The thing about pain is, it hangs over you. You carry it with you wherever you go. Sometimes it’s right out front. You can’t get out of bed. You can’t talk about anything else. You can’t think about anything else. Nothing can make you smile. You cry without extra cause. It’s just swelling over you and out of you and consuming you, no matter how hard you try (if you can try at all).
And sometimes it’s standing in the background. The awkward guest at a party — everyone sees him standing off to the side, not really doing much, but definitely there. At any silence in the conversation, at some little moment without warning, he shouts something. “Oh, right,” you think, “You’re still here.”
Grief is like that. That permanent loss leaves a permanent pain that just always sort of hangs there. In the beginning everyone sees it, everyone mentions it, everyone tries to help carry it. But later it’s just yours. Sometimes you sort of overlook it — this picture on the wall that’s been there for years that you sometimes don’t even notice is part of the decor anymore. Sometimes it jumps out at you and you realize there was a lion just standing in the corner the whole time, and you kept walking past it. Sometimes it’s so heavy, but you pretend you’re ignoring it because you don’t want to keep bothering everyone. But it’s heavy and it’s big and it’s weighing you down, and it won’t go away.
And you don’t know the solution. That’s the true worst part. Nothing will really fix it. “Is there anything I can do for you?” People ask. You have no idea. I just want you to know. I just want you to remember a few years from now that I have this weight. I just want you to carry this with me when it’s just there and there’s nothing to be “done”.
And the thing about pain is, until you’ve had your own, you don’t know what this feels like. Why is she still stuck on that? You think. That was years ago. It’s over now. She should be moving on by now. And, maybe worst of all, This isn’t that big of a deal. And then you get your own pain, and you grieve for how unsympathetic you were. You know of others with pain and you just want to walk up and say, “I know you’re dying inside right now! I know this is killing you. I know about the pain. I know.”
The thing about Christ is, He always knew. He knew about the guy in the corner. He knew about the lion. He knew about the weight. He knew when no one else knew. He cared before anyone else could, and cared when no one did anymore. When you were wondering How can I bear this alone? How will I bear this at all? What will carry me through this? The answer was Christ. The solution when there are no solutions, is to take comfort and peace in Christ, and take it up again every day after.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” -Psalm 34:18
“Oh Lord, You have assigned me my portion and my cup. In You my lot is secure.” -Psalm 16:5
Elisabeth Elliot taught me this verse. She has several key verses, I guess you could call them life verses of hers, that are frequently repeated throughout her writing, and this is one of them.
One of her strongest points of teaching, which has dramatically impacted my heart and life, is about cultivating a “quiet heart” that rests in the Lord regarding all things. I’ve been fascinated and challenged by the various areas of life she applies this to.
For our purposes, this verse is again perfect. The answer to those questions that inevitably flood the mind of anyone struggling to have a family. Why is this happening to us? Why does this have to be our problem? Why us and not them? Why can’t we just be normal? How are we going to get through this? What will we do next?
Our peace is deeply routed in this: The Lord has chosen your “lot” in life. Whatever it is. How terrible it may feel at times.How never-ending it may become. This situation is from the Lord. He is trustworthy. He is good. He is wise. He is loving. We have unmoving peace from this. When the doctor tells you gut-wrenching news. When the pregnancy tests are negative the rest of your life. When another adoption falls through. This is our truth, and we can rest in it:
Oh Lord, You have assigned me my portion and my cup. In You my lot is secure.
“So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” -Psalm 90:12
Whether it’s easy to admit of not, if you’re struggling with infertility, it means you are facing days in your life plans that are freer than you were expecting. We often don’t know how long these days will last — it may be a few extra months, it may be a couple more years, or it could very well be a totally different life from now on than we’d planned. By now we were hoping to be morning sick or chasing a toddler around the house. Some of us were already saving for school tuition and extra mouths to feed. We thought we’d be on our way to quitting our so-so (or very beloved) job and cutting back on other commitments. But here we are. Waiting. Free, but not so “footloose and fancy.”
