Confession time: sometimes I miss God’s nudges.
Sometimes I sense the Holy Spirit whispering to me, prompting me to take some kind of action: listen, learn, pray about something, pray about someone, do a specific thing. Sometimes I’m sensitive enough to His voice to follow-through, but other times, in hindsight, I realize I’ve missed the very thing God was asking of me.
Such an occasion happened a couple weeks ago.
I kept having a recurring thought: I should write a blog to share about my experience with infertility. With 5 lively kids in tow, ‘infertility’ is not a word most would think ever applied to our family – but it did, at one time.
That time is unforgettable – it stands as one of the most painful, if not the most painful, seasons of my life. I have buried one child, and lost others during pregnancy, but – I don’t hesitate to say that as far as heartache goes, that of an empty womb deserves distinguished standing.
Yet, somehow a hush has settled upon this topic. Yes, it’s a struggle that’s often hidden, unspoken. But, it’s far from uncommon. One in 6, if not more, couples face barrenness at one point or another. Whether it be primary infertility – waiting to conceive a first child, or secondary – issues arising when trying to conceive subsequent children, it’s a plight people all around us are facing. Right now. This very moment, there’s a good chance someone I know, someone you know is weeping about this very thing. Yet, I have never heard a single sermon specifically preached on the subject. And, while I applaud, celebrate and contribute to the conversations about miscarriage and stillbirth, there seems to be less conversation happening about barren couples and the tremendous faith wrestling this entails. Empty arms, an empty cradle, and shattered hopes result from miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss. But, for one whose heart aches to be a mother, they too experience the empty arms and empty cradles, perhaps temporarily, or perhaps permanently. So much of the fear and anguish surrounding this struggle is the uncertainty of it all. Will I ever bear children? All too often, they wrestle this match in secrecy.
In Christian circles, we love to talk about motherhood. We celebrate mothers – everywhere. Motherhood is a wonderful thing and ought to be celebrated. There are seemingly endless resources to support the journey of motherhood, and so there should be. But, there is appallingly less that speaks right to the heart of the barren woman. Those desperate to become a mother, can sometimes feel invisible. Forsaken. Forgotten – by people, and even by God.
During my own season of infertility, I searched for something to encourage me, and ended up feeling frustrated and more alone than before. I was desperate to keep the flame of hope alive – but often the ‘supportive’ posts and forums fed my doubts instead of hopes.
Speaking from my own experience, the agony of infertility, although different from other forms of grief, is not less. Typically, when we think of someone’s loss, we acknowledge what they had, what someone physically had, which is no longer. Infertility is entirely different. It’s the vision of what someone most hopes for that’s left in limbo. They endure a grieving and longing for what they fear deep down, may never be. When there is no outwardly visible loss, there is no public acknowledgement or understanding. There’s no event of commemoration, no memorial service or burial, no significant date to remember. Nothing to outwardly broadcast the burden and inspire the community to offer support, and to help build faith and hope.
The weight of emptiness can be numbingly heavy. Carrying this weight alone – even more so.
So a couple weeks ago, I had the recurring thought to write a blog about this topic, but I am ashamed to say – I didn’t. I brushed this though aside. I’m writing about our story of infertility in my book, so there’s no need to share about it now, I reasoned.
But then, a message arrived – from a beautiful young woman I know who was brave enough to share with me about a struggle she’s facing: she is carrying the burden of infertility. And it’s hard.
She reached out to ask if there was anything I could share that may help.
My heart was pierced when I read her message. I knew then and there that God had truly been nudging me to share about this, and now, seeing her words on my screen, I was certain of at least one person He wanted to encourage. I knew God wanted her to know that although she felt hopelessness and pain – that He sees her, exactly where she’s at. And, that in her barrenness, God is still able to do anything.
Through private messaging, in a ‘plan B’ sort of situation, I was able to share some things with this sweet friend of mine. But, I am now conscious that ‘Plan A’ would have been to share back when the Holy Spirit had first prompted me. I wish I had not missed that nudge. While I can’t go back in time and share when I was initially led to – I can share something now, knowing that it’s a message others may need to hear.
