Thursday, June 5, 2008

Christian Faith and Hyperemesis - Part I

Well, having washed, hung and ironed the laundry, made a lasagna and brownies, and a ton of other stuff, I feel that I have earned the right to a few minutes of blogging! (Probably just in time for our little guy to get up from his nap! At the 2 1/2-hour mark, I'm on borrowed time.)

I have been meaning to blog aboug spiritualty/faith and hyperemesis for a long time, but have put it off because of the enormity of the task. It is something that I can't yet wrap my mind around, and will take some time. I have been dealing with spiritual issues stemming from hyperemesis ever since I underwent this condition, and have only recently started to think them through - before this I have simply been too sick, too tired, or too busy!!

Rest assured, I am not questioning the existence of God or throwing away my faith. Not at all. It's just that incredibly difficult circumstances do tend to provoke a "crisis of faith" - a time of intense questioning. I feel the need to work through this and gain understanding before entering another pregnancy.

Instead of doing a straight blog, as I have limited time, I am simply going to paste a letter that I sent to Sarah, my oft-referenced HG-mum friend, which I sent to her in response to her email which I have posted under "Conversations with Sarah, Part II." It may or may not make sense - I was rambling a bit. I feel so overwhelmed by this topic that I don't tend to make much sense. If you're a Christian (or person of any faith) who has had HG, this probably makes sense to you. I think everyone who goes through an extremely trying life experience probably goes through something similar. Unfortunately one can't simply move from weak faith to strong faith without the intervening periods and stages of doubt, fear, anger, etc. - rather like the stages of grief. However much we'd like to avoid them, we can't. I daresay there are some annoyingly amazing people out there who go through a trying experience and bounce through with faith immediately strengthened, but I, alas, am not one of them!

Ashli McCall has told me that she is in the early stages of writing a book about biblical faith and hyperemesis, so if any of you has any thoughts on this, please get on her website, and email her!!

Here goes....

"Hello, Sarah!

"I have to tell you – reading your email was creepy. It was like reading my own diary, or a version thereof. Wow. Yes, I have gone/am going through a spiritual “crisis of faith” very similar to yours, although to a bit lesser of an extent (only natural, since my experience was so much easier than yours). I don’t think I ever doubted God’s existence – but I did doubt his goodness and his love. With HG one simply wants to die (nausea is worse than pain), and one is begging God for relief from the unending torture – but it only gets worse. It truly is sinking into the pit. I don’t know of any other disease which so easily induces despair.

"It has left me puzzled. Very puzzled. When people give testimonies, they always say, ad infinitum, “I prayed for more faith, so God gave me cancer, and it was tough, but I got through it, and now I trust God completely!” It’s not that way with HG. One is just too hurt. Too spiritually damaged to bounce back and say “God is good!”

"Here is my summary:

"I thought that I could handle anything.
I couldn’t.
I thought my faith was strong.
It wasn’t.
I thought that I knew God.
I didn’t.

"I think, basically, that I just had mistaken assumptions about God and about faith. Here in America we’ve probably all absorbed various notions of the “health and wealth” movement – that being a Christian ensures some degree of prosperity and constant victory.

"In thinking this through, I am drawn to the words of Christ on the cross – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” If there’s someone who can be said to have suffered as much as an HG mum, it was Christ on the cross. So no matter what, he does know what we have gone throw or are going through.

"Another thing that I am drawn back to is the simple statement, “God is love.” And “Now we see dimly, as through a mirror, but then we shall see face to face.” There must be a purpose in suffering if God is both all-powerful and all-loving. It’s just hard to admit it when we are in the midst of unbearable suffering.

"Here’s another quote I’ve been considering recently, from Agatha Christie’s autobiography. Quoting a teacher of hers, she writes:

“Quite unexpectedly one day (in the middle, I think, of an arithmetic lesson) she suddenly launched forth on a speech on life and religion. ‘All of you,’ she said, ‘every one of you – will pass through a time when you will face despair. If you never face despair, you will never have faced, or become, a Christian, or known a Christian life. To be a Christian you must face and accept the life that Christ faced and lived; you must enjoy things as he enjoyed things; be as happy as he was at the marriage at Canaan, know the peace and happiness that it means to be in harmony with God and with God’s will. But you must also know, as he did, what it means to be alone in the Garden of Gethsemane, to feel that all your friends have forsaken you, that those you love and trust have turned away from you, and that God Himself has forsaken you. Hold on then to the belief that that is not the end.” (p. 172)

"I have also considered that with all difficult spiritual learning experiences in life, one must go through the middle chapters of rebellion, doubt, fear, anger, etc. before one comes to acceptance and an increase in faith. For me, it’s taken a while. I’m still not there. I don’t have all of my answers yet – or even very many of them. But I’ve started to at least think through things, especially through my blog. A lot of this stuff has lain dormant while I was too busy to think about it, and is now coming to the surface.

"I also consider the Christian martyrs – those who endured unspeakable agonies rather than deny Christ. They too begged for mercy from God and didn’t get it this side of Heaven.

"My friend Jennifer just wrote an interesting blog entry on the subject of spiritual growth through suffering, based on her experience with infertility – you might find it interesting:

"But anyhow, I totally agree with you saying that “the dross is burned away.” Our faith has been revealed for what it was – weak, immature, trivial, circumstances-based. It’s a long journey. I have great hope that the end result will be a much better thing for us both. But in the meantime, don’t give up hope! I believe that God is good, even if we can’t know everything this side of heaven.

"And, as a side note, positive-thinking people can annoy the heck out of one, can’t they??????? “Look on the bright side.” AAAAHHHHH



  1. hmmm, I'm curious as to which blog entry you were referencing specifically?

    An Orthodox friend used a phrase to describe our IF that was unfamiliar to me as a Protestant. I had to look it up. I wish I could find the definition I found that night but what I learned is that is the concept of suffering for the purpose of Christ and for sanctification, but not unto death. The fact that it is not unto death results in it having an entirely different purpose.

    One blogger wrote: "Martyrdom, however, is not always “red” martyrdom (being killed out of hatred for the Faith). More common today is what is called “white” martyrdom: suffering little or very much (though not to the point of death) for the Faith. “White” martyrdom is something we will probably encounter almost every day in some measure or another. But “white” martyrdom does not mean it is easy! In fact, Fr. Hardon said that he thinks “red” martyrdom may be easier—as he said, “you’re killed, and it’s over with”, while “white” martyrdom is ongoing. Yes, I think we would all agree that laying down your life every day for love of Jesus and His Bride, the Church, is no easy thing."

    Something that really helped me come to terms with the depths of my grief was just to acknowledge that there was purpose in it. Even when I didn't know what it was, I had to cling to what my head knew outside of my broken heart, which was that God is good, and that for the believer, there is no suffering that is apart from His goodness or that is beyond His divine plan. Clinging to that got me through more days than one.

    I'll be interested to read your thoughts as you continue to compose/share them.

    ((HUGS)) See you soon!

  2. I am SO bummed I missed Sunday. I was working on a DVD of H&Bs wedding slideshow for the Ns and I was up til 4. I just couldn't get up again at 8, though I tried. Several people tried to conceal the hymn sing from me and then it accidentally came out at small group. It was cute, someone else yelled "we weren't going to tell her that she missed it!" ;)

    Ah, hoping one comes again SOON! If you know of another one, will you give me a heads' up? =)


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