The point of it all

We’ve talked a lot about what can be gained from this trial and the value, the necessity, of not wasting it. My biggest fear for you is probably that you will just wait it out, grin and bear it, and when it’s over you’ll look back on it as a nearly meaningless time of torture. My friend, I have to tell you, for the Christian, that just cannot be so.

The verse I probably cling to the most in this, deep to my core, is Paul’s words to Christians in trial like 2,000 years ago. They are 100% true today, and they are spoken to you. They are your hope, and the reason you must refuse not to waste these days, months and years of pain, waiting, loss, and fear.

2 Corinthians 4:17

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

Oh, thank God! There IS a point to it all: to work in me things of value more important than any troubles, and thank God that this is definitely light and momentary. Oh, thank God! If you don’t memorize any other verse, please memorize that one and repeat it to yourself a hundred times a day if you have to. There is a point to this whole thing, and you better not let yourself miss it!james 1.12

The whole passage is just as awesome and encouraging. Print it out, put it where you’ll see it, and read it as much as you need.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Several weeks ago I posted a song called Though You Slay Me, and the version features a powerful quote by Pastor John Piper on suffering and the temptation to feel that it’s meaningless. It’s based on this passage. Here’s the whole thing…

“Not only is all your affliction momentary, not only is all your affliction light in comparison to eternity and the glory there. But all of it is totally meaningful. Every millisecond of your pain, from the fallen nature or fallen man, every millisecond of your misery in the path of obedience is producing a peculiar glory you will get because of that.

I don’t care if it was cancer or criticism. I don’t care if it was slander or sickness. It wasn’t meaningless. It’s doing something! It’s not meaningless. Of course you can’t see what it’s doing. Don’t look to what is seen.

When your mom dies, when your kid dies, when you’ve got cancer at 40, when a car careens into the sidewalk and takes her out, don’t say, “That’s meaningless!” It’s not. It’s working for you an eternal weight of glory.

Therefore, therefore, do not lose heart. But take these truths and day by day focus on them. Preach them to yourself every morning. Get alone with God and preach his word into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for.”

Again, I just have to thank God for this truth. This is not meaningless. Paul tells other brethren […] Continue reading “The point of it all”

You may be Hannah, but I’m Sarah

I think a lot of fertility-challenged women like to relate to Hannah. She suffered with barrenness for years while being tormented by her insensitive husband and his cruel second wife. In the book of 1 Samuel we read how, in her deep desperation, she pled with all her heart to the Lord that He would finally give her a child. She committed to give the child back to the Lord, and she was praying so hard the priest thought she was drunk. God responded to her pleas, and within a year she bore a son, and then followed through with her promise and sent him off to be a priest. She named him Samuel, which means “God heard.” And every barren woman reads this powerful and true story with gasping and weeping. “I’m Hannah,” you think, and leave with new hope and intentions to name your child Samuel and paint his nursery wall with Hannah’s famous verse, “For this child I have prayed, and the Lord granted him to me.”

Hannah giving her son to be a priest.
Hannah giving her son to be a priest.

There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. And at first, looking at all my hours kneeling at my bedside tearfully begging God for a child, I felt I was Hannah, too. But as time has passed, I’ve come to realize that I am actually Sarah, and I like it. I’m really coming to like Sarah.

Sarah was Abraham’s wife, and she was barren for like a million years (ok, more like 90). When God told them that He would give them a son and make Abraham “the father of many nations” with “descendants as many as the stars in the sky and sand on the shore,” do you know what Sarah did? She laughed. Oh, yeah, that’s definitely me. I want to be Hannah, on her knees and praying like a mad woman. But deep down, I’m Sarah — laughing at the thought that this will ever be over. Her son’s name (Isaac) means “he laughs” (because Abraham laughed, too, fyi).

Don’t be too quick to hate on Sarah though. The Bible counts her and Abraham as people of highest faith (Romans 4, Hebrews 11), and tells women that we should all try to be wives like her (1 Peter 3). The laugh isn’t really held against her. I admire Sarah a lot, but I can relate to her a lot, too. Another time in her life, she made Abraham pretend to be her brother because she was afraid evil guys would get him for having such a pretty wife. God wasn’t thrilled about this, but I relate to Sarah’s tendency to give into her fears and try to control the situation. She did it again when, after God promised her a son this first time, she was too impatient and made Abraham conceive a baby with her servant… ok, I wouldn’t go that far, personally, but the heart behind the action is what I’m talking about. That’s definitely me right there.

Sarah, Abraham, and Isaac (yup, that's their son, not their grandson).
Sarah, Abraham, and Isaac (yup, that’s their son, not their grandson).

And I’m not trying to rag on Hannah for being a “goody two-shoes” or something either. I still can relate to her, and I admire her faith in prayer, and I find great hope in her story. But if we’re honest, do you think a lot more of us are Sarahs thinking we are Hannahs? And could this self-deception be hindering our growth? For example, could we be at risk of victimizing ourselves more than examining ourselves?

