Two years ago this very day, my wife gave birth to a baby who had died in utero. The baby, who we named Hope, was only fourteen weeks. The doctors and nurses cleaned her up and allowed us to spend some time with her, saying our goodbyes. We cried and prayed over her. And though we had left the hospital on three other occasions carrying a newborn, this time we left empty-handed and empty-hearted.
The next year was particularly difficult for my wife Karlene. She asked many tough questions to which I didn’t have any answers. I wanted to solve her hurt, but nothing I could say or do could bring about relief. Indeed I had questions of my own that I buried deep down in the depths of my soul.
Ten months after the miscarriage, I made a trek to Colorado for a retreat at John Eldridge’s “Wild at Heart” men’s ministry. While there, I spent a lot of alone time praying and asking God to open my heart and heal the wounds of my past. In dramatic fashion, the Lord gave me stunning visions of His glory and spoke to my hurts and insecurities.
On one afternoon, while I was deep in prayer and meditation on the hillside nestled in the Rocky Mountains, the Lord gave me a vision. It is a vision I have only shared with my wife up until this point. In this vision, I was standing at the top of a waterfall looking down. Jesus was gently whispering, “Run strong, Justin.” I knew I was meant to jump, but I didn’t have the courage. Suddenly, Jesus ran up from behind me and grabbed me around the chest and jumped off the ledge with me. Instead of falling to the depths of the water, we soared like an eagle while He held me tightly.
Down the windy river we flew until we ended up gently stopping on a river bank some distance from the waterfall. Surrounding me was a lush, green country hillside. Beside me, a calm blue stream flowed ever so slowly. Where I stood, the river had narrowed to a mere small stream only a few feet wide. With a small leap, I could have easily crossed it.
Suddenly, Jesus was standing on the other side of the river from me. I looked at Him, and then I looked at His side. There standing beside Him on His left, holding His hand, stood a little girl. She was a young child – maybe eight or nine. She had long straight, dark hair with strands that blew gently in the breeze. Her face was soft, beautiful, and innocent.
The moment I laid eyes on her, I knew it was her. It was my Hope. Even 14 months later, I can still picture her – that moment I saw her standing with Jesus.
In my vision, tears welled up in my eyes. I wanted to hold her; I wanted to ask Jesus all sorts of questions. I couldn’t muster the words. It was as if seeing them brought this amazing sense of peace, in spite of all the unanswered questions and the deep pain. Then, as if her and Jesus’ voice mended together, they said, “I’m waiting for you. Run strong.” Jesus turned, and without any instruction, Hope turned and followed Him.” The two moved together so in-sync, it was as if Hope had been with Him for a lifetime.
As Jesus and Hope faded away in the distance, I noticed that standing beside me was my wife and three children. My hands were around their shoulders. My wife was leaning against my chest – her arms wrapped around my torso. Behind us stood a tiny cottage house.
I slowly opened my eyes, wishing I could stay in this vision forever, hoping that I would never lose the memory of seeing my little girl.
It’s been two years now since we said our final goodbyes to Hope. It’s been over a year since the Lord gave me that vision of her. I struggle to share this very intimate vision publicly. I fear that people will pass this very real and significant experience off as nonsense. It’s a vision I still don’t totally understand. Perhaps one day the nuances will become something symbolically significant – I don’t know. Perhaps someone will explain to me what this vision means better than what I can understand myself.
In the past two years, we’ve been able to minister to those who have also suffered the painful loss of a child. I grieve for those who hurt so intensely. What I discovered that day in Colorado is that healing does not come with answers. Peace and healing came that day through a miraculous encounter with the Prince of Peace – the Great Shalom. Only He has the amazing ability to tame the troubled heart and make wild the lifeless one. In seeing Him, I was given a “peace that surpasses understanding.” It is a peace not dependent on having questions answered but through encountering a Savior and Friend who holds my heart deep within His.