Advent Day 8: Armed with Strength

It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.

Psalm 18:32

Outside the doctor’s office after we learned of our first miscarriage, our first heavy loss as a couple, Brandon held me close. Weather is unmoved by emotions; the cloudless sky shone bright and blue above, the asphalt radiating with summer heat.

Neither of us were prepared for the possibility of losing a baby in utero. Miscarriage wasn’t a term that had flitted across my radar screen much, and if it did I hardly registered it with more than a few blinks before a quick, “Oh. I’m sorry,” not really knowing anything about the intimacy of that loss, the way its slipping away is tied to hope and possibility and faith, connected to the grittiest of life’s questions, all beginning with Why.


“I should go back to work,” I mumbled. I hadn’t yet said anything to my boss about being pregnant, sure I’d convinced her I was just hungry more these days, with my box of Triscuits stashed in my desk. I planned to tell her after we had confirmed a heartbeat. At twelve weeks, there should have been one, so an ultrasound was ordered, just to be sure all was well.

All was not well.

Be strong and courageous,” Brandon whispered, grabbing both of my hands, “for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” This verse, Joshua 1:9, was the one we were teaching the third grade Sunday school class at church that week, the memory verse they were to carry in their hearts for such a time, for such a time as this. Be strong and courageous, he said.

footprints-in-the-sand-163312God is there, wherever we go. There’s a reason people love that footprints in the sand poem–cheesy and cliched as it has become–it’s real and true for countless believers. It was then that I carried you, through those valleys of darkness and terrors; I am your strength in weakness. I am here.

I didn’t feel it or believe it. In those dark weeks and months that followed our first miscarriage, the partial mole pregnancy lab results, and the follow-up tests to ensure my own health, God felt increasingly far away. I thought he would grant me the desires of my heart, right here, right now. I thought when he said he’d be there for me he meant he’d take away the things that pained me, but that didn’t happen.

Rarely does God fix our circumstances miraculously. Of all the things he is, he’s not much for interfering with free will, and I’ve come to believe that God is insistent upon this, at every level of creation, from amoeba to earthquake, from wasp to women’s issues. He has provided the architecture and the blueprints, written the codes by which all things ought to work from arithmetic to astrophysics and allowed within those boundaries possibility. Possibility of right being and possibility of failure.

In both sickness and health he promises to be there. In the valley and on the peak of the mountain and all places in between, he promises to be there. Presence is one of the greatest gifts for the one who is grieving. We don’t know how to ask for it and if left to our own devices, grief and solitude will swallow us.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I have this path lit behind me with moments like this, our first miscarriage and our second miscarriage, Elvis’s birth, my grandpa’s death, minor trials and challenges, overwhelming joys and mercies, all with little quote bubbles above them I am here, I am here, I am here. In love, in grace, in compassion, in peace, in hope, he is here. God is with us. God is with us. We are not alone.

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

2 thoughts on “Advent Day 8: Armed with Strength

  1. I love the paragraph that starts: “Rarely does God fix…”
    People often struggle with “Why did God…??” or “Why won’t God just…?” but I believe your thoughts begin to answer the mystery of those questions. Seldom does he wave a magic wand over our lives and make things appear or disappear at the asking of those questions. It’s a journey, and praise God that He is indeed there!
    Blessings, Jody


  2. Thank you for much needed reminder . Can it ever be over stated? I think not- its truth that is as warming as the glow of candlelight in the dark places. Presence in hard places- all the more important to share. Be well.


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