A perfect song about the sweetness of sorrow.
I have a post scheduled to come soon on prayer, and I keep thinking people are going to read it and think, “Wow, this chick really thinks she’s good at prayer.” I don’t think I’m specially prayer gifted or anything. It’s just something important to my life.
But, to keep a healthy balance, I’m posting today about a Christian discipline I’ve always been terrible at. Fasting. When I’ve spent even a day fasting (even those cheating, sundown-to-sundown kinds), I’ve always hated it. It’s just torture and horribly distracting. I’m not proud of this, but there it is. I really need to grow at it, and I’ve tried to grow in it a lot in the past. In more recent years I’ve tried to make it more doable, but useful, by fasting in ways other than totally eliminating all food and drink (the coffee fast of ’12 is forever burned into my brain as a “special” spiritual season). But I know I need to discipline myself to be able to sacrifice anything for the sake of spiritual growth and growing closer to the Lord.
Anyway, enough about me and my Christian shortcomings. I could go on forever. Here are some good thoughts from John Piper on fasting. In addition to it being a vital spiritual discipline, I know most readers on this site are spending a lot of time in prayer these days, and fasting goes hand-in-hand with seasons of prayer.
…I shared the other day about my realization that this trial isn’t going to end with a baby. It could end later, if I let it, or it could end sooner. It’s all about my heart and what God is doing there.
So if that’s true, what is God doing there? Where do I need to be to feel like we’re past this?
God has surely done a lot in these years of barrenness… many lessons have come and gone, but some deep ones always press. For me, it’s peace with God’s plan for my life, even if I don’t always like it. It’s being content with not having kids and “the dream.” It’s in the What if He always says “No”? It’s resting in the chance to have a spiritual legacy, even if I don’t get an earthly one. It’s the chance to be spiritually fruitful for the Kingdom, even if we can’t be physically fruitful on earth (blog post to come!). I haven’t decided yet, but it may be about accepting God’s will for us to grow our family through adoption instead.
Your things may be different, and my list may keep growing. But right now, I know I can generally answer the question of, “What could I do to end this trial?” with the things I just said. So the real question is: Why don’t I end it?
And the awful answer I keep discovering in my heart is a solid mixture of I just don’t want to (aka… I haven’t in fact learned those things yet), and, much worse, an invented idea that if I do find that peace and accept those plans, I will surely be “giving in” and God will see that I’m content without a baby and I’ll lose all hope of getting one.
If I keep kicking and screaming, He won’t forget me. He’ll see how bad I want it.
But if He thinks I’m content, He’ll leave me this way.
This is the cousin of “jinxing it” … an animistic idea that we’ve invented, that if we do or think or say certain things, it will spoil our chance at something else. As if those words or actions or thoughts have any real power, let alone more power than God.
So we don’t Pin baby things on Pinterest. And we don’t daydream about baby names. And we don’t let ourselves talk in the definite about having kids in the future. And we don’t get our hopes up.
And we don’t let ourselves learn or accept contentment.
Because what if we lose our chance?
But those are complete lies. Why do I know that, but struggle to let it go? Doesn’t God know my heart? (Yes.) Doesn’t He know my deepest longings? (Yes.) Doesn’t He care? (Yes.) Don’t I trust Him? (Yes.) Don’t I want to be more like Him? (Yes.) Don’t I want to learn that contentment?
Not really. But I want to want to. I think I want to, until times like this when the rubber meets the road and it’s time to put my money where my mouth is. “Didn’t you say you want to be more like Christ?” I hear myself say. Yes, but I didn’t consider the cost. Sometimes it hurts, really badly.
And I don’t know how this blog post ends. It’s one of the questions that keeps me up at night. This is where I always land. I should let my heart move forward, still hopeful, yet content. Content to be childless forever, if God wills. Content to adopt, if God wills. Content to whatever, if God wills. I should, and I want to be willing, but I’m still holding out just a little bit for the best of both worlds. And I know it’s the recipe for disaster that you see in a movie and start yelling at the screen. And I’ll kick myself later. But today, I land here again, waiting for God to keep working in my heart and my life. Grateful that at least His mercies are new every morning, and I get to try again tomorrow at this sanctification thing.
I just wanted to remind you of this sweet old hymn, based on this sweet old passage in Matthew 10:
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
My current favorite version of “His Eye is on the Sparrow” is performed by Chelsea Moon & the Franz Brothers on their album, Hymn Project Vol. 2, which is one of my new favorite albums times a million. I can’t find a normal video for it, so this is the best I have (which is still great). But you should really just buy the album!
George MacDonald wrote:
[God] changes not because thou changest. Nay, He has
an especial tenderness of love towards thee for that
thou art in the dark and hast no light, and His heart is
glad when thou dost arise and say, “I will go to my
Father.” . . . Fold the arms of thy faith, and wait in the
quietness until light goes up in thy darkness. Fold the
arms of thy Faith I say, but not of thy Action: bethink
thee of something that thou oughtest to do, and go to
do it, if it be but the sweeping of a room, or the prepar-
ing of a meal, or a visit to a friend. Heed not thy feel-
ings: Do thy work.
I found this quote while reading this precious, short, free e-book: When the Darkness will not Lift by John Piper.
