I was pregnant with my third baby. Surprised in the middle of the night with a positive test, I woke my husband, and we were up the rest of the night talking it through. It was difficult and scary.
You see, we were in a season of intense hardship, both in our professional and personal lives. We had left a ministry job on the East Coast without a plan after a period of dark spiritual abuse. It was extreme and shook our faith in God, the church, and in other Christians; and we were in a low place. Our lowest place. Frankly, we felt as if we never wanted to do ministry in a traditional sense again and doubted the calling that had guided us for so long. Without unpacking the entire saga, we were completely defeated and discouraged.
In the period of unknowing, we stayed with family for a time with our two young boys, ages 4 and 1 1/2. As if this wasn’t hard enough, it was in my hometown where everyone knew me; and I felt humiliated at the seeming failure of my life. I felt like I was in a fishbowl and the world was mocking me. I mean, people in my stage of life were buying houses, taking beach vacations with their kids, and getting job promotions.
Us? We were gathering the scattered pieces of our life and trying to make sense of what had happened and now trying to figure out a way out of the pit.
I took a job teaching private voice at the local high school part-time, and my husband took a part-time youth pastor job at a church with 100 people. Part-time, ya’ll. He supplemented with odd jobs, like a freelance sound engineer and mowing lawns. Then a positive pregnancy test?
I felt irresponsible and foolish. I mean, what business did we have having another baby in our current situation? I remember telling myself I would keep it a secret until we got some things figured out, or at least until I started showing, and by then we surely would be in a better spot.
That morning after taking the test, I went out to the kitchen where my mom was eating breakfast. I was shaken and so badly wanted to tell her what I had just found out, but I also felt nervous, so I hesitated. Before I knew it, she turned to me and said, “Rachel, I had a dream last night that you were pregnant!”
Can you imagine my shock? How in the world?
I immediately began to weep as I said through broken speech, “Mom, I just took a test in the night and I am pregnant!” She got teary, and we both stood in amazement, blown away that the Holy Spirit told her in advance of me telling her. I still get teary today as I recall this, it was so profound. The Lord had gone ahead of me, celebrating this new life and calling it blessed. I was tempted to feel ashamed, then this encounter was such an encouragement to me and helped pull me out of the shame.
I’m reminded of Joseph when an angel appeared to him in a dream and said:
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
Matthew 1:20 (NIV)
The angel encouraged Joseph to see things through the eyes of heaven and not through an earthly lens. Where shame and fear could have attached itself to Joseph, the encouragement of God changed everything! This reassurance established the response that Joseph had toward Mary in the face of overwhelming circumstances.
I called my sister after a few days of processing my pregnancy, and the very first thing she said to me was, “I believe this baby is a sign of God’s faithfulness to you guys!” She explained that she trusted He was already ahead of us, ready to provide everything we needed for our family.
And she was right. By the time our youngest son was born, God had provided for us every step of the way and in ways we couldn’t have in our own strength. The encouragement of the Lord through my mom and sister and others in this time brought so much comfort and a perspective shift to my heart. I saw His goodness over and over!
As I think back through my life, I have seen Him show up in the midst of my seeming trials! So many times where I said “no way!” He made a way! A life spent with Jesus is a life full of encouraging stories and remembrances that He will do it again!
Do you need encouragement? Let me remind you…
“I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all of my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant and their faces will never be ashamed...
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!”
Psalm 34:4-5 and 8 (NKJV)
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”
Romans 8:28 (ESV)
“When I thought, ‘My foot slips,’ your steadfast love, O Lord, helped me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”
Psalm 94:18-19 (ESV)
Loved ones, we all need encouragement. When life is pressing in, an encouraging word can course-correct our hearts. It can reframe a situtation, it can establish a better response to our challenging circumstances and reveal His goodness! Encouragement from friends and family is needed, but even more so, the encouragement of the Lord is essential and is readily available to us in scripture and in time spent seeking Him through prayer and worship.