Psalm 90 beckons us to be wise when we look at our days. Likewise, Ephesians 5:15-16 warn:
“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,making the most of your time, because the days are evil.”
While this blog has often talked of the need to seize these days in a spiritual sense, we would be remiss if we didn’t also consider how to use these unexpectedly free hours in a practical sense. I’d like to make some suggestions to pray about as you (and your spouse!) ask yourselves: How can we best use this time?
Invest in the children and families already in your life. It takes a lot of maturity to look past the desire for your own children and look more widely at those God has already put in your life. Perhaps you might consider investing more fully in nieces and nephews, younger siblings, kids of church friends or neighbors, etc. Besides the personal benefits of gaining more experience with kids, you’ll be using time you have now (that you likely won’t have as much of later) to bless others. You may even find a way to relieve some of the burden of loving your own children. How can you do this?
Babysit – I know, it’s not usually a fun thing! It will be sanctifying to you and a blessing to others. Consider it an investment in the marriage of another — you and your husband likely have regular date nights, don’t you think your neighbors would love one, too?
Be involved – Go to sports games and recitals, hand-pick personal birthday gifts, and spend time getting to know these kids a little more. Parents really appreciate someone who shows genuine care for their kids (and kids do, too!).
Love a mom – Moms need a ton of support. Moms of very young kids are especially in need of an extra hand. Look around at the moms in your life or consider asking your Pastor or his wife if they know a young mom who might need a little help. This might be tagging along on a shopping trip to reign in runaway kids, helping fold laundry while she’s cleaning the bathroom, or just coming over for a visit to give her some adult conversation every now and then.
Grow in knowledge. Take the time and money you have and learn a new skill or develop ones you already have. Maybe you’ll want to take a course or higher a tutor, or maybe you’ll want to buy some extra materials or just spend more time practicing. It could be years before you’re free to invest in yourself again.
Grow spiritually. This is the main focus of this blog, but it’s worth reminding you, oh reader, that the Lord is shouting to you in your pain (to paraphrase CS Lewis). Use your freedom (however unwelcome it may be) to memorize scripture, grow your prayer list, read more theology, and take some classes at church. One day you may be thirsting for the chance! The Bible speaks so much of investing in things that cannot be destroyed — no matter what your future holds, you’ll never regret investing in your soul.
Invest in your marriage. Someday it may seem impossible to work in a date night for months or years. It may be all you can do to say “hey” to your spouse in between a morning feeding and eventually crawling into bed at night. Consider using your days now to build an even stronger foundation for your relationship. Look into a marriage retreat or conference (I recommend this one), read some books together or by yourself (here’s a good list), take up a hobby together or start taking date night more seriously. Your future kids will definitely thank you for having a strong marriage!
Focus more on your work. When I say “focus on work,” I don’t mean become obsessed with work, distract yourself with overtime, or make your career your idol. But if you’re in a job, why not do it with excellence? Do your duties to the fullest. Improve your credentials or position. Consider making changes if you’re in something you were hoping to leave by now (I know this can be hard to face — like admitting defeat — but I’d encourage you to to see it as good stewardship of your hours and energy).
Serve your church. Look into more ways you can be blessing your church with your time and energy. It may be teaching a class or serving behind the scenes, or signing up for one-time events. Talk to your pastor or other leaders to explore options you may not even know about.
Consider missions work. Your church or a para-church organization (like this one or this one) may have some short-term (from weeks, to months, to even a year or two) opportunities that are a good fit for you. Investing your time in the global cause for the gospel is priceless.
Consider being a foster parent. Even if you aren’t sure adoption is in your future, if your heart is to love and parent children, there’s no reason you can’t start now. There are thousands of children in the foster system today who would benefit from even a temporary stay with a loving family. Every state has a different process for this, usually requiring some informational classes and parenting classes, and an application and interview process. You can google your state or go here for more info.
