Suffering & The Singing Bird

vintage paper art collage paste piece printed greeting card by Denise Fiedler
Artwork by Denise Fiedler

“For the Lord will comfort [her]; He will comfort all her waste places. And He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.” — Isaiah. 51:3

It took one thousand and ninety five days for this day to come. 35 times our little hearts were broken over the longest 3 years of my life, until we weren’t sure how they could be patched over one more time. Every day for one thousand and ninety five long days we tried to coach our little broken hearts to keep trusting the Lord our God, to keep hoping in Him, in His goodness, in His care for us. Even while our aching souls were crying, Abba, do you even see us?

I struggled so hard to understand how the Father who loved me and knew me inside out  could watch while each disappointing day ticked by. The grief was piling up too high to see over. I was slipping, slipping, slipping into an abyss as I lost the security of my birth family to deception and divorce, and extended family closeness in the dysfunctional fall-out, as well as my own personal sense of who I even was upon realizing I’d been lied to my entire life. Then we were suddenly surviving the chaos and trauma of the suicides of my best friend’s husband and then my uncle, and then lost my stalwart grandpa, then my grandma. Then it was my health as I faced two surgeries within a month of each other, one very urgent and rather terrifying, while forced to be separated from my husband, who is my earthly rock, for months on end as we found ourselves fighting a ridiculous visa battle to be allowed to live together in the same country.

It was too much.

Yet somehow, God began to draw to my attention– heavy-lidded attention, clouded over by depression and grief, and the great heartsick of dreams deferred and sacred things smashed– the theme of His light being more powerful than the darkness that threatened to overwhelm…

Especially Psalm 112:4: “When darkness overtakes the godly, light will come bursting in.” 

So I waited for the light to come bursting in. But over time, as more darkness poured in instead, I began to lose hope it would ever come…

Ann Voskamp says that, “suffering is where God gives the most healing intimacy” and I don’t think she’s wrong. But I think we have to attune ourselves to it or we miss it. Sometimes the suffering is so raucous that it’s impossible to hear the whispers of His intimacy calling us to comfort. And I scorned the pain. I felt abandoned by the only One who had ever been truly safe, as it seemed He stood back and watched as every other sense of safety I had known fell away into piles of rubble.

In the midst of those thousand and some days, and, in fact, the trauma started before they did, I could feel the embers growing cold in me. Some days, I seemed to feel Him lean down and blow on them– Thank You, gracious God— and sometimes, the rains of suffering threatened to put them out completely. I grew so dog-tired of all the heartaches, one pounding into the other. And I grew bitter with the sadness as everyone around us was given what we longed for; something that came so naturally to most everyone in the world, sometimes unwanted, unbidden, while we worked so hard, gave up so much, prepared so deeply, and still were left waiting and waiting while hope ran thin, and all the trauma seemed unhealable…

Hold us quiet through the age-long minute
While Thou art silent and the wind is shrill:
Can the boat sink while Thou, dear Lord, are in it;
Can the heart faint that waiteth on Thy will?
— Amy Carmichael

I’d never been so broken, and I despised the suffering. I despised the idea that He was asking it of me. How could He? Didn’t He know my very human little soul couldn’t survive one more thing crumbling to ashes in our lives?

“Why are we afraid of broken things?” Voskamp asks in her book The Broken Way, “I can think of a thousand raw reasons. But touch the broken and the hungry and the hurting and the thirsty and the busted, and you touch a bit of Christ. Why are we afraid of suffering? What if the abundance of communion is only found there in the brokenness of suffering—because suffering is where God lives?”

So, was it all to bring something holy to me? To enter the place where God lives? Was it all somehow working to carve space in me to hold this heady miracle?

I don’t understand. And I didn’t understand, but slowly slowly, oh so slowly, I trusted. I trusted anyway. And it felt like pushing back the darkness every time I chose to trust Him no matter what came crashing down next…

A darling friend going through immense grief of her own gave me a beautiful bird figurine this fall. It spoke to me an old Chinese proverb that had grown very dear to me which says, “Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps the singing bird will come.” The singing bird still hadn’t come, 3 years into the wait. But the green tree– my hope found in trusting the Holy One– that was coming back. That was budding again, finally, and somehow, that was just enough…

We encouraged each other that our singing times were coming, she and I, even as we were honest about how hard it was to trust Him as our worlds burned down around us. “Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song,” He promised as Isaiah 51:3 jumped off the page at me. I can hardly imagine how that could be, Lord, without this desire of our hearts. But I will trust you. I WILL trust you. I will trust You…

And slowly slowly, my prayers changed. I began to ask for more hunger for Him, that I might trust Him enough, despite all the hard things He’d allowed into our lives and the lives of those we love which I couldn’t understand, to want Him more deeply than ANY other desire. And slowly slowly, and then almost suddenly, He granted me that hunger for Himself, and satisfied it, all at once…

And we prayed:

“Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery!
Replace the evil years with good.
Let us, your servants, see you work again;
let our children see your glory.” — Psalm 90:15-16

And then one day, one thousand and ninety five days later, the light did come bursting in…

And with it is coming a new start after a long season of brokenness and sorrow, a new sense of hope, a new family forged in the wreckage of my old one. And all of my heavenly Father’s love made manifest to us in one small, dearly longed-for bundle of joy, hope, and humanity. It’s not the first time He’s sent His love in the form of a little one.

… Our little singing bird is due September 23rd, 2018!!!

“For, behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing [of birds] has come…”
— Song of Songs 2:10


10 thoughts on “Suffering & The Singing Bird

  1. Your beautiful soul is so evident in your writing, Leah. Thank you for sharing your heart and the deeply personal, painful journey which has finally led to this incredible miracle! Praise be to God!

  2. In obedience comes joy Leah. You are reaping that. You are already and will continue to be a remarkable mommy! Blessings and much love to you!

  3. beautiful. your vulnerability and honesty is a blessing to many. so many mirrors to my own journey, thank you Lord for the blessing of this new life, thank you for the blessing of each precious day of this new family. xx

  4. So beautiful and so honest.Your testimony will give strength and encouragement to many.God always does something so precious in our desert times.Please continue to write as the Lord leads you.So looking forward to seeing you little singing bird!Love you Leah Charles and baby

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