This is What it Means to be Held

held cd+

Burying my precious two-month-old baby was devastating. I had no idea how to cope with his sudden unexpected death. True, Paul had been born with a heart problem, but he had survived the critical surgery at birth and was thriving. He’d come home from the hospital at three weeks old, and after a slow start, began gaining weight.

With his winsome smile, easy disposition, and mop of curly dark hair, he delighted us all. He was healthy and beautiful. Even the physician filling in for Paul’s regular cardiologist was so impressed with his progress that he impulsively eliminated most of his heart medications. Paul didn’t need them anymore. He was fine. At first, I was encouraged by the good news. But two days later, Paul was dead.

A doctor’s foolish mistake took my baby’s life. I struggled to accept what had happened. As I watched them lower Paul’s tiny casket, I thought this was the end of my dreams for his life. Nothing good could come from his pointless death.

But God in His wisdom knew differently. He uses everything in our lives as we submit to Him. He can turn the broken and marred and ugly into something beautiful. And He did that with Paul’s death.

My dear friend Christa penned the song “Held” and it begins with the story of Paul. The opening lyrics are raw:

“Two months is too little, they let him go. They had no sudden healing. To think that Providence would take a child from his mother while she prays is appalling.”

The chorus provides the response,

“This is what it means to be held, how it feels when the sacred is torn from your life, and you survive. This is what it is to be loved and to know that the promise was, when everything fell, we’d be held.”

The words of the chorus echo my experience. God holds us in our pain. That is how I survived.

“Held” is a compelling song. Natalie Grant recorded it. Numerous awards followed. But its power hit home on a rainy afternoon when I wondered if any good comes out of suffering. Or at least my suffering.

It had been an impossible day and I was feeling sorry for myself, running behind on errands because of the stormy weather. Nothing ever went my way, I reasoned, and this was another entry in a long list of grievances about my circumstances.

Partially drenched, I ducked into a bagel shop to grab a quick lunch. It wasn’t busy, but the guy making my sandwich seemed interminably slow. Couldn’t he go a little faster, I wondered, as I sighed impatiently. He was almost finished, just tearing the final leaf of lettuce, when “Held” came on the radio. As I heard the familiar chords, I felt my tension and irritation roll away. Thankful for the delay, I smiled and leaned against the counter to enjoy the moment, unhurried. Something healing had come out of my brokenness, and it was still healing me.

Lost in my thoughts, I didn’t notice that the young man making my sandwich had stopped. When I looked up, I saw he was crying. Our eyes met and he apologetically mumbled, “I’m sorry. Are you in a hurry? Do you mind if I stop for a minute and listen to this song? You see, my mom died a few months ago, and this song is the only thing that got me through. It has meant so much to my whole family.”

I cringed at my prior impatience. Pulling myself together, I nodded and whispered, “Please do. Take as much time as you want. I love this song too.”

Time stopped as this stranger and I shared a sacred moment together. I stood in silence as he took in the song, mouthing the familiar words, as I recited them in my head. When the song was over, tears were streaming down my face as well. Tears of hope. And redemption.

I knew that the song had touched thousands. But I’d never seen it firsthand. Never witnessed its impact. Never seen its power.

I’ll never forget that day. Seeing purpose in my suffering was more redemptive than I ever imagined. Though it didn’t take away the pain, it did take away its sharp sting. Knowing that God was using my loss made it easier to endure. Seeing the way it changed someone else changed me. It brought meaning to what had felt meaningless.

None of my other trials have been memorialized with a song, but God has brought meaning to them all. Every time I share about a tender loss in my life, it makes my burden a little lighter. I walk away feeling encouraged, knowing God is using me.

Sometimes I shy away from sharing. I don’t want to relive the agony. It’s easier to stay on the surface with struggling people. It’s neater. Less painful. But ironically, when I stay on the surface, talking about light and trivial subjects, I feel heavier. My burden increases.

At the same time, when I am willing to shoulder another’s burden, my own load lightens. Perhaps it’s because Jesus is carrying both of us. So when I meet someone who is in the midst of a storm I’ve weathered, I need to be vulnerable. To initiate the conversation. To share my experiences and listen to theirs.

I can offer hope. Show them that God is sufficient. Offer evidence that they will heal, survive and even thrive. I hear others asking the same questions I did: Will I make it through? Will the aching ever stop? Will I laugh again?

The Lord has held me in my grief and comforted me through all my trials. And because of His tender care, I am able to encourage others who are suffering. And when I do, I myself am healed. I get stronger. I gain courage. I feel joy again.