I have long said that this infertility is not about the baby. It’s not about my body or my ticking biological clock (though I hear it). Trying to conceive started out as about the baby — we’ve dreamed of having a big family, and for years we carefully weighed the decision in wisdom. At first I wasn’t ready at all, then we were ready but felt the Lord saying to wait for other reasons. When we finally felt peace about the go-ahead, we were so excited to finally start our big happy dream family. Actually at first I remember thinking I really didn’t care if we got pregnant — it was fun just to start the new chapter and see what God did.
That got harder to say as the months fell away.
But still deep in my heart, the pain that crept in wasn’t the pain of wanting a baby. It’s not that I don’t want a baby — it’s just that the real issue here is between me and the Lord. From Why aren’t You granting this request? to Where are You? and How could you let this happen to us?, as well as every topic you’ve seen in this blog, and a hundred more personal ones. It’s not about the baby.
So I should’ve seen it coming when, a few months ago I was toiling again in the agony of When is this finally going to be over? and I felt this voice in my heart reply, It’s over when you say it’s over.
And I should’ve known that sooner.
If the trial isn’t about the baby, then it doesn’t end with the baby.
If I really believe this is about my relationship with God (and my husband’s relationship with God), what He’s teaching us, how He’s refining us, then the trial can surely end without a baby.
What a hard thing to acknowledge, but true nonetheless.
Because a baby could come, and the refining continues. I could get what I want, but still be aching inside. Don’t you agree? Haven’t you seen this happen before? It might be a baby, or a husband, or a whatever. If I could just get ________, I would be ok. But the Christian knows that the real issue isn’t in the “_________,” it’s in the heart.
So this is the really hard question to ask yourself… what really needs to be done, in your heart, to end this trial? I don’t even really have an answer — I’m still asking myself the question. I will continue this post in a few days, with the current (wrong) “answer” I keep getting…
I’ve been thinking about the essence of the little saying above. The things you take for granted someone else is praying for. When I see that, my first, black-hearted reaction is to think, “Hear that, all you baby-havers? So stop complaining about your kids’ sleep patterns and hug them!” Then I realize the quote is talking about me, too. I stop and think about which things I take for granted that someone else is praying for, the same way I’m praying for a baby and other mothers don’t seem that grateful for theirs.
And a lot comes to mind.
When I started college, I didn’t realize it was my dream to get married when I graduated. I don’t think I realized how close graduation was. It was only months after I got married that I realized I really got off easy. It was definitely my vision as a little girl: go to college, get married, find a job, have babies [ahem], be a great mom, live happily ever after. But I wasn’t the girl working hard on her M.R.S. degree in college … God just allowed me to meet my husband early on, have lots of romantic memories getting to know him, get engaged my junior year in Christmas snow, and get married within days of graduation. I was even hired for my perfect job in the weeks between college and marriage. It kept getting better, too… our life plan had been going exactly as written. Jobs, paying off debt, going into ministry. It was best-case scenario from day one.
Bam. Everything I ever wanted. And it wasn’t until later that I realized how much I took it all for granted. I don’t know what I would’ve done if it hadn’t happened like that… I think I had been assuming all along, “Of course it’s going to happen this way.” (Which, cue the “a-ha!” moment, probably explains why I reacted to infertility like being run over by a truck.) I was spoiled by God. I had gotten everything I’d ever wanted, and hadn’t really even prayed for it.
So then there’s this thought. The things you take for granted someone else is praying for. And I recall the initial months after college, when my gratitude finally caught up with me. I had several close friends who were single, and it was painful for them. They were trying to figure out how their life was going to go when their plan wasn’t happening. I don’t want this post to read like: Well, at least you’re not single. What I mean is, for the first time I can really relate to the feelings they would confess to me, and it pushes me to stop taking my marriage for granted. They were terrified as each passing month and year felt like their life slipping away without them. They were praying, How long, O Lord? as He seemed to stand by silent. They felt like lesser people. They felt passed-by. They wavered between moving forward whole-heartedly with the hand they were being dealt, and waiting patiently for God to still come through. Some of them still are.
And now that I know what that really feels like, I’m ashamed it’s taken me this long to be truly grateful. And I’m grateful for the reminder to look around in my life for other trials God has spared me from — which I overlooked, because I was too spoiled to consider it. This chance for ministry, these material things, a healthy, loving family back in America. I could count them all here, but it would be too personal.
I hope God can use my reflections to challenge you as well — which things are you taking for granted that are currently someone else’s trial?
I really appreciated this blog post. You should definitely start following L.Berrus – always meaningful, biblical, and real!
Not too long ago, I came across the narrative of Jacob, Rachel, and Leah in Genesis 29:31-30:24. Though I have read this story many times, I was struck by a few things I had never noticed before in regard to Rachel’s infertility. While there are several very positive examples in Scripture of women who struggled with infertility, the story of Rachel stands out as a negative example. Even though her reaction to barrenness wasn’t godly, there are several important and valuable lessons we can learn from her poor handling of the situation.
God’s Sovereignty Over the Womb
One thing that is important to note is that it was the Lord who closed Rachel’s womb (Gen. 29:31). Throughout Scripture, we see that the fruit of the womb is either granted or withheld through the divine providence and wisdom of God. Though it can be hard to accept in the midst of…
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I’m not always sure what a Sermon Jam is, other than a sermon clip set to music, but I like them so whatever. Here’s a perfect one for us, from Pastor Matt Chandler.