21. Why does God allow miscarriages, spontaneous abortions and still births?

Our First Child

I’ll never forget our first ultrasound. My wife had (finally) gotten pregnant and we were expecting to get the baby’s first picture to celebrate with our friends and family. But the woman performing the ultrasound wasn’t celebrating, in fact she spoke very little the entire time. She just stared at the monitor and later referred us back to our doctor. Perhaps, we thought, the baby was still too small to be photographed.

Back at the doctor’s office, the doctor’s assistant showed us to a waiting room and quietly said, “I’m so sorry.” Sorry? Sorry for what? Our wait time wasn’t that long.

But it was becoming obvious. Our doctor tried to soften the blow by telling us that the baby was still very small, just a few cells, really. He also said it was very common among first pregnancies. Our baby had died. It died before it even had a chance to live. But… why?

Neither of us knew exactly how to feel. Sure, we were sad and disappointed, but should we mourn the loss of this life? Was it even a life at all? Our church certainly made a big deal over how life begins at conception, but they weren’t treating this like a “real” death. No one suggested we name the child, or have a funeral, or buy a teeny casket and a tiny burial plot in memory of our lost embryo. Apparently, it was not that big of a deal.

Is not even the womb sacred?    

Since then, I’ve learned that as many as half of all fertilized eggs will spontaneously abort. Why did God allow the death of our child, and billions more like it? Especially when he is said to be playing such an intimate in the development of new life.

Genesis 1:28 instructs us to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” As we obey God’s command, it seems self-defeating that he should run interference on fulfilling his own desire.

Jeremiah 1:5 and Psalm 139:13 also tell us that it is God who forms children in the womb: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” How is it that God can fail at something he has begun to build? Especially something he has ordained?

And Exodus 21:22-25 teaches us the value of the life God is forming: “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman… you are to take life for life.” If the unborn life is this important, why doesn’t God protect it? Why would He order us not to harm unborn children, yet allow other forces to interfere with them?

So God instructs us to multiply, He forms a child in the womb, inserts a spirit, expresses the utmost concern for its survival, and then allows it to die. Why?

It’s as if God said, “I’m torn. On the one hand, I want humans to be fruitful and multiply, and value their unborn. But on the other hand, I don’t want them to be too fruitful, and I don’t really care to protect their unborn.” What the hell is going on?

Hell is for Children?

A common defense is to reason that God does not kill these children, but “allows” Satan to kill them. Miscarriages, then, are like any other form of suffering, God isn’t responsible, He just allows it. So while God is knitting the child together in the womb, Satan comes along and says, “Can I fuck with this one?” And God says yes, because we are evil.

But what does Satan gain from killing the unborn? If you’re Christian, you probably believe that dead babies get a free ticket to heaven, so killing them just means Satan loses his chance to steal their soul. What’s the point of sending them straight to heaven? Unless — perish the thought — all these children are actually sent to hell.

So unless unborn children go to hell, neither God nor Satan seem to benefit from killing them. It’s a lose/lose! If neither benefit, why allow it to happen?

The only other person who might somehow benefit is the parent(s). But some women don’t even realize they were pregnant, so how do they benefit? And for most parents, it’s just an annoying speed bump on the way to having other children.

Is God sparing us from something worse?

Another defense is to reason that maybe God is being merciful by not allowing a defective baby to continue. But if God’s forming it, why is it defective? And if He is all-knowing, why bother to form a baby you know you’re going to toss out? (Does He even bother to give it a soul, because that seems a bit wasteful.) And why do so many other defective babies make it to term before dying? Why didn’t God show them mercy?

Or perhaps miscarriages are God’s way of telling us we’re not yet ready for a child. But again, why allow them to be conceived at all? I have a cousin who seems to lose every other child, but God isn’t preventing her from having children, just every other child. Is He telling her she’s only ready for every other child??

Or maybe it’s God’s way of saying, “Abortion is okay! Really, look at me, I throw away tons of these things. Kill as many as you want, you can just make more!”

My wife and I eventually went on to have two wonderful children, whom I would cherish with or without the miscarriage experience.

Conclusion

Are invisible forces of good and evil locked in an epic battle over embryos, or does nature just make mistakes?