Anyway — What do you think? Are you a Hannah or a Sarah? (If it helps, the Bible goes on and on about how gorgeous Sarah was, even at grandma age.) Or are you another biblical lady all together these days? Please share in the comments.

What if God never says “Yes”?

As days turn into months and then years, it’s the question that starts lurking in the back of your mind but you’re afraid to really ask out loud. What if God never says “yes”? The Psalmist asked it, in Psalm 77: “Will the Lord reject forever? Will He never show His favor again?” It’s a fair question, but one with tough answers. On the one hand, you hear people say statistics about how high of a percentage (67?) of people who get help for infertility eventually get a baby. And a friend read in a book that a man who has worked in the adoption field for decades said he has never seen a couple who is praying for a child eventually not somehow get a child. Even Psalm 77 answers its own question by citing all the miraculous and faithful things God has done in the past, presumably awarding trust that God will surely do them again.

And these things may be true. But I’m a realist, and do you know what else is true? There are surely people in the world and in all of history that have waited and tried everything and waited more, and they never became parents. And I could be one of them. If we’re honest, deep down every fertility-challenged woman is, somewhere inside, freaking out at least a little that she could be one of those women. And then what?

Then this is what: God is still good and faithful and trustworthy. He does not disappoint. He is still loving and almighty and worthy of all praise. We have still been blessed from the first day to the last. His grace upon grace is overwhelming and sufficient, and He has never failed. We will still serve and worship Him until our dying day and forevermore. As we’ve said in the valley and will say on the mountain, God’s goodness is not dependent on the things we get; moreover, our hope for joy in life and our greatest treasure is not found in children, or money, or things, or safety, or whatever else we are seeking. Our hope is in Christ, and when we have Him, all other things are but a dim shadow compared to knowing and serving and loving Him. So praise be to God, even if He never says “yes” to this one thing. And praise be to God that we knew this truth in the valley, so we did not waste our lives working and waiting and putting everything into this one thing that never came to be. Instead we put our everything into eternal things that will never be destroyed. If God says “no” forever — and He might — praise be to God, forever and ever.

I would like to invite you to read one of my all-time favorite Bible stories, in Daniel 3. This is a true story of three noble servants of God who were going to be thrown into an oven for refusing to worship other gods. When given a chance to change their minds, they proudly proclaimed that they know God can save them and believe He will, “but even if He does not, we still won’t worship your gods” — and the BUT IF NOT is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, in your faith. May God daily give you and me a heart like those men.

daniel 3

Free Infertility Devotional Guide

Lifeway Christian Bookstores makes a free devotional guide for those with infertility. It’s 5 days of devotional stories and Scripture readings, as well as some quality reflection questions for each day. It’s called “The Missing Peace,” and you can find it by clicking the graphic below, to print or just download to your computer.

lifeway women
Click here to access the free pdf!

 

You Have Hope

This is an excellent, perfect passage to cling to when you feel you have no hope. The prophet Jeremiah wrote it when he was depressed and broken over his people’s long trial, and it still holds true for you, praise God!

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in Him.”
The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
to the soul who seeks Him.

(Lamentations 3:21-25 ESV)

What Hinders Prayer?

After days, months, and maybe even years of praying for the same thing, the inevitable question will arise: What am I doing wrong? This is a natural thought, and thankfully, like all things, God through His word provides answers.

The short answer is: probably nothing. When I started asking this question, I would little by little introduce different things, hoping it was the “key” to unlock my prayers. A few days in a row I would only pray on my knees. I’m even embarrassed to say, once I prayed with my head covered (ala 1 Corinthians 11), though thankfully the Holy Spirit intervened and I couldn’t even finish. You may have already experienced similar feelings about what you may be doing wrong in your prayers. Some people start googling for a special Infertility Prayer or saint to beseech. Fortunately, the Bible gives no such instruction about how a Christian must pray, physically, in order to be heard. Your first response to this should be great praise; there are thousands of religions which, in their man-made attempts to reach God, have many specific rules about how to pray. But the only true covenant of grace does not dictate special clothing, buildings, times of day, languages, specific wording, postures, or other people by which we must access God (besides Christ). The truth is,  “this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us” [I John 5]. When Jesus taught on prayer, He emphasized the heart and the things we should pray about. You can read these teachings in Matthew 6 and 7.search me

The harder answer to this question is: possibly something. While we know that our outward expression of prayer does not affect its being heard or answered, we can be certain that something does: the inside. The hard truth is that prayers will be hindered by unconfessed sin. It only took my husband and me a couple months of praying for a baby before we stopped and reflected together on any sin issue that may be standing between us and God. I cannot tell you what yours is, if any, but I cannot lie to you and say there is no possible reason, on your part, for why God hasn’t answered your prayers. There may be, and you have to deal with it. I encourage you and your husband to search your hearts to see if there is any sin or continual sin issue that must be dealt with before you can continue petitioning God for a child. If you want to search your heart further regarding sin issues that could be hindering your prayers, I direct you towards this excellent article, which lists six that are mentioned in scripture: http://www.challies.com/christian-living/six-ways-to-hinder-your-prayers. They include selfish motives, family discord, and doubt [Yikes, right? I’ll stop there and let you read the rest].

