My wife and I have recently announced that we are expecting twins. Over the past few weeks, a vast flood of emotions has surged into our hearts. We have traveled the peaks of immense joy and journeyed through the valleys of daunting uncertainty. But through it all, God has taught us what it means to lift our heads and live in the humility of expectant hope in the things to come.
It has startled some that we would make our announcement while Emily is still in the first trimester. I understand their concern. Statistically, the chances of miscarriage decrease moving into the second trimester. There is a chance that the twins we have announced to the world do not endure into the world. If God would so will, we will be left to make another announcement—one of loss and tragedy, of unrealized potential and what will never be—and such a cup of affliction would surely have a tinge of embarrassment.
However well intentioned, there are three errors in thinking that it is best to delay any real rejoicing in new life until there is statistically substantiated grounds for doing so. First, living according to and orienting one’s life around statistics, including timing the announcement of new life, is contrary to the Christian ethic that is informed by the sure and certain hope that Christ will soon come again to mend all that is broken. Secondly, a desire for some sense of certainty—whether that your children will endure in utero or that you secure the raise you were promised or that the test results come back clean—is a manifestation of self-idolatry that distrusts God and promotes a disillusioned view of reality that claims you actually have control of your life. Thirdly, thinking it is best to keep the news of new life a secret until a statistically safe time undermines the reality of our unity with one another in Christ. We must dismantle these falsehoods if we want to live together in the humility of expectant hope in God.
The first falsehood is that statistics offer certainty. However, if we govern our lives by statistics, we will always be left fearful. Statistics can never and will never put to rest the fears that haunt us. Even if the chances of our twins dying in the womb decrease 30% in one week when Emily enters the second trimester, there still remains a chance they will never take a breath in this world. To be so consumed by such statistics proves to be a blatant disregard for the universal reality that our unborn twins, our 15 month old daughter, my wife and I will die. We all must die. It is the judgement we must endure for our transgressions against the infinitely holy God. Whether in utero, as a result of complications during childbirth, by pediatric cancer, in a car accident at 16, in a drive-by shooting, by a heart attack, or at ripe old age—we all will and must die. We diminish the reality of death by pretending statistics insulate us from its summons. Death is not governed by mere statistics, and we as Christians should be most acquainted with this reality because we claim to know Christ, the only One who justly could escape death yet endured it so that we could live though we die by inheriting the promise of His resurrection. The Son of God, who by His divine nature (statistically) could not die, took on flesh that could die though His life in the flesh warranted that He not, died in the place of those in the flesh that can, should and (statistically) will die. Christ has absolved for us the law of death and initiated the law of resurrection. So therefore, neither life nor death for the Christian is to be governed by statistics, but by the assurance of obtaining the everlasting life that was purchased for us. It is this hope that stills and calms all fears and dispels the veil of darkness and uncertainty clouding the future to reveal the presence of a sovereign and gracious God. For the promised presence of God we cannot be too expectant.
The second falsehood is that we can enjoy a more enduring certainty by becoming the determiners of our own fates. We are deceived into thinking all we need is more information or more control and we will steer our ship into the calmer waters of a better country. This was the fatal flaw of our first parents, Adam and Eve. They, like we, were uncertain of their place as creature and distrusting of the Creator. As Lecrae rhymes, “I was created by God, but I don’t want to be like Him, I want to be Him—the Jack Sparrow of my Caribbean.” It is the ancient lie of the serpent that we can gain the certainty we desire by assuming control of our lives. The narrative of Genesis 3 takes this even further and proclaims that not only are we incapable of assuming control of our own destinies, any attempts to do so utterly destroy us because we were made to live in humble dependence under the gracious rule and good provision of our King and Father. This is why Jesus says:
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:22-32, ESV
If living in humble dependance upon God expels fear, worry and anxiousness, the presence of fear, worry and anxiousness indicates a misplaced dependence upon self. Our predisposition to worry is evidence of our predisposition to idolize, trust and love ourselves over and against the God who delights to open to us His eternal kingdom. Yet if the Spirit has given us ears to hear Jesus’ words, we will find the comfort we seek in attempting to assume control of lives only by yielding to Him who orchestrates the movement of galaxies and molecules for His glory and our good. The secret to certainty is humility, not arrogance.
The third falsehood is that it is better to endure any possible tragedy in the confines of individualism than in the open air of community. Such thinking disregards the reality that in Christ we belong to and exist for one another. Because our lives have been so intrinsically woven together, we are called to not only rejoice with those who rejoice but to weep with those who weep. Your joy is my joy and your sorrow is my sorrow and vice versa. But how are you to own and endure the sorrow of a miscarriage of which you are unaware? How are we to walk in the reality of our belonging to one another if I merely masquerade and do not permit you to enter into the brokenness of my life? It is the desolate places in my life that are most desperate to be refreshed by the gospel you minister to me, and it is in the seasons and places of suffering that the glories of the gospel shine most radiant. Therefore, for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of one another, we must live out the reality that we no longer belong to ourselves but to one another—in joys and sorrows alike.
We are to live expectantly knowing that in Christ, God has opened for us a future teeming and overflowing with joys and pleasures indescribable and incomparable. We are to live humbly remembering the sovereignty and goodness of our King and Father which He wields to ensure our good. We are to live together walking out the reality that in Christ we belong to one another. In this way, we can offer a biblical prognosis of the depravity of this life and the despair of this world while at the same time offering the biblical remedy for it. So we are not carried away from the reality of suffering in this world by living in a fairytale future. We actually enter into the reality of suffering in this world because that is where Christ Himself has gone and now calls us as heralds of His gospel. But we are also not overcome and undone by the reality of suffering in this world. We are always humbly expecting by God’s grace to enter at last into the future—whether the birth of twins or marriage or any other new season of life but ultimately and supremely the future that Christ has opened for us.