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“Hope deferred makes the heart sick” –Proverbs 13:12
We’ve all felt that gut-wrenching sensation when something we desperately hoped for escapes from our grasp. We ask ourselves what we could have done differently; we ask God why He allowed it to happen. “Am I being punished?” and “Did I miss some type of warning?” are perhaps questions you, too, have asked Him when you’ve experienced hope deferred. These were the cries of my heart one year ago when I was told my first child no longer had a heartbeat.
Far too many people have experienced the pain of losing a child to a miscarriage; I believe this type of loss is especially painful because it’s so clearly antithetical to God’s original design; where new life was just beginning, death creeps in, stealing countless dreams before they’ve even begun to fully take root in our hearts. This was the case for my husband Sam and me as we sat stunned by grief and emptiness. But in our darkest hour, God spoke to us more clearly than we ever could have imagined–and I pray our story will inspire those of you who are struggling to find fresh hope amidst disappointment and despair.
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Soon after learning our son no longer had a heartbeat, God led Sam to Isaiah 55: “‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine’” (v 8). The passage goes on to describe how God uses every aspect of His creation to serve His purposes, including His very Word: “It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.’ But it was a specific line in verse 13 that particularly struck Sam: “Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow.”
(Cypress trees in California)
“What are cypress trees? And why mention them here?” Sam asked. He came to find that in ancient Israel, cypress trees represented healing and eternal life, and it’s also believed in some circles that Jesus’s cross was built from a cypress tree. Though at the time we couldn’t fully comprehend how this line applied to our situation, the thought of a little cypress tree sprouting up through thorns gave us a tiny piece of comfort— and like a seed, God would water that small piece of hope for days to come.
When I called the hospital about my miscarriage, a compassionate receptionist named Tirzah answered the phone. Her name struck me as something I had heard somewhere in the Bible, but at the time I was too tired and overwhelmed to focus on it. However, after that same woman answered my calls three more times that week, the Holy Spirit nudged me to look into her name. I did a Google search for mentions of Tirzah in the Bible, but the first result instead led me to the meaning of the name. My heart leapt as the definition of Tirzah jumped off the screen: “CYPRESS TREE.” What on earth were the chances?! I cried in disbelief, realizing just how close God truly was. But He wasn’t done speaking yet.
Later that day as I relayed this crazy “God wink” to my mom, I heard her gasp over the phone. At the time she was staying with my Nana. Unbeknownst to me, the year before, Nana had visited a vineyard in Italy where she fell in love with a particular tree, so much so that she had decided to bring back some of their seeds to plant in her living room. These seeds had just begun to bloom and, yes, sitting in front of my mom at that very moment were eight baby cypress trees!
(Cypress trees in Tuscany.)
I went on to share the cypress tree story with my Bible study and, unbelievably, a day later I received the following text from my friend Ainsley: “Christen, I arrived in DC last night for work and had to get a COVID test. When I got to the hotel, they told me to go to the Cypress Room.” Another day passed and a second friend from Bible study sent a photo of the road sign signaling the exit to her final destination; the sign said, “Cypress Road.” Two days after that, yet another friend shared that her dinner server had just greeted their party by saying, “My name is Cypress–like the tree!”
As each cypress story came our way, it was as though God was wrapping His arms around both me and Sam, whispering those words from the verse: “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts, and my ways are beyond anything you can imagine.” And though it all still stung, we knew these messages were signals of His deep love for us.
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We shared this story with many of our close friends who always asked what a cypress tree signified. The thing is, it was never so much about the cypress tree—it was about God drawing near to us, going above and beyond to communicate that He is real, He saw and was with us in our pain, and He wouldn’t let us stay in that place forever.
Though we will never fully comprehend here on earth why our first baby had to be taken from us, we know that child is a real person who we will one day be reunited with in Heaven. In the meantime, just as God promised in Isaiah 55, He would not let any aspect of our loss go to waste.
Just two months later, icicles melted off our apartment window on a spring day as I tearfully stared down at two pink lines—our cypress tree promise had arrived. Days after learning the news of this second child, I traveled to California for work and arrived in the middle of the night when it was too dark to see anything. I awoke the next morning, opened the curtains in my hotel room and…I simply laughed. Just outside my window were rows and rows of—you guessed it – cypress trees!
Closeup of cypress tree branch in the hedge in a garden. (iStock)
I’m overjoyed to share that on January 4th, almost exactly one year after the loss of our first son, I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy. Sam chose the name Zeke, which means “God strengthens.”
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If you are in a place of hopelessness, my prayer is that you will be open to hear from God through promises in His Word and confirmations He so abundantly offers to those in mourning. One Word from Him can truly change everything.
“Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest” (Psalm 126:5-6).