For since the world began,
no ear has heard
and no eye has seen a God like you,
who works for those who wait for him! -Isaiah 64:4 [NLT]
I have been thinking of this verse a lot lately. There is so much depth to it, and so much joy, and so much hope! I can really relate to Isaiah marveling at this… I, too, live among people who worship another god (actually, most of you do, too, but your people don’t admit it). The god they worship is invented, dead, not real. But they still worship it, and it’s painful to watch. I am overwhelmed when I think of our God compared to this — Jehovah, the living, acting, real and true God of the universe. When they pray to their gods, the gods are still and nothing happens. But our God –the one, true God– has always stood in stark contrast to this. When we pray to Him, He acts. He is active. He is faithful when we wait for Him.
May you revel in this truth, and not grow weary in your waiting for Him!
This verse also brought to mind this song, which at first I couldn’t even remember how I knew it. I had to google the verses until it came up. But it’s perfectly taken from this verse and you’ll really appreciate it.
And all during the day, as I wait to see if He has answered us yet, if it’s over yet, I’m forced to consider how much I’m willing to endure for God’s glory. How far would I go to be made into His image more and more? How much would I sacrifice, if He said it was for the better? How much do I mean it when I say, “Thy will be done?” And then “it” shows up, and I have to face my true self. There’s no fake “Take all of me, Lord” prayers when your period gets here. It’s all or nothing now. You either meant it or you didn’t.
So I guess, except by God’s undeserved and overwhelming mercy, today I’ll have to answer that question again. And in the meantime, I’m pretending to do other things while panicking inside over what my answer will be, if I have to give it again.
I wrote this in a post in January about my expected time-of-the-month and the emotions and prayers that come with it each time. I quickly removed it out of embarrassment that I would write so freely about my p-e-r-i-o-d. I’m such a prude about stuff like that. Always have been.
But I came across the now-private post a few weeks ago, and was brought to tears.
I have been battling for months about whether I should “come out” about this on the blog, but I’m going to, and then I’m going to explain why.
…The reason that post brought me to tears is because I actually did experience God’s undeserved and overwhelming mercy that day, and for the first time ever, my period didn’t come. Within a few days, we were dumbfoundedly staring at a positive pregnancy test, unsure if we were in reality or walking in a dream. It actually took a good several weeks for it to really set in, even after the doctor confirmed it. We were (and are) finally pregnant.
Throughout the whole first trimester I debated sharing such a heavy thing. In the About section of this blog, I share how discouraging it often was to find an encouraging blog about infertility, only to have it end (or, usually, change) when the writer finally got pregnant. I mean, I was happy she was pregnant, but now I was alone again, searching for a kindred spirit. It’s been hard for me to imagine doing that to many of you, who have been reading this blog for encouragement for many months now.
But then I stumbled, once again, on this verse, which so many women cling to in their infertility…
Weeping may last for the night,
but joy comes in the morning.
And I thought: I have to tell them that joy really does come in the morning. What kind of encouragement would it be to keep from you such a message of joy and hope — we waited patiently (sometimes a little impatiently) on the Lord, after failed treatments and returning to our third-world home with no idea of what to do next. We begged again for mercy. For a few more months, He still said “No.” And it stung, badly. But still we put our hope in Him through the pain.
And then the morning came. And there was joy with it.
I always thought it would come roaring and screaming at the top of the mountain. Instead, it came as an unexpected whisper while we were deep in the valley.
And I don’t know how your joy will come. It may be a surprise pregnancy test like me. It may be after a few procedures, or several. It may be on a plane home from picking up your new child. It may come quietly, over years of growing in true peace over being childless. It may be something else entirely. But it will come. I am confident of that.
I also have to warn you from “this side”…there were initial, surprising, sinful responses that came out of nowhere. Things like, “What did we do right this time?” and “It must’ve been our extra faith this month.” But we quickly squelched that. It was God’s undeserved mercy and His perfect plan. His faithfulness. And that’s it.
The second, less sinful thought that overwhelmed me for a few days was, “______ months… that was the allotted time of our trial. I hope I spent it well.” And I want to leave these two thoughts with you. The first is not to waste your allotted time in this trial! Whether you’re given a few months or many years of barrenness, may you use every day for God’s glory and your sanctification.
And secondly –I hope you are only encouraged, and not cringing, to hear the truth: God is merciful, just as we were hoping. He is faithful, just as we’d expected. He is trustworthy. This really was the better plan. I used to write those things on this blog in faith, and now I write them from experience. I’m sitting here no longer barren, five months pregnant, and overwhelmed by that truth. He was trustworthy all along. And if He takes this baby today, I will still cling to that truth. I hope you can too, even today!
Guys, I’m floored by the Psalm I stumbled upon this morning! It reflects like every theme that is dear to my heart — praising God in all times, His sovereignty, His glory among the nations — then ends with a peaceful promise that, of course, brought me to tears. Here is Psalm 113 (emphasis added by me):
1 Praise the Lord!
Praise, O servants of the Lord,
praise the name of the Lord!
2 Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore!