If God is responsible for making this life, I would ask Him if he has a purpose for it. If so, why not let it live? If not, why make it at all? I see no reason why an intelligent being would want to make half-baked, dead-end creation that’s never going to see the light of day.

Perhaps a better question is, “Why does nature allow miscarriages, spontaneous abortions and still births?” If nature is responsible, I can understand her lack of foresight. She’s not being willfully malicious, she’s just a biological machine, stuck in a endless, mindless loop of creation. She is no more concerned about making a successful life than the moon is concerned about making a successful orbit. If one of her copies fails, she scraps it and starts over. And as long as she is successful from time to time, life continues. Nature is imperfect, unfeeling, mechanical, indifferent… but also amazing.

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24 Responses to 21. Why does God allow miscarriages, spontaneous abortions and still births?

  1. more likely, ancient people had no clue about early miscarriages and so they just were never considered pregnancies

    when you look at the historical time period – the technology, the scientific understanding (which is to say, very limited) – then the text makes sense – it’s just not based in reality.

    there is much in religion that makes no sense – for example, if you really beleive that there’s a heaven, why grieve when someone dies at all? Shouldn’t you be happy they are in heaven and you’ll get to see them again?

    religion might provide some comfort, but I have more often seen it’s inadequacy to really deal with the real emotions and in situations like yours – when the religion says it’s meaning is one way – but the reality is far different.

    that said,

    I am sorry for your loss – because it is a real loss of a potential future that might have been.

    • Thanks, but no worries. Yes, it did have a potential future, but then so does every unfertilized egg and wasted sperm.

      I think the REAL loss comes from looking forward to something that doesn’t materialize. It’s like thinking you have a winning lottery ticket, only to find out you don’t. The money was never going to be yours, but you still lose that promise of something good you thought might happen.

      But I think you’re right in saying that religion isn’t inadequate to deal with every situation. In my case, religion taught me that I’d lost something substantial, so I should probably grieve like it. But if the actual truth was that I’d only lost a small blob of cells that never even knew it existed, then that ain’t so bad.

      It’s interesting how Islam deals with miscarriage, saying that a spirit isn’t inserted until 120 days after conception. That doesn’t solve the problem entirely, but the idea probably provides more comfort to couples who lose a child early (which is the majority of cases).

  2. rautakyy says:

    When I was just a kid the son of my elder sister died. He was a small baby and the doctors could not explain why life abandoned him. My family is atheist so it was explained to me that he no longer is and that it is OK to mourn him. And so we did, and then moved on in our lives.

    According to christian theology he went to hell, because he was not babtised. So, to me christianity is not about a beatifull fairytale, but about terrible injustice. Regardless of who was responsible for him not being babtised, it can not be his fault. He should not be punished. He could not even walk let alone be capable of anything evil or even selfish. Now, to me that is all a fable, but it terrifies me, that there are basicly ordinary people who are willing to accept this sort of injustice and ready to claim a god who sets such rules to the universe to be a moral entity.

    I see no difference in that sort of thinking to acceptance of genoside, slavery, torture, or the holocaust. It is just basicly ordinary people who are willing to accept these atrocities if they are sanctioned by high enough authority. Like there was any sort of magical trick that would turn evil into good.

  3. From what I was taught growing up Christian, there was some age of accountability (though the actual age is debated). If you died before that age, you get a free pass to heaven. Though… logistically… I always wondered why parents didn’t just kill their children before they reached this age. This way, the children are guaranteed to avoid an eternity in hell (which is where the Bible says the majority of us are going). Afterwards, the parents could just repent. I’ve even read that some people have used this Biblical loophole to facilitate a kind of state-assisted suicide (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State-assisted_suicide).

    As a Christian, I saw this kind of hell as morally acceptable. I thought “God sacrificed his only son, so if you don’t accept His sacrifice then it’s your own fault.” But now I seriously question that logic. How could it ever be moral and ethical to torture someone for eternity for ANY crime? It’s excessive. God, having known that even one human would end up in hell, should’ve never created them in the first place. Also, God shouldn’t do it simply because it’s not something He would want done to Himself (duh). He taught us the “golden rule,” why doesn’t He live by it?