Prepare for parenthood. I hesitate to mention this because I personally don’t feel the best way to use infertile months is to obsess over having kids. It’s for you to choose healthy boundaries. You can certainly gauge which investments of time and money might be regrettable in the future. If there’s a chance you’ll be a parent one day, it might be wise to think ahead. Does your church offer a parenting class? Have you heard any book recommendations from friends?
What makes it so hard to face a topic like this? Is it a lack of maturity that isn’t willing to open our hands that were clenched around that one big thing — a B-A-B-Y. A feeling, deep inside (or right out on the surface) of If I can’t do what I want with my time, I’m not doing anything else. Is it a fear that it will be admitting defeat and moving on? Will God think you forgot about trying to conceive? “Oh, look, she’s busy, I guess she’s good after all.” Is it a sort of denial about the situation — we all keep waiting one more month?
As “one of you,” I want to personally challenge you to pray past the pain of redirecting your time and heart. Choose to peacefully hand that pain to the Lord, and step up to opportunity presented to you in this “blank slate” you didn’t know you were going to have. Pray with and without your spouse about how to be faithful stewards of each month you’re handed, and then be faithful.
“Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” -1 Corinthians 4:2
This is Part 2 of a series on Decision Making in God’s Will. I invite you to visit Part 1 first!
We left off on praying for God to open and close doors within a certain time. I prefer to use this wording rather than looking for special “signs” from Him… this isn’t a game of chance or a dealing of tarot cards. It’s a walk on path led by the Spirit. A journey.
So, how does God open and close these doors? Sometimes it’s just through our “gut” — which I’d say is really the Holy Spirit. Some great advice I’ve always held on to is when a friend once told me to “justfollow the peace” — if you just don’t have peace about a decision, you may want to consider if that is the Spirit holding you back. It likely is. In the months leading up to when we finally got pregnant, we had been praying earnestly in this way — Should we do a different treatment? Should we pursue adoption? More invasive testing? Just keep waiting? While some doors were obviously closed, the biggest factor for both of us was the peace. We both still remember fondly just a week before that BFP, sitting in our living room one night at the end of our period of prayer, and sharing that neither of us felt peace with anything but continuing to wait on the Lord. Closed doors for other options, scripture given in that time, and just leading of the Spirit had led us to that painful but peaceful point.
You can also expect Him to lead you through actual events — when we started seriously praying about adoption, agency after agency turned down our initial inquiries because we live overseas. It was clear to us at that time that God was closing the doors and leading another way. On the other hand, when we first went for infertility treatments and were feeling unsure of the decision, a dozen “random” things happened that we saw as God’s confirmation that we were making the right choice — the nurse giving us all of our meds for free, the clinic offering us a huge discount because of our financial situation, and a friend handing us an envelope with a huge chunk of cash to use in any way we needed (these are all financial, but that’s not always the case). Even after the treatment failed, we had confidence and not regret, because we had sought the Lord and He had guided.
We also always pray to be united in our leading. The Lord has always been faithful to answer this request as well — even if we started off being staunchly opposed to each other’s leaning. And if it comes time to make a decision and we still aren’t in agreement, we will either decide to keep waiting (if time allows), or I will defer to my husband’s leadership as the head of our home. So yes, I always have one extra thing to pray about — that when the time comes God will guide my husband well, and I will have a submissive heart if I have to. And my husband always has the burden of the responsibility of the final decision (which honestly sounds harder to me than my burden of just submitting to his decision).
Finally — we make a decision. This sounds like an obvious “step,” but for indecisive people, it can be terrifying. However, if you did what you could to seek the Lord’s leading, have an open heart, and make godly choices (perhaps by following my advice above), you can have the peace to make a decision without worry or regret. We make a decision and move forward confidently, trusting the Lord together and never blaming ourselves or each other if it doesn’t go how we expected. If we made the choice believing it was what God wanted, then we can trust that it is what God wanted when it doesn’t go well by our estimation.
So that’s how we face decisions in our home. I’d love to know if you have anything to add (or subtract!).