So, here goes…
This message’s audience is somewhat specific. It is for women of the Christian faith – for those who love God and seek His purposes in their lives – who desperately long to be mothers, but who are barren. It is also for the body of Christian believers who should be standing alongside these women, and their families in love and prayer.
Why am I addressing such a specific audience? Well, when it comes to this topic, I am not qualified to address those outside our faith in a meaningful way. Infertility is a journey I walked as a Christian; the truths of my faith are tied too inextricably to my experience, and to the content of this message to fairly speak to every woman who faces infertility. I don’t presume my message will meet the needs of every believer – but I offer it in case it can be of any comfort. I also add one caveat – and it’s a big one. For those reading this who may not belong to the family of Christian believers – please know: God sees you fully, and loves you completely. You are welcome in this family, and should you feel God prompting you to turn to Him and join us in faith, please reach to me, or to other believers for support in that decision. By all means, keep reading. God’s hope is available to all.
For many women, motherhood is more than something we hope for. It’s not a wishy-washy desire, like the kind of car we’d prefer to drive, or a vacation we’d like to take one day. Instead, for many, it’s a sacred dream, long-held and nurtured inside us since childhood. For many of us, we’ve always known we want to be mothers, never imagining a picture of our future where that wouldn’t be the case. For many women of faith, motherhood is also calling – a large part of why we feel God’s put us here on earth. What happens when someone’s very sense of purpose is called to question?
A delay in seeing this longing fulfilled is nothing short of agonizing. The thought that it may never be fulfilled can be too much to bear. The Bible says, “hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12). When it comes to a barren womb, this sickness of heart can become an incredible test of faith. In my own barrenness, I was consumed with longing for this ‘tree of life’ – quite literally, for our family tree to continue – through me.
For those who love Christ, who trust Him, who long to serve Him, the confusion surrounding infertility is enormous. I love you Lord, why wouldn’t you want me to raise children? Have I done something wrong? Is this punishment? Are you mad at me?
These pervasive and intrusive thoughts sting even more, when it seems as though everyone around us can fall pregnant so easily. Some things can seem so unfair. There is evidence everywhere, that many take fertility for granted – drug addicted newborns, unwanted babies, neglected children. Meanwhile, so many women of faith wear down their carpets on bended knees, offering prayer after prayer, anointed by tears that just won’t seem to stop. I can’t even type this right now without crying, as I remember my own tears during that season.
Matthew 5:45 says that God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”; by looking around us, the same can evidently be said of how and where God chooses to plant new life. The Bible tells us that God’s blessings and provisions are not reserved exclusively for people of faith, nor are the hardships of life set aside for the wicked. Even the most devoted followers of Jesus will experience suffering.
When cycle after cycle of faithful prayer, the highest of hopes, and the most diligent of human efforts end, yet again, with disappointment, it can be hard to keep bitter thoughts at bay.
In my own experience, infertility was a roller coaster of emotions. Not the least of my struggles, was jealousy. I became riddled with an envy so deep it was frightening. With every swollen belly or newborn baby I saw, my soul cried out: when will it be my turn? I was still happy, very much so, for my friends – but I wanted what they had – so badly it hurt. I coveted a child of my own.
My envy was consuming – an all-consuming monster that was eating at me from the inside out. My insides quite literally hurt – this horrific knot of pain that continually resurfaced, often without warning. This was a very real problem for me.
I felt so isolated. It was one thing to suffer infertility in secrecy. From a faith standpoint, it was another thing altogether to wrestle with these horrible thoughts. What Christian woman would think these things? How do I seek out support with my faith, when I’m so ashamed of myself? Sometimes, when I dared to seek out support, the most well-meaning of people offered quips of advice, often without the empathy to buffer the soundbites of truth, or frame them in context.
At least you have Jesus. He’s all you really need.
You have so many other things to be grateful for.
If you stop thinking about it, it will just happen.
You can always adopt. (*See my note at the end about adoption)
Or – the worst: My friend’s second cousin’s neighbour adopted a baby and then right after they got pregnant with a child of their own.(*Again, read my note to understand why this irked so much).