  • March 27, 2014 - 1:26 pm

    Chelsesa Patterson - Vaneetha,

    Thank you so much for sharing your heart, and how the Lord has used this song. I wept as I read your precious words. May the Lord richly give of Himself to you. Your story deeply impacted me, and I have shared it with other that I know are going through difficulties.

    Chelsea PattersonReplyCancel

    • March 27, 2014 - 4:02 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Chelsea, for your sweet words. So glad the Lord is using this to minister to others.ReplyCancel

  • March 27, 2014 - 2:08 pm

    Frank U - Though it seems that on occasion the Spirit will take my pen, i do not consider writing my forte. Often i find myself in a prayer that results in manna-not-meat, longing for real connection.
    The lion’s share of my comment (still hungry,hungry lion is he) i sent through the mail link.
    Thank God, Thank you
    Blessings dear sister,

    • March 27, 2014 - 4:03 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you for writing, Frank. So glad this was a blessing to you.ReplyCancel

  • March 27, 2014 - 10:10 pm

    Unknown - Thank you so much for sharing this. I’ll be praying for you, no person should have to expierence their child dying. This song has helped me through so much as well.ReplyCancel

    • March 28, 2014 - 9:56 am

      Vaneetha - Thank you for writing! Blessed that this song has ministered to you in your struggles.ReplyCancel

  • March 27, 2014 - 10:16 pm

    Lynn - It is amazing how God uses our pain to bless the lives of others, so that “not a single tear is wasted” as Sheila Walsh likes to say! I’m glad that God gave you a glimpse of how he is using your story through this song. It has touched thousands, providing them comfort when they were hurting the most. My twin and I were two of those people who heard Natalie Grant sing it at a Women of Faith conference. The lyrics so described how God carried us through a season of surgeries for a rare medical condition, and then the loss of our mom to cancer, that we titled the book about it, Held by God. As with you, we’ve never understood the reasons for our suffering, but one day you will be overwhelmed when Jesus shows you all the people in heaven whose lives were impacted by your story. Lori and I will be right up front!ReplyCancel

    • March 28, 2014 - 9:55 am

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Lynn, for your encouragement. Your book sounds wonderful- I love the title! Its humbling the way God uses all of our losses to minister to others- what a blessing to see the way He uses everything!ReplyCancel

      • March 29, 2014 - 1:21 am

        Lynn - Thanks Vaneetha! If you send me your address, we’ll be happy to mail you a copy of our book!ReplyCancel

  • March 27, 2014 - 11:42 pm

    Ro elliott - I have loved that song “Held” …I discovered Christa just a few years ago and found out she wrote it… Now it is sweet to hear the story behind this most powerful song. So sorry for you pain but I am so glad you knew you were held.ReplyCancel

    • March 28, 2014 - 9:52 am

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Ro. What a blessing that we are all held by Jesus!ReplyCancel

  • March 27, 2014 - 11:45 pm

    Natalee - I love that song and I listen to it and think of our son that was taken from us much too early. I have been trying to get connected with any women who have had multiple miscarriages and early infant deaths that are now content or moving forward without children. I got married to my first and only husband when I was 36. At 38, I had an early miscarriage. In 2010 we gave birth to our son who only lived 10 minutes and finally in 2012 I found myself pregnant again with my due date on my father’s birthday. It seemed that God was doing something different this time. We really thought that this time everything was going be healthy and good. At our 10 week appointment and my husbands first opportunity to hear the heart beat, there wasn’t one. We were crushed. My husband and I are now 45 and 47 and have decided that for whatever reason, God just doesn’t want us to have babies . I am too old for invitro and we don’t have the income to adopt and not sure if we even want to anymore. I called Focus on the Family and the only resource they had was a book called “God, Why Can’t I Have A Baby?’ Have you heard of it? Please advise if you have any resources. Thank you and God Bless you 🙂ReplyCancel

    • March 28, 2014 - 9:51 am

      Vaneetha - Natalee- I’m so sorry for all your losses. Thankful that Jesus is holding you, (and me) now. I don’t know of any other resources on that specific topic, but Joni Eareckson Tada has amazing books on leaning on God in suffering through other types of loss. Prayed for you, dear sister.ReplyCancel

    • March 28, 2014 - 2:57 pm

      Jean - Hello Vaneetha and Natalee,

      (Vaneetha, I have written you elsewhere that recounts in greater detail my response to your entries. :))

      Natalee, I am sorry to hear of all your losses. May our Lord comfort and encourage you with the truth, as Vaneetha so beautifully conveyed, that none of the losses experienced in this life is meaningless (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

      I concur with Vaneetha that Joni Eareckson Tada is an excellent source, a woman acquainted with suffering and pain yet vibrant in her joy in and relationship with God.