I’ve been thinking about writing this post for some time, but I always hesitate because I’m not sure how it’ll come across. I don’t want it to sound like we have it all figured out, because we definitely don’t. However, I recall feeling like the “trying to conceive” game was a lot of one decision after another. (I guess life is, really.) Actually, it seems in our first several years of marriage and adult life, my husband and I have already had a lot of major (and minor) decisions to overcome. That being said, with a lot of prayer and discernment, we’ve sort of arrived at a system for making decisions.
I think this is important because there are a lot of considerations the Christian faces when making decisions, particularly in this arena. For one, I have to say it would be a dire error for a Christian couple to tackle infertility merely by following the medical protocol point-blank. If all of your decisions so far and to come are made solely based on the fact that your doctor says that’s what’s next, you may want to reconsider how open you’re being to the will of God. That sounds judgey, I know… but let’s just agree for the rest of this post that I’m not trying to be judgey, because there’s basically no way to write it without sounding that way.
Likewise, the longer we’ve walked this journey the more convinced I am that there is not one set best route for everyone — except for the route that continually and sincerely seeks the Lord’s will and chooses against sin. A major part of God’s leading in our life involved foregoing or delaying medical intervention and waiting on Him. This was a big deal for us and a big work He did in our hearts. However, I wouldn’t say this is the ultimate right path for all Christians facing infertility. And I wouldn’t say following the set medical protocol is the definite wrong path for everyone. I would say you need to be sincerely seeking the Lord’s will for you — being willing to stop or go as you feel He is leading, even if it differs from what you want.
How do you do this? How do you make a decision you feel confident is God’s will when, say, you have a few days in between a failed IUI and the next cycle, and need to decide if you’re going to do another one or not? Or when you reach the one-year point of trying to conceive and are totally distressed but don’t want to (and shouldn’t!) make a decision based solely on that? I don’t have all the answers to this, but I can tell you what we do (and you call tell me what you think!).
First, we always pray. We pray sincerely, constantly, and openly. We talk to the Lord about our situation, feelings, hopes, and our options. We confess our unconfessed sins in order to have hearts ready to be spoken to by the Spirit.
Second, we talk to wise people. The Bible speaks so highly of consulting with others and seeking wisdom. We would be fools to think we can face a new situation and succeed without any help from people God has given as resources. Depending on the situation, this could include church leaders, parents, trusted Christian friends, and/or people who have been in a similar situation. This doesn’t mean we do whatever they say. We simply allow the Lord to speak to us through their experience and advice, and factor it into our decision.
Additionally, we ask others to pray for and with us. We would ask many of the people listed above to be praying with us for wisdom in making a decision. Trusting them to be wise and godly, we’d be open to any leading they may feel from God as well.
We give it time. Obviously, every situation allows for its own amount of time. When deciding whether to move overseas, you may have months or years. When deciding whether to implant an extra embryo, you have a day or two, tops. I must add, we would never make a decision based solely on short time — we did delay our first fertility treatment, for example, because we didn’t feel sure by the time we had to decide. Being rushed doesn’t seem like it should be considered direction from God; it falls more into the category of emotions and fears. That being said, we’ll agree on what feels like a reasonable amount of time to keep praying and thinking about it. During this time we keep open hearts and minds, being sensitive to how God may be leading us.
We choose a time to decide. So this is the “step” that is most specific to our little “system.”We think it’s wise, and it’s best for indecisive people like us who struggle to be confident with our decisions. But it’s not exactly taken from any Bible passage or command. It’s just a way we feel comfortable seeking guidance from the Lord. After, for instance, a few days of initial prayer and thought, we will agree together on a time that seems right to make a decision. Oftentimes, we have also agreed on the decision we will make by that time, unless the Lord leads otherwise. Then during the period in between, we will be praying and seeking any direction God is giving — we will be sensitive to the Spirit and honest with what we think He’s telling us.