The reality was, these off-the-cuff, seemingly thoughtless remarks hurt – a lot. To protect my heart, I became very careful who I shared my heart with. In fear, I cut myself off from some support I really did need.
At the lowest point in my struggle, I had a day where I felt like I couldn’t contain my emotions anymore.
It was a Sunday, and Kevin and I were expected to be somewhere – an occasion where we both knew another pregnancy announcement was coming. Leading up to that day, I felt a tension rising inside of me. I felt like I was going to erupt with emotions and I didn’t think I had any ability to filter them out. I couldn’t stand the thought of letting other people see any hint of the things I felt inside. Yet, in the ugliness of it all, I felt God urging me to be honest with him. The truth is, God sees everything, and knows everything. Yet still, so often I try to hide myself from Him.
I stayed home that afternoon. It was pure selfishness on my part. Of all the emotions I’d felt in life, this was one I couldn’t conceal. I wanted a baby, and I didn’t want an audience for yet another announcement.
This day ended up being a critical day in my faith walk.
After church, Kevin dropped me off at home, and carried on himself to the place we were supposed to be heading together that day. I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. I walked into my bedroom, and saw a book set out on my dresser. To be honest, I knew very little about this book, having grabbed it at a store-closing sale, alongside a huge stack of other books that had been priced for blowout. On this particular day, the book’s title jumped out at me. It was called, ‘God’s Eye View: Worshiping Your way to a Higher Perspective’, by Tommy Tenney. Here I was focusing entirely on myself, and not on God. And how exactly was that working out for me? Terribly. I was a mess. It seemed obvious that I needed to see things from beyond my own way of thinking, but I was stuck.
As I stared at the words on the book cover, I was reminded of something the Bible mentions: putting on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness (Isaiah 61:3). One of my former pastors often spoke of ‘moving in the opposite spirit’: when we feel reluctance or resistance to doing what we know we should, we need to move in the opposite direction to our inclinations – intentionally. On this day, it felt like I was leaning into gale force winds. Even the thought of worshiping felt like a physical struggle. Yet, I picked up this book, wondering if it could help me get beyond my insular trap of self-pity. It was the smallest act of faith I could muster.
Time and time again as I walk with God – the pattern becomes clearer. In these moments where it seems hardest to put one foot in front of the next in faith, is when God swoops in to carry me. This is the best way to describe what happened when I opened this book on that day.
The idea behind this book is that our problems seem insurmountable to us, but that is only because our perspective is limited. Tenney discusses ‘worship’ as a way to allow God to pick us up to a place where we can see things from His view. Our problems diminish as we realize the greatness of God and all that He is. Tenney describes worship as the process of “stretching our arms to the heavens in the universal sign of surrender and desperation” (p.21) and emphasizes that when life brings us to our knees – we can correct our attitude by what he calls, an “altitude adjustment” gaining the higher perspective. In a nutshell, this was precisely the message I needed.
The message became very personal when Tenney used pregnancy as an analogy to depict our times of waiting on God. I had not prepared myself in the slightest for the possibility that the book would touch on this topic. Tenney said, “everyone wants a dynamic testimony, but no one wants to experience the dynamic test it takes to produce such a testimony” (p.20). He then referred to waiting on God as ‘divine pregnancy’. The imagery from this analogy was powerful. I understood the longing to have a baby. It was the deepest desire of my heart. It literally made my heart ache. It never escaped my mind. It completely consumed my thoughts. Then I imagined, what if I were actually pregnant? How much greater would my sense of anticipation be? And here, Tenney was not even talking about physical pregnancy. He was talking metaphorically about an anticipation of God’s presence. He was talking about waiting on God.
This struck a chord in me. Do I long for God in this way? If I profess to live for Christ, then ultimately, I long for His will to be done, and not mine. I realized my need to anticipate God and His purposes, whatever they may be, with the same kind of fervor as pregnancy (even longing to become pregnant) – but also, with the patience it takes to complete a pregnancy.