    I don’t know why I couldn’t see that. It’s a total “might makes right” argument; just because God is bigger than us it’s okay if He tortures His creation. It’s like suggesting that if mankind ever figured out how to create a completely new form of (feeling) life, it would be morally acceptable for us to torture it. It’s NOT okay, our empathetic nature tells us it’s not okay. So if God exists, I can only hope He’s more reasonable and understanding than the Bible makes Him out to be.

    “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” ~ Steven Weinberg

  4. Sam Rudin says:

    The most important thing to remember about the so-called Christian idea that “life begins at conception” is that this was never historically part of Christian doctrine. If it had been, then funerals for miscarriages would be common — indeed, they would be required.

    What that doctrine did say, however, was that sex was wrong, sex was bad, sex was sinful – especially for women. Of course, the church knew very well that people were going to have sex anyway, no matter what the doctrine said, but that was perfect. That made everyone “sinners” and everyone was now dependent on the church to somehow make them right with God. Thus did the church gain all the power that it lusted for.

    The threat of unwanted pregnancy was a strong reason for people, and especially women, to abstain. (Much stronger in fact, than the mere threat of sinning against God.) So anything that helped lessen that threat — contraception, abortion – was also a sin. The only reason that modern fundamentalists (wow, there’s an oxymoron) have latched on to this idea of life beginning at conceptionis that they were losing the war on sexual attitudes and behavior.

    So because reactionary Christians were desperate to re-criminalize sexual behavior, they came up with the brilliant idea that “abortion is murder”. For anyone who buys that idea, sex must once again be fraught with real danger.

    Unfortunately, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and other defenders of women’s reproductive rights have allowed these right-wingers to define the rhetorical battlefield.

    “Abortion is Murder!” they cry. “it’s a woman’s right to choose” is the response. “But it’s murder, bloody murder!” “Well, you know, it’s a woman’s right to choose.”

    This is a losing argument, and the Fundamentalists and their Catholic allies (ain’t that an historical oddity) have been gaining ground for 30 years. The only proper response to “abortion is murder” is “NO, it’s not murder, an early or mid-term fetus is not a baby, and your religious forebears never thought it was, which is why there have never been funerals for miscarriages!”

  5. sunykluckow says:

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  6. Marissa says:

    I came across this blog tonight while searching for answers for why God allows miscarriage. I am Christian and have suffered two in the last 4 months, found out my husband was having an affair, and was diagnosed with a fairly common degenerative back disease, non the less still another lightening bolt from the man above-or at least that is what it is starting to feel like. I wonder sometimes why? Why do I have to suffer so many things? Am I going to be better off because of it? Am I going to be blessed with His plan for me that will far outway the pain and betrayal I have recently felt in the last 8 months? And I flip flop bc I know their are people out there who suffer much worse than I. So I am certainly not complaining, however, I find myself asking why quite a bit bc truth is I’m a good person. I deserve the faithful husband, the healthy body of a 24 year old and a healthy womb. So why? Why do women who deserve far less acquire life within their drug using bodies and why are they “blessed” when they don’t even want a baby? Why can my husband have an affair and I am told to show grace and move forward? It’s hard and I’m just ranting at this point but I found this interesting and I like that it justified many of my feelings. Thank you

    • Hi Marissa,

      First of all, I really am sorry for all the crap you’ve been going through. Sure, there are probably people who are worse off than you, but it doesn’t change the fact that it still sucks.

      And ya, I’m sure there are plenty of Christian websites out there that are willing to reassure grieving people that it’s all part of God’s divine plan, or that God will reward them handsomely for all their hardships, but I guess this isn’t really one of those sites. I’m more interested in questioning the reality of that plan. Like you say, it doesn’t really make sense that God should allow a crack whore to conceive while a loving family goes without a child. Or for God to force one person to endure a life of hardship and suffering while he blesses another, and then rewards them both with same heaven (one of those people didn’t really get a square deal).

      One of the difficult things about being Christian is trying to understand all these “whys.” If God DOESN’T exist, then the answer comes easy: life sometimes sucks because it’s not part of a plan. Nature can’t think, so she doesn’t care if an evil man prospers while an innocent child contracts malaria and dies. But GOD can think, and there should be some rhyme and reason to a thinking God’s creation. I guess what I’m saying is, it’s often easier to say, “All this random suffering exists because there is no plan,” than it is to say, “All this random suffering exists because God has some unknown plan and will reconcile all this unfairness later.”