      I do have a lady who comes to mind who has had specific experience with losing her babies to a rare genetic disease. Her name is Nancy Guthrie. She is now a biblical teacher, biblical counselor, author and speaker. She specifically wrote about the loss of her first infant, Hope, in the book, “Holding on to Hope.” Here is a link listing her biography and all her books: And this is from her website:

      I hope this little bit of info helps. Nancy’s devotional book, “One Year Book of Hope” incredibly blessed my friends who lost their mother to cancer recently. May God point you to the right resources He has for you.ReplyCancel

      • March 28, 2014 - 3:37 pm

        Vaneetha - Jean-
        Thank you so much for that thoughtful response. How could I forget Nancy Guthrie? I love both Holding on to Hope and Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow- they have both ministered to me profoundly. Thank you for that reminder!ReplyCancel

  • March 28, 2014 - 5:06 pm

    Melissa - Vaneetha,

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your son. 3 years ago my husband and I had a son who was born premature with multiple birth anomalies. He only lived for 11 short days. I was introduced to “Held” shortly after he passed away and have loved the song ever since. It hit so close to home and felt so familiar. I played the song several times a day and would sing right along with it. It brought me so much comfort and continues to as I still will play it to remember my sweet Gavin and the beautiful love God has for us and comfort God gives us during the most challenging times of our lives.


    • March 28, 2014 - 7:48 pm

      Vaneetha - Melissa-
      I am so sorry for your heartbreaking loss. I’m so thankful that the Lord used Held to minister to you. It has been a huge blessing in my life- and I too play it whenever I miss Paul. We’ll see our baby boys in heaven one day!ReplyCancel

  • March 29, 2014 - 12:45 pm

    Phyllis - Dear Vaneetha, Thank you once again for writing with such clarity on the subject of sorrow and pain. Our second son died suddenly at 2 months of age of an undiagnosisable and untreatable heart problem 32 years ago. We have learned to live with the sorrow, but it never goes away. And due to other complications we were never able to have any more children. We were thankful for our first son and learned to live as a one child family.
    And as others have said here Joni Eareckson Tada’s books are so encouraging. The one that I keep as a reference and re-read often is A Place of Healing, Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty.
    And for Dear Natalee, the book that encouraged my heart when going thru the years of trying for another baby was: Childless is not Less by Vicky Love. you can find it on amazon as it was written in 1984. Sincerely hope this helps you in some small way.
    sincerely Phyllis.ReplyCancel

    • March 31, 2014 - 10:35 am

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Phyllis, for writing. I am so sorry about losing your precious son at two months old. Thank you so much for your book recommendation and your encouraging words. And I love that Joni book too!ReplyCancel

  • February 24, 2015 - 11:47 pm

    Angela - Thanks for sharing! Going through a trail of loosing a child that I am realizing God is using for His glory. ReplyCancel

  • July 26, 2015 - 10:00 am

    Paige Lee - Held was played during our church service this morning, and it definitely touched many lives including mine. Thank you for sharing your story Vaneetha! God bless!ReplyCancel

    • July 26, 2015 - 4:03 pm

      Vaneetha - Thankful that the Lord continues to use that song!ReplyCancel

      • July 26, 2015 - 9:44 pm

        Paige Lee - Hi Vaneetha! Indeed a privilege for us (in Singapore) to hear about your heart-breaking story, yet encouraging one at the same time. Thanks for sharing this hope in Christ and truly living a life that teaches us what it means to be held. May the Lord continue to always shine His light through you and your wonderful posts! : )

        Paige from SingaporeReplyCancel

  • July 26, 2015 - 10:20 am

    The Christian hope | Getting into God's Word - […] Went to explore further behind the story from the first verse, and found that it’s actually from one of my favourite bloggers whom i follow – Vaneetha. And her reflections can be found here. […]ReplyCancel

  • April 10, 2016 - 9:33 pm

    Nicola Walters - Superpowerful!ReplyCancel

  • June 16, 2016 - 1:51 am

    Gaye - As I read this after once again facing insomnia, I was wondering if in some small way your post might reach those parents who have just had a small one taken from them from the oversight of the Disney people who did not erect a barrier between that small child and that alligator…how does one comfort parents who have experienced this loss…it is unbearable; unthinkable. If I was comforted perhaps they would be as well.
    Your story was indeed fitting just for tonight and perhaps for another night for another who has to face this gut-wrenching loss….we do not understand but God does. Thankful for our heavenly Father’s love and comfort when no one here on earth can do so.
    Thank you I was blessedReplyCancel

  • June 21, 2016 - 1:24 pm

    Olivia Ryan - Vaneetha–

    Wow. I am so sorry. I cannot imagine how you dealt with this loss of your sweet baby boy. My heart hurts just reading this story, but you LIVED it. I am praying for you today. What an immense blessing your words are to women who have faced similar circumstances. I lost our first six biological children through miscarriage, and my heart is to see healing come to other women walking through the same battles.