The second chapter, entitled, “The Virtue of Zero”, may as well have been written for me, in my exact scenario. Tenney talked about the honour given to those who “come to [God] with the emptiest and hungriest of hearts” (p. 23). He says, “God loves to start God sized projects using ‘human zeros’” (p.26). To us, these human zeros look “null and void” (p. 27), but “God prefers to invest His glory into the impossible and improbable…when the impossible becomes possible and the improbable becomes fact through the hand of divinity, humans must humbly admit, ‘God did that’” (p.28).
Tenney said that when we’re at the end of ourselves – at ground zero – we’re actually in a great place. He said, God “expects you to plant your life, your gift, and your inadequacy in the soil of faith and die so He can live through you. He loves you, but He is looking beyond you to the harvest He will produce through you. Don’t bury the investment God has made in you, no matter how small it is. He is trying to use your emptiness to openly display His fullness…nothing is far more significant to God than something” (p.30).
On this day, as I read these very words, I could not have felt more like a ‘human zero’. For my entire life I felt like I had been holding the divine purpose of motherhood, sacredly carved out within me – an empty place aching to be fulfilled. I also felt like the fulness of time for it to take hold in my life was so near, that everything within me was groaning for it to come forth. Reading these words on this day awoke something inside me. It awoke the perspective to realize that in all my time of longing, God was working out a testimony in my life – and one way or another, whether I ever bore children or not, the outcome would reveal His glory.
“God’s Eye View” is not a book about infertility, but it’s one I would recommend to any Christian wrestling with this longing. I cannot offer a more complete review here, and I want to be mindful not to share beyond fair use of his quotations – but the book spoke to my heart in a way that reinstalled a deep sense of faith in God’s timing, and His purpose. It changed my perspective entirely. Instead of seeing my barrenness as something to resent, I saw it as an opportunity for God to move. The empty place in my heart, in my family, within me – could never be filled by my own plans. It could only to be filled by God.
I will stop my personal story here, because I’ll share all the details in my book, including the very strange and altogether unlike me thing I did that day, and the incredible, even miraculous way in which our family began. God did an amazing thing for us. And, this should be no surprise, because the Bible shows so many beautiful examples of how God looked upon those with closed wombs with compassion, and with purpose.
These examples include some of God’s people who experienced infertility – people whose lives were so significant to God’s story that we still tell read and speak about them thousands of years later.
Abram was 99 years old when the Lord appeared to him and told him, not just that he would become a father, but that he would become the father of many nations. God renamed him Abraham, literally meaning “father of many” and instructed him to call his wife Sarah, instead of Sarai. He said, “I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations, kings of people will come from her” (Genesis 17:16). This was astonishing news! Well past their childbearing years through which Sarai had been barren. Yet God assured him that they would have a son who was to be named, Isaac. In Genesis 21, we read that exactly this came to pass, as God had promised.
The Bible explains that God blessed Isaac (Genesis 25:11). Yet like his own parents, he and his wife Rebekah suffered infertility. “Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant” – with twins! (Genesis 25:21). Esau was born first, then Jacob.
Jacob, though the younger of Isaac’s twins was the one to receive Jacob’s blessing and become ruler of the tribe, just as God had foretold Rebekah: “the older will serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23). Although usurping Esau’s birthright involved deception, God promised His blessing to Jacob as well. Despite this, Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel was barren. This family had quite the pattern of infertility! Rachel’s sister Leah, whom Jacob had been tricked into marrying and did not love, had conceived several children. Rachel was jealous of her sister, and desperate to bear children with Jacob. After a lot of drama, and plenty of scheming, God answered Rachel’s prayers. “God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and opened her womb. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son…” (Genesis 30:22). Joseph was their first born, and Rebecca later gave birth to another son, Benjamin, although she died during his birth.
In Judges 13, we read the story of a man named Manoah, who “had a wife who was sterile and remained childless” (v. 2). Then, an angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, “You are sterile and childless, but you are going to conceive and have a son” (v. 3). The angel gave specific instructions for how to care for herself, and her son – including the instruction to set him apart from birth, dedicated to God. The angel of the Lord said that their child “will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines” (v. 5), who had been ruling over Israel for forty years. Manoah’s wife bore a son, named Samson and the Lord blessed him.