3 From the rising of the sun to its setting,
the name of the Lord is to be praised!
4 The Lord is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens!
5 Who is like the Lord our God,
who is seated on high,
6 who looks far down
on the heavens and the earth?
7 He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
8 to make them sit with princes,
with the princes of his people.
9 He gives the barren woman a home,
making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the Lord!
By Jon Bloom (DesiringGod.org)
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation (Hebrews 11:1–2).
Hebrews 11 is in the Bible to remind us that God hides his most precious treasures for his saints in their most difficult and painful experiences.
When we read this chapter we are supposed to stop and reflect more deeply on this strange motif because it’s just a brief summary (“And what more shall I say, for time will fail me to tell of…” (Hebrews 11:32).
Think of how Abraham and Sarah agonized with infertility, then waited 25 years for God to fulfill his promise of Isaac. Think of how Isaac and Rebekah agonized over the treacherous and nearly murderous rivalry between their twin sons. Think of how Jacob agonized for years in grief over the belief that wild beasts had killed Joseph. Think of how Moses agonized for 40 years in the Midian wilderness over his lost opportunity to deliver his enslaved people. Think of how David agonized for years as Saul hunted him like an animal.
Now think of what each agony eventually resulted in.
The motif of agony giving birth to the greatest blessings … Click Here to continue this encouraging article. It was written neither by nor for me. I liked it, so I shared it with you.
Recently, I sat up late at night reading (once again) Tim Keller’s Walking with God through Pain and Suffering. He quoted this hymn by John Newton, and it brought me to tears.
These Inward Trials
By John Newton
I asked the Lord that I might grow,
In faith, in love, in every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek more earnestly His face.
I hoped that on some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining power,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.
Instead of this He made me feel,
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry powers of hell,
Assault my soul in every part.
Yea more, with His own hand He seemed,
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.
“Lord, why is this?” I tremblingly cried,
“Wilt Thou pursue Thy worm to death?”
“Tis in this way,” the Lord replied,
“I answer prayer for grace and faith.”
“These inward trials I employ,”
“From self and pride to set thee free;”
“And break thy schemes of earthly joy,”
“That thou may’st seek thy all in Me.”
I read that and heard this voice reply to all of my frequent inward cries of “Why?” with: You asked for this. Not in the snarky, heartless way those worse are usually uttered. But with peaceful reassurance of the Refiner’s Fire which I’ve asked to be walked through so many times in my Christian life. Even this morning in my prayer time, I caught myself saying, “Lord make me more like You.” I almost laughed. How many times have I prayed that prayer or one like it? Who hasn’t at least prayed, caught up at a conference or camp or after a moving sermon, that God would sanctify her more and make her more like Christ? That is the Christian aim, after all, right?
I guess in all the years of asking that, I hadn’t really considered how it would be answered. I really did mean it, I just didn’t calculate the cost of sanctification. We make jokes about not praying for patience, because you’ll have to be in a hard situation to learn patience. But now I’m seeing that’s really true about all of the fruit of the Spirit and Christlike characteristics, isn’t it? I mean, what did I think? I would wake up one morning and be like, “Oh good, now I’m wise,” or “Finally, I’m more compassionate,” or the dozens of other things I’m now learning? Surely not.
This revelation has actually increased my patience and lessened my questioning (not eliminated it, but lessened it for sure). I asked for this refining, after all — so I need to be thanking God for His answer to all those prayers, instead of sulking in the delay of a relatively new one.
Please read and reflect on these beautiful truths from Psalm 36:5-8, then enjoy the worship song the follows.
Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
your judgments are like the great deep;
man and beast you save, O Lord.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light.
This might seem kind of ironic for me to post, because I’m still in the midst of infertility. I guess a better title would be “Things I wish someone had told me from the beginning of my infertility so I didn’t have to learn them the hard way” … but that’s kind of long, so it is what it is. Plus, I know you people (I’m one of you), and if I had a baby you’d spend the whole post thinking, “That’s easy for her to say, she has her baby.” So no excuses now, my friends!
1. A lot of people have struggled with infertility.
Once you tell people about your struggle, women left and right begin to tell you about their previous struggles with trying to conceive. This is actually a big reason why you should tell people (see #8) – there is great comfort in knowing you aren’t alone. When we told my in-laws, my husband and I were both surprised to hear that his own mother struggled with infertility for 5 years between her third and fourth child. Besides gaining wisdom from people like this, it refreshes your hope to hear someone say, “I never thought I would finally get pregnant,” while her wild kids run around you.
2. It gets better.
As my months started to add up to a year, I began to sink. Specifically, from months 11-14, I was in a black pit of despair. I cried all the time and didn’t want to do anything. I was depressed and felt hopeless, in anguish at the reality that this fear was really coming true. I never could have imagined that the months ahead would hold light and peace, but they did. I wish so much I could go back, A-Christmas-Carol-style, and tell myself, crawled up and weeping, unable to pray, that it will be better. Of course, I can’t do that, so I’m telling you, dear weeper, instead: it will be better. Hang in there.