I will discuss later some other reasons why God may not being granting you your requests, but they are not necessarily things you can control. To start, I recommend reading my post, with accompanying songs, on redefining “blessing,” and consider how your attitude and heart can change and grow through God’s “no.”

Don’t Waste Your Infertility

Most of what you find in this blog are encouragements the Lord gradually brought and brings me in my walk through infertility. It took a while to really figure out what God wanted to me do to redeem this time, but eventually one thing that came [of many] was to start a blog of encouragements that He has given me. One of the earliest encouragements came from the article linked below. I highly recommend this article [and the whole website, really], and I highly recommend that you also pray about and consider how you can not waste your infertility.

Don’t Waste Your Infertility By Courtney Reissi for The Gospel Coalition

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/01/23/dont-waste-your-infertility/

Getting Our Hopes Up

Last week Luke 18 came up in my daily Bible reading, and my heart leapt as gem after gem came up in stories throughout the chapter. I’ll write later about the first “gem” from that reading, but today I want to skip to the end for a useful reflection. The short story is as follows…

As [Jesus] drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to Him. And when he came near, He asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.faith

You may be familiar with the many times in scripture when Jesus says someone is healed because of his or her faith, and this story is just another example of that [I will share links to more examples at the end of this post]. It caused me to immediately consider my own faith. Later, I asked my husband his thoughts on what it really means to have faith, especially in this time of waiting for a child. If you asked me, I would have said something like, “Believing God can do this.” My husband considered it, and, being the Bible scholar that he is, pointed me first to Hebrews 11:1, which, thankfully, defines faith for us: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not yet seen.”

We discussed this verse a little more, but it wasn’t until later that day that I really grasped the concept. We were talking about something that may happen next month, and my husband said something about “if we are pregnant…” Now, I don’t know about you, but several months into this trial, I started to refrain myself from speaking or thinking in expectation like this. I slowly stopped pinning things to my secret “Baby” board on Pinterest, and tried to stop factoring this “maybe baby” into our future plans. So, as I had been doing for sometime, I corrected him and said something like, “if we do, but we probably won’t.” He immediately pointed out how that way of speaking shows a lack of faith, which we had discussed earlier. “But I just get scared… I don’t want to get our hopes up,” I replied. To which he said, “Well, Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is the assurance of things hoped for… faith is getting your hopes up.”

This really impacted me. As a result, I have been intentionally trying to think and act in a way that better reflects the faith I have and want to have. Later, I hope to write a post about the dangers of trying to “earn” God’s answer to prayer, but for now I will just clarify that I don’t believe special actions like posting nurseries on Pinterest or starting to say “If we’re pregnant next month…” again will in any way earn God’s “yes.” However, I encourage you to consider how you, like the blind man, can better think, speak, and act in faith. Please share your thoughts in the comments, as well as the little ways you have kept yourself from “getting your hopes up.”

Some others who were healed because of faith:

The Centurion’s Servant

The Paralytic

The Woman with the Issue of Blood

Another Blind Man

What Can I Do to Regain Confidence in Prayer?

I was challenged and encouraged by John Piper’s answer to this heavy question. The link beneath it is to the audio version with a transcript. I think you would agree that there is a lot to think about and discuss regarding prayer during infertility… look for more posts on prayer soon.


http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/what-can-i-do-to-regain-confidence-in-prayer

What I Have is Enough

I live in an area with a largely non-Christian population. When I was first coming to accept that we are on a road of infertility, I began asking myself a question I think most Christian woman in similar circumstances are drawn to ask: How can this be used for God’s glory among others? At first glance, anyone would think that it brings God the most glory to bless His followers with children. Especially in the non-Western culture where I live, children are seen as a sign of God’s blessing on your life. I struggled at first with God denying us this fruitfulness, because I felt like it make Him “look bad” in front of these non-believers. Now they’ll mock us because they can say you don’t bless us, I would pray, Please, Lord, this isn’t helping our case very much! 

I’ve only more recently come to consider the great, and perhaps even greater, statement it could be to radiate peace, contentment, and joy in the midst of trial and waiting, or even the total denial of children. Imagine the message it sends, in a culture where children are so highly valued and longed for, to confidently proclaim, “I would love to have children, but God has denied me. Fortunately, my hope in this life is not in children. I already have my hope. My joy in this world is not in a baby. I already have my joy.”

I know there are many women all over the world who, when faced with infertility, would say that they will stop at nothing to have a child. No expense can be spared, no price is too great, to finally hold that baby. But what if, in the midst of this, you stood in stark contrast, saying “What I have is enough. Christ is enough”? How would those around you respond? And what would be their impression of Christ then?

I don’t want this to be interpreted that there is a line of “too far” that you can go or “too much” you can pay to conceive, but I do challenge you, if you haven’t already, to ask the Lord to grow your heart to honestly say: In Christ, I have enough. 

psalm 73