What this sounds like is: we may approach the Lord and say something like, Lord, unless you lead us otherwise, we will be signing the lease for this house on the first of next month. In between now and then, we ask that you will be giving us confidence in this decision or closing the door. For us, this is the best way not to be frozen in decision making (which is often a decision in itself), while sincerely staying open to God’s will and leading. And can I tell you something? The reason I’m writing about this is that God has always been faithful to answer this prayer. I could write for you story after story of times in our life — and even just in our infertility — when we approached God in this way, and He closed or opened doors to give us confidence in our decision.
…To be continued! In Part 2 of this post, I’ll attempt to answer the question of how God opens and closes doors. I’ll also share one of the most significant things we pray for, and the most important step in decision making.
This was Rachel’s (albeit irrational) plea to her husband Jacob after waiting nearly a decade to marry her love, and watching her sister bear him four sons while she stood by barren. Obviously, Jacob was helpless to fulfill his desperate wife’s demands. In frustration he replied, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of your womb?”
Like Sarah, who you may recall I have long-considered my kindred-spirit among the barren women of the Bible, Rachel takes matters into her own hands and has Jacob bear her children through her servant.
It doesn’t say the amount of time, but judging from what looks like a fairly smooth succession of Rachel’s sister Leah’s birthing several children (herself and through her own servant), I would estimate it was at least ten years of fruitlessness for Rachel before this magical verse just pops up out of no where:
“Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.”
Rachel became pregnant and birthed Joseph. Not long after, she had Benjamin as well. What a beautiful story of waiting and hope.
But also, what’s up with that? In one verse, with no special explanation or plan like we can see more clearly for women Sarah or Elizabeth, God just decides to open Rachel’s womb. And now, apparently, she can have kids no problem. So long, infertility.
This is a verse I read right before I learned that I was pregnant with my son after years of infertility that couldn’t be explained. The lesson is unmistakeable, and one we often mention to people when we share our story — God is the One who opens and closes the womb. We trust Him with this decision. We’ve learned to stop asking “Why?” We gained so much peace and closure through this truth. I don’t know why we went through that. Everyone always tries to figure out it — to diagnose the undiagnosed and explain what is veiled. I assume this is because they want to find a way to be sure it won’t happen to them — I’m a special case, and they are probably in the clear. But I’m not a special case. Rachel wasn’t a special case. God is the God of all things — even the womb. He chooses the time when he opens it, when he closes it, and the reasons. Some of us may know these reasons now, some of us may know someday, and some never will.
It was with this peace and trust, learned after months of agony, that my husband and I read, with great astonishment, a second positive pregnancy test, just five months after our son was born. —Wait, what?!— we asked again, like we did with Rachel’s story. How can that happen? Years of toil for the first, and zero toil with the second. Could it be that I’m not just Sarah, I’m Rachel? God opened my womb in His time and for His reasons?
Yes, believe it or not (I cannot!), I am writing this post five months pregnant with our second child. This time we barely had time to pray for a child. Never in a million years did we think we would feel “surprised” by a pregnancy. We worked so hard to be content with no children, and were so overwhelmed with gratitude to just have one — we had hardly prepared our hearts for the possibility that we would have more, and with ease.
And I hope this encourages you today. I know there’s a chance it can break your heart. But I hope you can take peace in the reality that God is ultimately sovereign over your womb, and He can open it when He wants. He may not open it… but He really may. And you may never know why, but you can trust His decision, before and after.
This is probably going to sound a little weird, but through my Christian life I have always lacked an excitement or interest in heaven. It’s not that I don’t care at all, but I’ve probably been overreacting to other things — the fact that many people become Christians just for the assurance of heaven (“fire insurance”); this vision I have of grumpy old men in church, trudging through life singing “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder” and just waiting for the day we can get out of this place and away from these people and to our secret club in the sky. It often seems selfish to me — singing about all the rewards and benefits we’ll get. The Bible says a lot more about us spending eternity worshipping God. People should focus on that, I’d think smugly. It’s also maybe been a little difficult for me to get excited about — it feels so distant, and so abstract at times. All we seem to have are ideas, and lots of false ones (e.g. harps, and wings, and becoming all-knowing). I believe in heaven, I’m thankful for it, but I’ve never been one to dwell on it much.
