Having a child die is always going to be awful, devastating and difficult. But I wonder if there's an added dimension of difficulty when faith is involved.
You see, I'm a Christian. I fully believe that Jesus is God, that He died so that all the wrong things we do won't have to separate us from God, and that He rose again to prove that death no longer has power. I also believe that God can and does perform miracles. Once, the doctors were convinced I had appendicitis, and it was just a matter of waiting a couple of hours for a blood test result to come back before they performed surgery on me. During those hours, my mum prayed for me. When we went back to get the results, I had no pain at all. The doctor almost didn't recognise me because I was smiling and laughing, as opposed to doubled over and crying in pain. Miracle? I believe so (and, for the record, so did the doctor).
I grew up with flat feet and needed orthotics so that my ankles, knees and back wouldn't hurt when I ran. But around eight years ago at church, a friend's mum prayed for me, and arches developed in my feet. Before that prayer, I had never had arches. After that prayer, I've not need orthotics or had a problem with pain while running. Miracle? I believe so.
I could go on to list other miracles that I have either seen or experienced, but I won't. The point of me sharing the two miracles above is that I wanted to show that God can and does perform miracles today.
So why didn't God step in and restart Ariella's heart? Why, at the time when I felt most desperate for a miracle, did God not perform one?
I don't know.
It could be tempting to say that since God didn't answer my most desperate prayer, and the desperate prayers of the family and friends who knew, that I'm going to give up on Him. At first glance, it looks like He failed me, so I could very well give up on Him and few people would judge me for that. But this scenario just reminds me of the time I was in a nasty car accident. About 5 minutes before the crash, a group of us had prayed and asked for God's protection as we traveled. For a few weeks after the crash, I struggled with the fact that God hadn't answered that prayer - how could we have been in a horrible crash if God was protecting us? But then I remembered something. When I arrived at the hospital, the nurses told me that they had seen photos of the crash and were expecting someone with much greater injuries than my slightly cut little toe and bruised hip.
Even though we had crashed, God kept me safe within that crash.
By all accounts, I should have had worse injuries. But I didn't. My lack of injuries was laughable (and indeed, a paramedic did laugh when I showed him that the only visible injury I had was a tiny cut on my little toe). God had protected me in an awful situation.
The thing is that people will fail you and they will fail me. But God won't. I said earlier that I don't know why God didn't restart her heart. I completely believe that He could have, and yet He didn't. And do you know what?
I am ok with not knowing why.
Some people may believe it is foolish of me to continue trusting in a God who didn't answer the most desperate prayer I've ever prayed. But all I can think of is this:
If I turned away from God, where else would I go?
The Bible records a story of Jesus asking His disciples if they were going to walk away, just as much of the crowd had after Jesus had said some things that were difficult for them to hear. But one of the disciples, Simon Peter, responds by saying "Lord, to whom shall we go?" That is how I feel - life has been difficult this year, but if I was to turn away and leave God, where would I go? To whom would I go?
Sometimes life doesn't go to plan. Sometimes awful things happen, and it's so easy to question God. You may have been in a car accident, you may have been hurt by family, you may have even had a child die. And I am so, so sorry that you've been through pain. If I could sit with you over a coffee (or hot chocolate) and just be with you in your pain, I would. But I can't, because even if time allowed, many of you don't even live near me. That's why I pray for you. Because when I can't be there for you, God is. And when I don't have the capacity to comfort you, God does.
And that's why I am still believing and trusting God, even after Ariella's death. After all, where else would I go?