    This song has been instrumental in my healing as well. It’s amazing how one set of lyrics and one tune can be used in such an amazing, powerful way by a sovereign God. He works the darkest things together for good for those who love Him. His truth has been my anchor through the many storms of life.

    Sending love!ReplyCancel

  • November 17, 2016 - 1:14 pm

    Ndetei - Oh! What a wonderful God we serve! The comfort we have in such moments of grief can only come from one who has already gone ahead of us!…I’ve enjoyed playing the song using my acoustic for years little did I know the story behind it! Christ is our Lord of ALL comfort! Great is His Name…1 Thessalonians 4:13-18!!ReplyCancel

  • January 17, 2017 - 4:52 am

    Jude - Thankyou thankyou thankyou for your blog and your honesty. Today i stumbled upon your blog for the first time and, after years of ups and downs, and being in a down at the moment, this is just what i needed to hear. God bless you sister.ReplyCancel

  • February 15, 2017 - 9:11 pm

    Karen Runkle - What grace to have found you. My heart is overwhelmed to have a connection through that song. It was such an anchor during a loss of my own.
    Surely as the Lord lives this very day, You are His beloved and the apple of His eye. Praying in the name of Jesus for You. Thank you for your light in this world.ReplyCancel

    • February 15, 2017 - 9:40 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you so much, Karen! So glad the song ministered to you!ReplyCancel

  • March 12, 2017 - 6:54 pm

    Julie - I found your blog after reading an article on the loneliness of suffering on desiringgod. Thank you for writing. It’s been just over 3 months since my husband and 2 of our 4 kids died in a plane crash. You articulate so well what runs through my muddled brain. Thank you for your story and for the reminder, again, to press into Jesus, the man of sorrows who is acquainted with grief. He will hold me, even when I so long to be held by and hold the ones who are gone. And while it seems like a small consolation sometimes, He will use this to comfort others and to bring glory.
    I think that comment was a compilation of thoughts from 3 things I just read, but thank you is the bottom line.ReplyCancel

    • March 12, 2017 - 8:28 pm

      Vaneetha - Oh Julie. I am so sorry. I cannot imagine how hard that was – and IS- to lose half your family.

      You have such courage and faith to even see that God will use this to comfort others and to bring him glory. Of course, that is true, but I can usually only say that in retrospect. It takes me a while.

      I’m so glad and grateful that you found my posts helpful. I am praying as I write this that God will comfort you, hold you, and give you strength as you continue to walk this difficult path with your children. God is certainly being glorified through your life and your testimony, Julie. You have encouraged me so much today!ReplyCancel

  • June 22, 2017 - 4:50 pm

    Is There Anything I Can Depend On? » Vaneetha Rendall - […] Our infant son Paul’s death was a huge shock, as my long-held assumption that my family would somehow be protected from disaster was shattered. Well-meaning people kept assuring me when Paul’s heart condition was discovered during my pregnancy that nothing bad would happen if I trusted God and prayed fervently. It all depended on my faith. So I prayed and trusted and begged God to give me the faith I needed. […]ReplyCancel

  • July 1, 2017 - 4:10 pm

    Debbie Brown - I lost 2 daughters at the hands of others and 2 babies that died at birth and without God’s grace and support I would have lost my mind and would not have gone on. “Held” came out when my dad died and my mom found it to be a good comfort. Thank you for sharing your story. My last daughter just died 4 months ago. It has been very hard! My daughters were 22 and 32 and left 5 children behind. I am sure you hear a lot of sad stories. I wonder if anyone ask you how you are doing. If you like I am asking. I hope you are doing well. Grieving is a constant process that is non-ending but just becomes more enduring. It is true what was once said that what does not kill you makes you stronger at least for me. I believe through all the pain and loss I have become a very strong person and strong woman. Thank you again for letting the public into your life and sharing your story. Debra BrownReplyCancel

    • July 6, 2017 - 11:43 am

      Vaneetha - Oh Debbie – I cannot imagine how hard it must be to have lost four children. It’s amazing that you even get out of bed and could write your message to me. I’m praying as I write this that God himself would comfort you with his love and would show you that you will never walk alone. And that he would comfort your precious grandchildren who have lost their mother. I don’t even pretend to understand all the suffering in this world but I am so glad that God does. Thank you for writing.ReplyCancel

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