“This isn’t going to be pretty, Chelsey. You are going to have a baby today.”

My doctor’s dramatic tone ushered worry and panic into the room. Our overdue baby’s heart rate had dropped to a concerning low, and they thought they would have to get her out asap. The oxygen mask kept me from speaking, but before the terror could overtake me, my eyes met my husbands’.

Peace. Perfect peace.

A supernatural stillness fell over the room. I felt like I should cry or panic or ask a million questions. But instead, I faced a strange out of body experience. Watching the room from above, I knew that despite the panic written on the faces of everyone crowded around my pregnant body, everything would be just fine.

And it was. Ruby’s heart rate suddenly increased, and just as quick as things took a turn for the worse, they took a turn for the better. She was born exactly 12 hours later.

But the next unexpected complications weren’t met with the same peace. After Ruby was born her blood sugar was low—too low. They tried several things to get it up, but her stubborn little body didn’t want to respond.

“She’s going to need an IV.”

They brought my precious, hours old, babe back to me with a needle in her tape-covered head, some of her hair shaved to make the tape stay in place.

It’s not a big deal. Her levels will go up.

But they didn’t, and the concerned face of a nurse told me I should be concerned as well. They were confused, and after another day, decided antibiotics should be given in case of an internal infection.

It’s not a big deal.

But it was. Despite how small this issue looked in comparison to the other million things that could go wrong, in this moment, this situation was terrifying.

The tears came as I watched them begin to pump antibiotics into the dreaded IV. This wasn’t how I expected the day to go. We were supposed to be snuggling our cordless baby, taking a million pictures and preparing to go home. Instead, Ruby was connected to an IV for reasons unknown. That was the worst part—they didn’t know what was going on.

That’s when the unwelcome questions came.

Did I not pray for her enough? What was God punishing us for? What did we do wrong? Had I been ungrateful for her life? Why wasn’t God just fixing this?!

My head was drowning with the most unhealthy questions while my heart tried to rescue my mind with truth. I knew truth. Deep down, I knew all of these questions were incorrect. I hold tight to a theology, a worldview, that preaches against this type of thinking.

It hadn’t been more that 48 hours earlier that I was assuring someone in a hard time with words I now doubted: God doesn’t cause bad things. His will is shalom. He is only good. He doesn’t punish us. 

But in those scary moments when reality met my theology, I was lost in my old way of thinking. In fear I reverted to viewing God more as an angry dictator and less as a loving Father. In fear I longed to place blame and put my finger on a reason for the pain.

Her levels eventually went up after a few days of waiting and praying, and she has been a healthy, happy girl ever since.

My little Rue turns one year old tomorrow.

I wrote the post above a month after Ruby was born, but never finished it. I didn’t know how. I didn’t know how to take all the emotions and truth and lies that were still so fresh and intertwined and turn them into something that made sense or was helpful.

Then, this past Sunday, our pastor shared a message on Job that shed some much needed truth and light on my thinking that got twisted and distorted during those traumatic days after Ruby’s birth.

Job’s story of suffering is not a case study on God’s wrath, but instead a poetic tale of the enemy’s desire to bring ruin and God’s heart for restoration. The story of Job proves that God is not the vengeful puppeteer we tend to peg him as after reading this challenging book.

I remember wanting so badly to believe God was good, but in the middle of the fear and pain, it was much easier to point a finger at God than in faith hold tightly to his goodness. As I re-read this blog post for the first time today, I sobbed, physically experiencing the fear of those first days of her life, and then praising God for this spunky little peanut we get to celebrate tomorrow. Thank you Jesus. I’m thankful that today I can sit here and worship God for his goodness and provision. I also know that life on this side of heaven means there are more challenges are ahead, so I also pray for Spirit to refresh and renew this truth when the doubts come creeping in.

If you are experiencing suffering or pain or fear, I wish I could sit next to you and hold your hand and pray with you. I know now that feeling and trusting God’s goodness in the midst of difficult times is not as simple as it sounds.

Have you ever felt like God is punishing you or bringing about pain for your good? Have you ever doubted God’s goodness, or are you in a season of feeling far from him right now? I strongly encourage you to listen to this sermon from Harvest Vineyard pastor Josh Miller: When we Experience Suffering. Below is one of my favorite quotes from the sermon:

“Jesus refutes this kind of (God is punishing us) theology at every turn in his life and ministry. Jesus is always confronting people who are sick, broken, diseased, blind, demonized, suffering, and NEVER once does he ever so much as suggest that God is doing this to them or that they deserve it. Never once! In fact Jesus interacts with those people and treats them as casualties of war. And what we see in every situation is Jesus showing us a God who is against this. Jesus shows us a God who is not on the side of disease; he is on the side of healing. Jesus shows us a God who is not on the side of death; he is unequivocally on the side of life! Jesus show us a God who is not on the side of injustice; he is on the side of justice! … God’s will is not revealed in the afflictions that Jesus encountered… God’s will is seen in his loving and powerful response in the midst of it and towards those people in these situations.” -Josh Miller