Hannah’s barrenness is a heart wrenching story in the Bible. In 1 Samuel 1, we see that her womb was closed, and she was constantly provoked by her rivals. Her barrenness continued for years, but she patiently persisted in faith. “In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord. And she made a vow, saying “O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life…”(1 Samuel 10-11a). On one day, the priest, Eli saw her praying so fervently that he thought she was drunk. She corrected him, saying she was “pouring out [her] soul to the Lord” (v. 15). She confessed her “great anguish and grief”. Eli blessed her, saying “Go in peace and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked”(v. 17). The very next morning, Hannah and her husband Elkanah conceived a son. She gave birth to Samuel, before going on to have five other children.
One final example, and it’s also a great one, concerns the priest Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth. “Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. But, they had no children because Elizabeth was barren: and they were both well along in years” (Luke 1:6-7). Clearly, these two, like many of the other Biblical examples, were not barren because of any wrongdoing on their part. On the contrary – they were righteous people of faith. Although they had longed to have children, that was not fulfilled in their fertile years. Yet miraculously, an Angel appeared to Zechariah and told him that Elizabeth, although elderly, would give birth to a son who was to be called “John”. And of course, God’s word was fulfilled.
There are a few things I want to point out from these examples. The first is to reiterate that God’s very own people suffered infertility. Second, in each of the above scenarios, it is clear that God is the one who orchestrated and timed the arrival of the children. We know that all life is gifted by God, and for His purposes, but reviewing these stories reminds me of how intimately God is involved, especially in situations where impossible becomes reality. With God, all things are possible! (Matthew 19:26). Finally, I am fascinated by a common thread amongst these stories. I want to be clear, that in pointing this out, I’m not suggesting some sort of prediction or prescription for how God will work in your life or anyone else’s. I am simply making an observation. In each of the above cases, the children conceived by parents who had persisted in faithfulness and devotion to God, in spite of their infertility – went on to fulfill incredible roles in God’s ultimate plan. Many of the heroes of our faith, from both the Old Testament and New, were born to parents who believed at some point, that they may never bear children.
In numerous places within the Bible, God is referred to as ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’. This is no small commemoration of these men. God made a covenant with Abraham, and it was repeated to the second generation – to Isaac, and the third generation – to Jacob. Not only this, but God later instructed Moses to call the Lord by this name when he addressed the Israelites. God used these three people to identify Himself as the one true God, and to remind His people of His covenant and faithfulness. It’s not often mentioned, but God’s faithfulness here certainly includes the opening of wombs that had once been closed. God did so, because He had a mighty plan for His children, and the everlasting legacy they would leave. In this case – all three generations experienced infertility.
From Jacob, we know that the first son born to Rachel once God opened her womb, was none other than Joseph. Joseph was favoured by his father, and also by God – but led a life of adversity. He was rejected, sold into slavery by his own brothers, falsely accused, but he remained faithful to God. God repeatedly lifted him up to places of influence, and he ultimately saved his people from a great famine.
Manoah’s wife gave birth to Samson. This took place during a time when Israel was enslaved to the Philistines. Samson was no ordinary child. He’d been set apart, even before his conception, for God’s plan. God gifted him with supernatural power and strength. Samson’s life reads like an epic drama – pride, lust, deceit and redemption. Despite his flaws, Samson yields to God’s plans, and ultimately used his strength to defeat the Philistine army, and bring down the temple, crushing himself alongside the Philistine rulers. God used Samson to free the Israelites from oppression.
Hannah, who had persisted in prayer and vowed to give her first son to God’s service, kept her word. Once Samuel had weaned, she presented him to Eli the priest, where he grew up in God’s service. Samuel eventually became the last judge of Israel and a prophet to God’s people. He was devoted to God, and righteous in all his dealings. He also had the honour of anointing King David as king. Samuel’s life was nothing short of remarkable.
And finally, the baby born to Zechariah and Elizabeth – he was none other than John the Baptist. The prophet who came to prepare the way for Jesus!
