GOOD NEWS RARELY COMES early in the morning—especially in the mission field. Whenever my phone rings after 9 at night and before 7 in the morning, my stomach tightens and I feel a burst of adrenaline course through my body.
I don’t remember exactly when my phone rang, but it is etched in my memory as being 6 in the morning. Anyway, I was not prepared for what I heard.
“Baby Samson is dead,” the caller said in a shaky voice. “We don’t know what happened, but his parents took him to the hospital late last night and he was pronounced dead just a little while ago. We will be getting together with the family in a little bit to make funeral arrangements.”
Baby Samson’s parents were new Adventists. Having been married only a few short years, they had had trouble getting pregnant, which, in the local culture, was considered a bad sign. It was expected that every couple should have a baby within the first year of marriage, but no matter what they tried or which doctors they went to, this couple could not conceive.
Hearing of their trouble—because even private news is everyone’s business in a small village—an older Adventist widow in their village visited them. I didn’t really know much about this grandma except that every Sabbath she would tell me about how God had blessed her that week and how thankful she was for His care. She would smile broadly as she excitedly recounted how God had provided much needed food or the few dollars she owed for her electric bill. Though she could not read, she couldn’t help but ooze the love of Jesus to everyone with whom she talked.
So when she visited the young couple, she told them of how God had been caring for her and how she had learned to trust Him with her needs. She told them remarkable stories of how God had heard the prayers of desperate women in the Bible who had cried for babies, and then she offered to pray for the young couple.
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” Psalm 91:1, 2, NIV
“If you would allow me, I would like to pray for you and ask God to give you a baby. I know that my God can do it! We just need to ask!” Grandma encouraged them, her
voice strong and her face reflecting her deep and unwavering faith.
The young couple agreed, so Grandma prayed. And within a few months, the young woman became pregnant. The young couple was thrilled. Wanting to learn more about the God who had answered Grandma’s prayer, they asked for Bible studies and were soon baptized. Their story impressed their parents and siblings, and soon several of them began attending church. As the young woman’s belly grew, so did the number of family members who studied the Bible along with them.
Then the happy day came when baby Samson was born. Few were happier than Grandma, who had been adopted into the extended family.
Within a couple months of Samson’s birth, the couple’s entire extended family had been baptized and were attending church in the city a half hour away, filling nearly one half of the church building. As their story spread, others in their village began attending church with them. It was a perfectly beautiful story of a church growing organically because of how God had answered and was answering prayers. Until my phone rang.
As the news sunk in, I began to prepare for the several day-long funeral that would begin in a few hours. Funerals are never pleasant, but funerals for children are the worst. Everything about them is wrong. Children are not supposed to die. Parents are not supposed to endure such grief and pain. It just was not fair or right. Why had Samson died? Where was God in all of this? What was the family going to think about God now that the baby was dead? I had to believe that they were praying fervently even as the doctor shook his head and told the parents that there was nothing he could do and that the baby was dead. Now what would happen?
I was a bit surprised at how much I was struggling with this loss. After all, I was a missionary and the wife of a pastor. If anyone could handle this situation, I should have been the most prepared. Yet I felt empty, confused, angry. Why had God allowed baby Samson to die? He was the reason so many of his family had chosen to leave their Buddhism behind, had embraced the Creator God, and were learning to follow His ways. Didn’t God understand that? Didn’t He know that by allowing baby Samson to die, He would completely undo everything He had done so far?
I remember falling to my knees and begging God for answers. I felt that as a missionary I was expected to have an answer. But I was empty. Far from a peace-offering
explanation, all I had were more questions, questions that I was afraid would reveal my own humanness and betray my right to be a missionary. Eventually the jumble of thoughts racing through my head quieted, and I sank into silence. And that was where God met me. It wasn’t an audible voice I heard, but God clearly spoke to me.
“The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” Psalm 147:11, NIV
“Amy,” He said, “I know you don’t understand right now. But someday you will. For now, I just need you to trust Me.”
I suddenly felt a sense of peace wash over me. No longer did I feel the desperate need to have answers for baby Samson’s family or the church. No longer was I angry
that God had let the family down. Instead of emptiness, confusion, and anger, I had a deep and profound sense of peace, and my mental vision was lifted from the pain of
the moment to an eternal perspective that gave me hope because of the promise that one day this will all be made right.
The next couple days we spent at the church supporting the family and grieving together. After the burial, I sat next to the young mother, who was slumped on a pew. She
was clearly exhausted, both physically and mentally. It had been a couple days since she had slept. Her clothes were mismatched, and her hair was pulled back in a messy
ponytail. As her body was again wracked with sobs, I wrapped my arm around her shoulder, pulled her limp body to me, and cried with her.
When her sobs subsided, I shared with her what God had told me. “It’s not for us to understand right now. We are just to trust that God knows what He is doing. One day He
will make this all right.” I spoke softly, not knowing if she could even hear what I was saying, never mind internalize it.
A couple days later we were surprised to see Samson’s father walk into Sabbath School. The pain and grief were still raw and real, but I sensed that he had come because he needed the strength and support from our church family. At the end of Sabbath School he asked if he could share something he had learned.
“We didn’t know what to do. We were full of questions and were confused. Why didn’t God answer our prayers? Why did He allow our baby to die? Did He care about us anymore? Had He forgotten us?” the father explained. “We were so discouraged and felt hopeless. But then God said, ‘I don’t need you to understand right now. I just need you to trust Me. One day I will make this all right.’”
There was not a dry eye in the church, least of all mine. God had used the message that had given me hope to give them hope. And I learned a valuable lesson. Missionaries, pastors’ spouses, pastors—we’re all human just like everyone else, and we often don’t have the answers any more than anyone else does. Yet in our desire to
promote and demonstrate God’s power and love, we put undue pressure on ourselves and may at times play the role of God by trying to provide explanations for things that maybe don’t have answers.
Sometimes our role is to cry and hurt and grieve—and to remind our flock that there is more to the story than what our human eyes can see and that one day all things will be made right. Sometimes He just needs our blind trust.