The Pain of Miscarriage

Chuck holding Theodore "God's Gift" -- a blessed grandchild who came after a devastating miscarriage. 


Galatians 4:19 My little children, for whom I am again in the pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20 I wish I were present with you now and could change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.


Paul’s deep love for his spiritual children in Galatia becomes evident in this passage. With very pastoral tones his heart grieves that these children have not pursued their very basic need, and that is for Christ to be formed in them. All else becomes a distraction to the desire that they become Christlike disciples. His heart aches at the loss of his children, those that had already been conceived but failed to thrive. Chrysostom refers to the loss of these children as spiritual miscarriages, and those for whom Paul is again, willing to travail in labor. Paul is perplexed by the Galatians’ attitude and is at a loss for words to understand what they have done; the result is a broken heart. 


Many churches have cute catchphrases and mission statements about making disciples. Every follower of Jesus Christ has probably been encouraged to be a disciple-maker and yet, are we as serious as Paul was? The passion for him was as great as adding children to the family. I’m just in the midst of a family holiday, hanging out with both our daughters and their families, and it’s made me think about the passion I have for my children and my grandchildren, and whether I have that same desire for spiritual children. 

Paul’s spiritual children were his pride and joy, but those who lost their way brought him great pain. As Chrysostom calls them miscarriages, I think about the depth of that pain. Nineteen years ago I had a miscarriage, and to this day I think about the little life that I never got to hold in my hands. We never knew the sex, but somehow we’ve always thought of that baby as our little boy. There are days when I think about him and wonder what he would be like and what he would be doing. I don’t know if it’s possible to describe the sense of loss after a miscarriage, but it’s a pain deep down in your soul. It’s not something that you want to share with everyone because it feels so very personal. But it’s a love for a little person that never gets to blossom into fulfillment and so you suffer the pain of that loss. 

Paul uses this imagery for those whom he was discipling. He wanted Christ to be formed in the Galatians — and this above everything else. And so today, we are to be passionate spiritual parents, lovingly raising our spiritual children, until Christ is formed in them. The hard part is that, just like Paul, we will experience spiritual miscarriages. 

I don’t know that laypeople understand the pain that a minister goes through when they choose to leave a church. So often people say things like, “It’s not about you, I just need to be somewhere that fits me where I am right now.” What they don’t understand is that a true pastor loves his/her congregants like spiritual children. To see them leave is not to just let someone go somewhere else but it’s like a parent being told, “It’s not about you, it’s just that the parents down the street look like they can provide for me in a better way. I hope your feelings aren’t hurt, but I’ll be staying with the neighbors.” Part of the pain is the investment that has been made — in the pain of spiritual delivery, and the loss of that spiritual child is often crushing. 

Then there is the spiritual child who has been fed and nurtured, but walks away entirely from the faith. It’s just plain painful! Sometimes we don’t want to put ourselves out there again for fear of the pain. Maybe that was part of Paul’s feeling of being perplexed. Over and over again he was willing to go out on a limb for his spiritual children, and over and again he was in deep pain. But Paul refused to give up. His love for his spiritual children meant that he would do whatever it would take to see Christ formed in them. 

All of this begs us to consider how passionate we are about making disciples. That’s what Jesus commanded us to do. For Paul, this became the driving force of his entire life. He knew it would cause pain, but he felt it was worth it in the end. For any couple who has suffered through the pain of miscarriage but has eventually brought a baby into the world, you know how much it’s worth it to keep trying. That’s how Paul felt about his spiritual children. With a mother’s heart we are to plunge into the world of discipleship, loving and nurturing our spiritual children until Christ is formed in them. 


Lord, far too often I want to protect my heart from pain. May I join Paul and be willing to suffer the pain of making Christlike disciples. Amen.  


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