done for me on the cross? What more could I ask Him to do than what I had not deserved: His part in the precious transaction of my salvation—a salvation to which I contributed only hell.

April had been my daughter’s month—the month she was born and the month she was buried; April awakens us with her spring, but buries us with her rain. The literal skies emptied on me the day she was lowered into the ground. Tears threatened to bury me too. But instead, through each torrent of grief, He caused me to know Him in a way I still view as otherwise improbable (if not impossible).

He birthed something new in me that April, which sprung from the soil of burial to become purpose. He birthed an intimate knowledge of Himself; a longing to unambiguously share His faithfulness in the deluge; and the unrivaled, undeserved fulfillment of grieving along to the theme of the surpassing worth of His sacrifice. So, because of His salvation, our April meant joy. These were not the gifts of birth and growth that I anticipated and longed for that April. But this, God sovereignly yielded.

I do not know the total sum of sovereign goodness He plans from our child’s early departure from this world; His ways are mysterious. But I do know enough of Him to be sure that, whatever the sum is, He will yield it: “Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame” (Psalm 25:3).