      While nature can’t think, we humans can, and we should all be held accountable for our actions to others — this includes husbands. But there are shades of gray to every situation, so I won’t pretend to know the details and what you should do.

      Anyway… even though life does sometimes suck, I like to think of these hardships as the random price we must all pay for getting to experience life. For some, it’s more expensive than for others. But even bad experiences can later help to make the good times seem even better.

      Thanks for writing. :-)

      • Hannah M says:

        You have asked the big question! “Why does God do _______” Well, as it says in another part of the Bible “My ways are higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” My suggestion is that the first thing you should do in order to understand “why” is to admit that He is God, and you are man, and learn to trust Him.

    • Anonymous says:

      I recently started reading the Purpose Driven Life, if you have not read it or haven’t recently it might help with some of this. I found this blog entry researching what Christians think about miscarriages because I too had one. It’s very hard to understand why these things would happen especially if you believe every person has a purpose. What was the purpose of the life that didn’t happen? Anyway, I am sorry for everything you are going through and hope that you find some peace in it all. May you be blessed.

  7. Alexis says:

    That was a great, thought-provoking analysis to read. Thank you for posting your story and a collection of logical, biblical arguments that go along with such a philosophical question :)

  8. Hannah M says:

    I know this is old, but I have to chime in.
    Satan is still after Christians because as Christians we can go on to glorify God through the things we do. If satan beats us down enough, takes enough things from us, steals from us, etc, then we could become paralyzed to the point where we aren’t bring glory to God, or doing His purpose, or spreading His good news or descipling others! That’s why satan is still after us. So I think that he does take away life from us. I

    • Howdy Hannah, thanks for writing.

      If we go ahead and assume that Satan exists (and that he isn’t just a character who was invented a few thousand years ago), and he is indeed after Christians in order to discourage them from spreading God’s word, then I have to wonder why he bothers to attack Christians and non-Christians equally. One would think he’d leave non-believers alone, since they are already doing what he wants. (Why give them a reason to cry out to God?)

      Moreover, if ONLY Christians suffered miscarriages, we might be able to objectively determine that becoming saved leads to miscarriages, but that’s not the case. What you’re saying may be possible, but it’s impossible tell the difference between God/Satan causing miscarriages, and them doing nothing at all.

      Interestingly, we HAVE been able to objectively identify many other environmental factors that can lead to birth defects and miscarriages, but so far, not of those point to Christianity (otherwise church doors would need to be marked with a warning label). As far as we can objectively determine, miscarriages are caused by natural causes, not supernatural causes.

      On a macabre but interesting side-note, my wife just attended a baby-shower this evening for a Christian woman who is pregnant with twins; one of the twins has died in utero, but must still be carried to term. Hard to reckon what Satan/God was thinking, this is both a blessing and a curse!

      Have a good one!
      500Q

  9. Mother of an Angel. says:

    I’m sorry. I’m sorry for your lack of knowledge. You must not know a lot about the bible. Maybe not have the faith in god that i do. Or the closeness i have to him. But to take verses about unborn childeren, childeren who have died way to early, or that we should be fruitful and multiply. And then back it up with maybe he made a mistake and said we shouldnt be too fruitful.

    God takes these angels for a way bigger purpose. You really think satan has anything to do with this? Satan had nothing to do with it. To me there are no questions. God took me little angel from me. He planned her. Yes. He let me feel the joy of having her. Yes. He took her back to heaven. Yes.

    She didnt die. Her soul is still there just like every babies soul who is miscarried. The one that dont physically make it to this earth. Just like when we die. Only our body is dead. We’re still here.

    You are pretty much saying what is the purpose of the baby if it doesnt come to earth. Why does he let other babies with special super powers come to earth.

    It’s to build his army of angels. To help him in his work. So what he took them 65 years to early. Innocence and ignorance are forgiven. You seriously think he’d let that little angel go to Hell.

    That baby, like every other miscarried baby, are way better off in heaven than on this earth. And for the babies on this earth. They’re here to spread his word. To work for him on earth. To gather every soul and let them accept God into their lives. Because there is no greater thing than to be his child and serve him.

    Everyone is on earth For him. He created us. Gave us life. And by appreciating the life he gives and takes away. By celebrating this loss as joy for there early departure just for the fact that they get to see him earliet. Feel his warmth and love. Understand that everything does happen for a reason. You just have to open your eyes enough to find it.