However, for some reason over the last few years, thoughts of heaven have started to force themselves on me. The ideas I read in scripture stick in my heart, and at just the right, healthy moments, they pop up. When we returned to America after our first few years overseas, for example, and I sadly realized we no longer fit in either place perfectly — my mind said, “You’re citizenship is in heaven.” Hm. I hadn’t really appreciated what that meant before.
I’m beginning to understand why people like to think, talk, and sing about heaven. I’m beginning to get what’s the big deal about it.
Imagine if this was all there was. Imagine if this was the best and the worst. You have these 80 years, give or take, and then – blackness. And what if you spent them in pain? In agony? What if you spend them childless? Cancerous? Homeless? And all that longing, all that aching, never had a hope. If it doesn’t get better now, it’ll never get better. If you don’t make this right, it’ll never be right.
Sometimes we feel like this is true. But for the follower of Christ, this is not true.
You do have hope.
Yes, you have hope that God will change your circumstances while on earth. He answers prayer and does amazing things. He has a plan for your life. But more than that — you have a standing hope and assurance that the end of the story is perfect. When you find your aching heart wondering, “When will this go away? When will this get better?” You have an answer: when I die or Christ returns, this will go away and get better. In heaven, it will be better.
Heaven is real, in time and place. It’s not just a nice idea. Your deepest longing will be fulfilled. Will you have the baby you didn’t have on earth? My understanding of scripture says probably not, but you will have your longing filled. Your aching will stop. Your joy will be full.
This is an amazing thought for us — most people and religions lack this concept (and all lack the assurance — some have the idea of a heaven, but don’t know if they’ll go there). My heart breaks for them. What a painfully hopeless life!
…That’s a tangent for another day. Today I want to encourage you to think about and grow your appreciation for heaven. We should have a balanced view — not living a life that is “so heavenly-minded that it’s no earthly good,” as I once heard a professor say. The Christian has heaven to look forward to, but a purpose to live on earth. Don’t check out yet. But if you’ve never allowed yourself to meditate on and accept the comforts of heaven, start opening your heart to it. Pray for a better understanding and a realistic hope.
Below are a few things (of many!) scripture says we have to look forward to in heaven. Would you take the time to appreciate what they really mean for you, in real life, today?
A citizenship and belonging – “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” -Philippians 3:20
A glorified, healed body – “…Jesus Christ,who will transform four lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” -Philippians 3:21
A beautiful, permanent home to live in – “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God;believe also in me.In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” -John 14:1-2
Endlessly worshipping the Lamb with all believers from all times and places – See Revelation 5:9-13
Comfort for your pain and mourning – “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:4
Who is going to heaven? Not the good people or those who had hard lives or deaths. Not the well-meaning, well-liked, or hopeful. If you read this post and love the idea of heaven but have any doubt that you’ll definitely be going there, I would love to chat with you more on the subject. Please message me using the “Contact” button at the top of the page.
A long time ago I took a small group leader’s class at my church. One of the sessions focused on leading people through difficult times in life. There was a “takeaway” from that night that has always stuck with me, especially through trials in my life. It is simple, but perfect for those times when things happen that are out of your control and you don’t know how to respond. It is this truth:
God is sovereign, wise, and good, so I can trust Him.
God is sovereign: He is in control of everything.
God is wise: He knows what is best and doesn’t make mistakes.
God is good: He will not do evil things.
These three truths together give us peace and trust in God when He makes choices for our life that are hard to understand or agree with. I encourage you to repeat that truth to yourself as much as needed so that you can remind yourself to trust Him when it’s the hardest.
I thought this would be a fitting song to go with this thought today…
Something we greatly struggled with in our walk through infertility was the feeling that the trial kept pushing on past these sort of “lines” that we prayed diligently not to cross. You may have similar lines in the potential timeline ahead of you that, when you think of them, send your heart into a panic and send you to your knees begging not to get there.