I don’t know about you, but I get goosebumps when I consider what the Bible would look like without these incredible participants in God’s plan. And to think – there was surely a time where their very own parents wept and wailed at the thought that they would never have any children. In God’s faithfulness, He took the barrenness of these people and brought forth His plan in ways no one could have foreseen. Only God knew what He was doing. Only God saw the big picture all along.
Was it just a coincidence that God used the empty and vacant places in these righteous followers to birth those who He’d use to accomplish His will? I’m not convinced that their infertility is entirely independent from this. What is it about barrenness that touches God’s heart? We’re not explicitly told in the Bible, so I can only consider – but I wonder whether there’s something that moves God’s heart when people persist in faith and hope – regardless of their circumstances.
Remember, God’s own master plan, all along, has been to bring children into His very own family.
No one understands the love and longing for children more than God.
Perhaps, there’s something about the lowliness that results from infertility – the humility – being completely at the end of ourselves, being able to exert no control over our circumstances, entirely dependent upon God. Further, perhaps there is something about reaching this degree of humility and emptiness and placing it all – every single bit of the nothing we have to offer – into God’s hands, and trusting Him. Jesus modeled lowliness. I put forth that the experience of infertility can be a sanctifying journey, shaping us and refining us to reflect God’s beauty and power in ways we may not otherwise have been able to. As Tommy Tenney said, “nothing is far more significant to God than something.” As he explains, ‘zero’ is a great place to be, because it leaves all the room for God to display His fullness – a glory that can only be attributed to Him.
In saying this, we all know that not everyone who experiences infertility will go on to birth their own children. Further, not every child who is birthed to once-infertile parents, will go on to live a life of heroic faith. God is sovereign and that is for Him alone to determine. But, I do believe that for righteous people of faith, God has a special heart of favour towards the barren who persist in faith. I believe, in fact, although it can be uncomfortable to say, that God allows (even ordains) this season for some – in special circumstances where He longs to show His faithfulness.
This is a difficult thing to write about, because no blanket statement can be made that applies to each woman of faith. There is no universal truth as to what God is doing behind the scenes during times of infertility. Ultimately, God does not open the womb of every woman – whether faithful or faithless.
I resisted writing this post, in large part from trepidation. How dare I write about this, knowing full well that not every story of faithfulness results in conception and birth in one’s on womb? Perhaps I should have written something safer – something that would not lead women on to persist in a hope that may be false, (as if hope can ever be false). I wonder if the fear of getting a message like this wrong, is this one reason why so little is written and shared about infertility – beyond that which barely scratches the surface.
I wonder, are we too scared to encourage people in this time of longing to hold strong to hope? Do we fear proclaiming God’s plan for motherhood because we know it is a hope that goes unfulfilled for some? Do we tread so carefully, not wanting to call pregnancy a blessing, for fear that barren women will feel unblessed? Maybe.
But, the Bible is full of incredible stories that came out of barrenness. The possibility that, in His sovereignty, God may not fill a womb, should not silence us from speaking about this.
Christians should also not be in the business of dissuading hope – whether actively or passively. We are to encourage and build one another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Also, God does not need us to install safety nets around tough conversations, leaving room in case He lets us fall. Quite simply, faith pleases God (Hebrews 11:6). We ought to be in the business of encouraging it!
But, what about those who never do go on to conceive? We all know it happens. Knowing this outcome is possible is one of the major things that erodes faith in the hearts of those experiencing infertility. It is true. There are no guarantees that God will answer every prayer the way we hope. But we do know that many Biblical heroes of Christianity “were still living by faith when they died” although they “did not receive the things promised” in their own lives (Hebrews 11:13). Curiously, this chapter on faith specifically lists Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Samson (Manoah’s son), and Samuel (Hannah’s son), among others, demonstrating that each one, by faith played their part in God’s plan. Although God had answered specific prayers to bear children, these individuals were all faithful in anticipation of something greater than their own desires – which they never saw for themselves in the land of the living. This is what it is like to be part of God’s story. We put our trust in Him, knowing that He weaves our lives into a story, that sometimes calls us to lay our own desires, ambitions and comforts aside. It does the topic of infertility no justice to leave this part of the conversation out. God’s goodness, justice and purposes are not only true and good if He does what we wish Him to. But, like these Biblical heroes of faith, we can unwaveringly trust in God’s promises, and even our unfulfilled desires can earn us a heavenly inheritance that will never perish. Our hope is in eternity, with God, made possible through faith in Jesus Christ.