    By the way. I’m 18. This was my very first child. Will always be my first child. Will always be my first birth. She will always be my little angel. Im proud of her. She is doing something i’ve never done. She is rejoicing in heaven.

    I’m sorry you lost your angel. Just know she/he too is in heaven. Keep peace in your heart with that. I’m sorry the people around you did not see the baby as a real loss. Forgive those who are ignorant of your situation. They don’t know your pain, or your feeling of being stuck. It’s okay to mourn. It was a life cut short. But she/he still grows as a child in heaven. I hope you find your peace.

    • Hi Mother of an Angel,

      I’m sorry about your loss, and mine. I know this is a very sensitive topic, and it’s certainly not my desire to berate anyone who has lost a child. I understand that faith in an afterlife gives people hope, and allows us to cope with loss. If that idea helps you, then more power to you (and I would advise you to stop reading here). But please, don’t write me and others off as ignorant just because we disagree with you.

      For me personally, I need to try and remove myself from the emotion of the situation and ask, “Does this really make sense?” If it does, great! If not, I want to question the information I’ve been given.

      Does it really seem logical that God would want to create a body just to dispose of it? Just to obtain another angel? This seems wasteful, especially when you consider that he could’ve just as easily created an angel in heaven, and spared us all the grief.

      If God is going to create people to spread his word, and to give them a choice, that’s fine. And if he’s going to create angels in heaven who never see earth, that’s fine too! But he shouldn’t confuse the two needs. He shouldn’t begin preparing someone for life on earth, and then decide what he actually wanted was an angel heaven. If he wanted them in heaven, he should’ve created them there in the first place.

      500Q

      • Spirit Junkie says:

        According to the bible, humans and angels are two separate species. Therefore, when a human dies, it would NOT become an angel. My father is a pastor with a doctorate in theology. I am not a Christian, but please believe, I know the bible backwards and forwards.

  10. me says:

    I am truly sorry for the loss you have felt. I have lost my oldest son myself. I have questioned many things and I truly believe my son of 20 years was a gift from God. I can tell you no matter how long you are allowed with your child it is never enough. However, because I have had the experience of having and loosing a child I have changed. Has your loss changed you in any way? Maybe instead of asking why so much, give it time, the experience may be to help someone else or in the grand picture there may be an understandable reason that has not been revealed yet. The “whys” are tough but if you keep looking for the silver lining it will show. We can not understand something fully with only half the story. Please know I honestly feel a parents pain and death of any kind when looked at through earthly eyes will never fully be understood.

  11. kandise says:

    I had a dream that I was in the park playing with 2 girls and for some reason I felt like I knew these girls. I was playing with them and Iove them so much. I remember God saying that these were my sisters. But when I woke up I told my friend about the dream and I told her I never had any sisters that past. Then I remember that my mom had a miscarriage 5 years ago and an abortion like 10 years ago. And the two girls were like 5 and 10 yrs old. Then I remembered a semon by jessie duplantis talking about his experience to heaven. You should look it up on you tube. I believed that your children is in heaven. Just used that experience as a testimony. God Bless you <3

    • Hi kandise,

      Thank you for your testimony, I do hope you get to see your sisters again. I (personally) don’t put much stock in the afterlife, but it would be nice if things worked out that way.

      I once had a dream I drank from a dirty goldfish bowl. I then went for a drive, and by the end of the drive my car had (somehow) turned into a mountain bike. I don’t think there was any special significance or meaning to that dream (though I’m sure I could make one up if I tried hard enough), I just think my mind was sifting through what it knew while my consciousness was shut down. Often times I can connect my dreams to recent events (such as a movie I just watched), and can figure out what influenced them. (I’d always found our dirty goldfish bowl pretty disgusting, so I’m sure my brain was just screwing with me.)

      But I do find it interesting that some animals (like horses and dogs) also have dreams. I can’t imagine what they dream about, but our brains do not appear to be the only ones that tell us stories while we sleep.

      Sweet dreams!
      500Q

  12. reader says:

    I would really like to talk to you about how you handle conversations with your kids regarding religious belief and with your wife regarding these topics. I’m in the same boat as you with a devout husband and younger kids, but some additional complications. Could we chat over email?

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