To be candid, some of the big “lines” for us were:
-getting to a year of trying to conceive and having to do tests
-having to do treatments
-a big one for me was having to give myself shots; it was just an unbearable thought
-treatments that failed
-having to return overseas still childless after a hiatus and go back to life and work without a baby
Spoiler alert: we walked right through every one of these lines, and every one of them felt more painful than the one before. There were several other small “cringe” milestones, but these were the big ones we prayed about over and over. It was hard for us to understand why God would make us go through these things when we so desperately asked Him not to.
Midway through the above bullet points we happened to go to some counseling as a way to debrief and pre-brief (is that a thing?) our coming stint back overseas. There actually wasn’t much on our agenda to discuss; it was just something we decided to do to strengthen ourselves for our coming return to a rather stressful lifestyle.
Anyway, it was during one of these counseling sessions that we had an “a-ha moment” (to go all Oprah on you) that altered the rest of the course of our trial.
We were sharing about the struggle of having to cross each of these “lines” – one of us was openly sharing our hearts, and said something like this: “We totally trust the Lord in this situation and have a lot of peace. We feel we’ve totally given it to Him. I guess the hardest thing for us is that we feel there are these lines that we have in our hearts that we just beg Him to spare us from, and so far He hasn’t.”
After elaborating more on this pain, our counselor said the most obvious thing:
“It sounds to me like you haven’t fully surrendered.”
We were taken aback at first. Are you kidding, lady? Of course we’ve surrendered! We’d already been going through this for a very long time. We were long past handing it over to the Lord.
But the more we discussed it, the more we realized she was right. In holding onto to these “anything-but-that” points of prayer, we were holding back some trust in God. And the worst thing was, it was kind of killing us. We were denying ourselves the full peace we desired in this valley of pain, because we kept holding on to these things we just “couldn’t” do.
Perhaps this can be a challenge to you now to take those “Please, Lord, just don’t make us ______________” lines and finally erase them. I can personally testify to the freedom and peace you are likely forfeiting by gripping on to your lines.
This is probably going to read like a summary of this whole blog, but it is what it is. My baby boy turns 12 weeks on Monday, and every.single.day. I still look at him and can’t believe he is here and he is my baby. I can’t believe that happened to us — which is ironic, because in our years of infertility I would so often think, I can’t believe this is happening to us. But he’s here. A living and breathing testament of the hardest season in our life so far, and of the faithfulness of God in mercifully bringing us through it.
I once thought after all of this was over, I would just put it behind me and finally move forward with our life. I’ll get over it and move on. Surprisingly (or not), I can’t really get over it. I mean, I’m not obsessed with it. I’m not always talking about it. I’m not about to become the Infertility Awareness spokeswoman. But there’s no denying that it’s a part of me. How can it not be? I’ve written over and over about how this is a sanctifying work. If it changed me so much (and boy, did it!), how could I ever just forget about it? It’s so clear to me now how much this trial reshaped me.
If for nothing else than my own reflection, I’d like to share with you some of the biggest lessons I learned in my infertility.
1. This isn’t my baby. When I was about 9 weeks pregnant, my husband and I were casually preparing to go out to dinner with some friends. Out of nowhere, I discovered I was bleeding pretty heavily. Panic washed over me like never in my life. I screamed for my husband and broke down sobbing. We prayed hard, pleading with God not to take this baby yet. I remembered calling out, Father, you may ask a miscarriage of me some day with some baby, but please don’t make it today or this baby. I ended up on bed rest for a month, and, obviously, God was merciful and our baby was fine.
Now that he’s here, like all mothers, I spend a silly amount of time sneaking in to check on him while he sleeps. Our first few nights home, he slept like a rock, but we lost tons of sleep jumping up every 10 minutes to make sure he was ok. I still pop up a few times a night just to peek over and see his chest moving. The scary thought has crossed my mind a few times: What if I come in one day and he’s not breathing?