Like the Apostle Paul, many are called to bear with a ‘thorn in our flesh’, something that keeps us dependent upon God. For some, the ailment of permanent infertility may be that thorn, a persistent ache. Infertility may be the very thing reminding us of our need to surrender our will over and over again, submitting it to God. I realize, having now born children of my own, that I say this from a coveted place. Please know that I don’t share this lightly, or without deep empathy. I do share it, wholly convinced that anything we put into God’s hands, including and especially our emptiness, will not be wasted. I believe in a heavenly inheritance for those who persist in faith, despite pain in this life. There are an infinite number of ways God can use those who never have their ‘own’ children.
Barrenness does not limit God in any way from using your life to accomplish his very best plan. So, I urge those struggling with infertility to cultivate faith, regardless of your circumstance. “Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until He comes and showers his righteousness on you” (Hosea 10:12).
Do not stop hoping.
Do not stop praying.
Continue to seek God and wait in anticipation for Him.
Dare to ask God to lift you up so you can see His perspective.
Wait in fervent expectation – cultivating a fertile faith that will prepare you to see God’s plan fulfilled through your life, and as part of His incredible story.
If you or a loved one is currently bearing the burden of infertility, it would be my honour to pray for you. Feel free to send me a message on Facebook, or through my website. If I receive one name or a thousand, I will be sure to pray for each one. We have had many names move through our family’s prayer list over the years – people struggling through the hard yards of infertility – and we have seen God’s faithfulness over and over again!
Note: I did not address much about adoption in this post. For one, this post is already extremely long as far as typical blogs go. Next, the topic of adoption deserves a platform all of its own. I can contribute relatively little on this topic, as I have not, (as of yet), adopted any children. We do know there are many ways God builds a family, and any way God chooses to do so is miraculous and beautiful. One of the common things people say to infertile women is ‘you can always adopt’, which I dare say, is something infertile women already know. I want to say a couple things about this to encourage people not to make this suggestion in a flippant manner. 1) The fact that adoption is one very legitimate way to become a parent, does not negate the pain and longing that comes from wanting to bear one’s own children. I am sure there are some who would disagree, but I do not think we should diminish or dismiss people’s desire to become pregnant or birth a child. The way God mingles the bits and pieces of husband and wife together and forms a child is a breathtaking thing to behold. I believe God gives many people the desire to become parents to children in their likeness, and we should not be in the business of telling people that there’s anything wrong with that. After all, God made us in His own image; as we are made in His image, we share a piece of His heart that delights in seeing children that somewhat bear our image too. I have heard, and experienced, something of a guilt trip laid upon barren couples – as though it’s somehow selfish to desire children when others are in need of a family. I believe this is an unfair weight to heap onto a person bearing the burden of infertility. 2) Just as true as the fact that we are made in God’s image, is the beautiful truth that all believers are welcomed into God’s family through adoption. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13). Through faith in Jesus, we become part of God’s family – with the full legal rights, standing and love as God’s own son – Jesus. The picture of growing a family through adoption was first given by God, and it is every bit as miraculous and precious as the new birth of a child. Adoption deserves to be pursued, bathed in prayer with the same passion as pregnancy. Adoption should not be tossed around as a solution to a problem. We should not look to adoptive kids to fill a need we could not ourselves fill. Trying to do so, diminishes the value of the children concerned; adoption is not about using children to fill a vacancy. Adoption should be every bit about opening our hearts, fully and completely, to provide a family for a child. Can you see the difference there? Adoption should not be considered a ‘Plan B’. That said, many people who cannot bear children (and many who can) do go on to grow their family through adoption and this is wonderful. (I cannot emphasize this enough!) I believe for those called to adopt, God will longingly move inside hearts to make adoption an unequivocal ‘Plan A’ – with every bit of excitement, joy, and anticipation to meet their child(ren). I have seen this happen in families and it is one of the purest reflections of God’s love in action that I have ever seen!