The lesson from both of these stories, and every other worry my new-mom mind conjures up about his life, is the same lesson I learned when I was waiting for him. This is not my baby. We are daily Abraham standing with his long-awaited Isaac, ready to give him back to the Lord whenever He may require it. Of course we could stand here close-fisted, in constant terror that we could lose this dear treasure at any moment. But instead we’ve learned (and continue to learn) to hold him up, hands open and arms lifted, an offering to the Lord. There is so much more peace in this. This is the Lord’s baby, and we trust Him to do with him as he wishes.
2. Compassion. I’m a little embarrassed to say I used to be a pretty compassionless person. I think I had compassion on the really poor and needy, but with the everyday person like me, I just didn’t care that much about their problems. I probably cared about my friends’ troubles, but if I was honest, I didn’t care that deeply. But now that I’ve had true troubles of my own, He has transformed the way I think about what others may be going through. I’m less quick to judge. I cry more easily at their pain. I’m more patient with their struggles. I’ve stopped gauging how serious I think someone’s trial is — if it’s really that bad. If it’s that bad to them, then it’s that bad. It was that bad to me. I regret that this wasn’t my heart sooner, but I’m grateful the Lord has brought me here.
3. God is trustworthy. This is one of the first thoughts that crossed my mind when we saw that surprise positive pregnancy test. Wow, He actually did it! All that time I was hoping He would — I was trusting He would — but there was no way to be sure He would. Having that confirmation has totally changed the way I pray and how I see Him. I thought I had faith in prayer before, but now it is no longer blind faith — I know that He can do it. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I remember thinking that morning that, even if He took the baby the very next day, this would change everything. It was no longer praying and getting back silence. He had heard and acted for us. And now I know He could do that again, about anything else we ask of Him. This has changed our relationship with Him so much.
4. Nothing is hopeless & impossible things can happen. Like many of you, l bet, last summer we sat in a fertility clinic across from a doctor who calculated the percent likelihood we had of conceiving a child on our own. I kind of forget now (it’s not the kind of thing you store up in your heart), but I think it was something like 9%. Now, my husband is in economics, so he’s a little more knowledgable about statistics — in fact, him not liking the way the doctor “tweaked” his math to come up with that number was a big reason we changed clinics. Nevertheless, we knew our odds were looking grim. It only looked worse when our treatments later failed. But then one day, we were pregnant. It happened. By all calculations, it wasn’t likely. But it did. Since then whenever we’re asked to pray for seemingly impossible things, I am so much more optimistic (read: faith-filled) — I was there when it wasn’t supposed to happen, and I was there when it did. So why couldn’t it happen again?
6. Really terrible things can happen to me. I guess this is kind of a strange thing to call “fruit,” but I see it as part of a sober mindset. Knowing how to “number my days” and have an accurate estimation of my life as a vapor. We always think it won’t be us. God wouldn’t do that to us. I wouldn’t be the one whose baby dies from SIDS. My husband wouldn’t be the one who becomes a paraplegic. My mom wouldn’t be the one who gets horrible cancer. “God forbid,” we say. But God may not forbid, if it’s for our better. For the sake of making me more like Christ, nothing is off limits. The first step in handling it well is not living in denial of its likelihood.
7. My treasure is in Christ. Oh, the blog posts I could write about this! I wrestled so much with the desire to have children as my inheritance from the Lord. There were many days when there was nothing else I desired. How much I needed to learn that Christ is my inheritance. Christ is my treasure. In Christ we have everything we could ever want or need. I used to claim I believed that, but it wasn’t until I wasn’t going to have children — an idol I didn’t know I had; the thing deep down I really wanted and needed — that I learned it was really true. It wasn’t until Christ was all I had, that I truly knew He is all I need. I’ve been wanting a post about this image I always see on Pinterest, which I have come to, well, kind of despise:
NO! We have long had everything, because we had Christ.
First we had nothing.
Then we had everything in Christ.
Then everything else was undeserved mercy.
…But I guess that doesn’t look as cute in a nursery.