3. Bitterness, jealousy, anger, and fear are your biggest enemies, and they don’t get you anywhere.
When you enter infertility world (even if you enter kicking and screaming, like I did), you instantly discover that most people in this world are bitter. I hate to say it, but you can’t avoid it. Most people feel entitled to complain and are dead-set on being miserable until this is over. You need to rise above, or it’ll eat you alive and convince you (unbiblically) that you deserve that attitude as well.
4. It’s one step at a time.
You can’t plan from month 12 (or month 1, or month anything) every step you’re going to take in this. It’s one cycle at a time, one test at a time, one treatment at a time, one doctor’s visit at a time, maybe even one adoption application at a time. You will just fall apart if you try to think and plan much past that. Trust me.
5. It’s not a one-girl show.
One thing that really bugs me is when women retreat inward in their trial with barrenness. What about your husband? Yes, I know he probably doesn’t grieve like you, but he’s not a woman. He is human, so unless you were trying to force this baby without his agreement (which I sincerely hope you weren’t), he’s grieving too. This isn’t your trial alone, and you can’t push him out because his side of the trial looks different.
6. There are a million things to learn.
This is practical thing. I knew nothing about the world of trying to conceive, infertility, treatments, adoption, etc. I still don’t know a lot. When you get past the “denial” stage of this grief, the first thing you need to do is pray, then research and educate yourself. And following #5, don’t do it all alone – share what you learn with your husband. Make sure he’s at your appointments and consultations. Make decisions together. This isn’t 1952, girl; you aren’t trying to have your baby, you guys are in this together!
7. It’s complicated.
I guess this follows #4 and #6… if you’re at month 12, this isn’t a cut-and-dry, just do such-and-such and bam! you get a baby. If it was, you’d be pregnant already. Some people have success with the first treatment, but I wish from the start I was out of denial enough to accept that it probably wouldn’t be a let’s-just-do-this-and-get-it-other-with kind of thing. And enough of it not being fair because some people have it so easy. Everyone is on their own journey.
8. You should tell people.
It took a long time for my husband and me to start telling friends and family that we were having trouble getting pregnant. It was part denial, part pride, and part just being private people. But after we told some people – wow, what a relief! The Bible is spot on when it says to “bear one another’s burdens.” I can’t believe we tried to do all the praying ourselves! It made such a difference to have people pray, cry, hope, and wait with us. You don’t have to make a personal blog or status every step on Facebook, if that’s not your thing (it’s not ours); we’ve basically kept to sharing details with our closest friends and family, and when others take the time to ask about our situation, we say something simple like, “We haven’t been able to have children yet, but you can pray that we do soon.” Find what works for you, but don’t go it alone.
9. It’s worth it.
I know you don’t want to hear it, but you have to. This is worth it, my friend. Oh dear myself a year ago, this unending nightmare is worth far more than a child. “This light and momentary affliction” – that I know does not feel at all light or momentary – is “producing in us an eternal weight of glory that far outweighs them all.” The sanctification that will come from this would never have been obtained in any other way. The glory that God will get from this will far exceed the glory He would’ve gotten in any other scenario. Don’t forget that. Don’t lose sight of that. Tell yourself every day, every period, every miscarriage, every dollar sent to an adoption agency. This is worth it. This is the better plan.
10. There is always hope.
It’s weird for me to be saying this, because I haven’t been pregnant yet. However, I’ve gradually become convinced of this, and I wish I could tell it to every broken, barren woman. There is always hope! You serve The Omnipotent God, Who loves you so much and has a great plan for your life! There is always hope for real peace and joy – and, I have to say it – there is always hope for a baby! I don’t care what the doctors or tests say, or how long the adoption is taking. If you really believe God made a virgin pregnant, surely He can leap over the fact that you guys accidently got your days messed up and “did it” a day after ovulation. Surely He can work around your “advanced age.” Surely He can use your husband’s low sperm count. If you believe the Bible is true (and it is!), you must believe that what He did for Sarah, and Hannah, and Elizabeth, He is able to do for you. I just want you, in your hopelessness, to join me in repeating as much as you need – There is always hope. There is always hope. There is always hope.
This post is more personal than I usually prefer to be, but I have no better real-life way to explain what I mean. Since this past summer one of many big lessons God has been drilling into me is about how much He personally cares about me. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us, “Cast your cares upon God, for He cares about you.” This has been a special verse to my heart during our infertility. Lately God keeps showing me over and over (without just handing me a baby) that He genuinely cares about me. He cares about what I care about. He is thoughtful and cares about my sorrow. The world doesn’t revolve around me, and I don’t deserve these affections, but He does care.
Just some background… I’ve mentioned that we’re Christian workers living abroad, which means we have a very low income. We’ve been in America for several months, and will be returning to our country soon [when I wrote this we were in the States… we’ve since moved back overseas]. So there have been a number of expenses, many of which are just wants and not needs, that have been floating around. For example, my husband’s birthday was in August. In our normal life I don’t have a lot of independence, so it’s hard for me to get him nice gifts for his birthday without him knowing about it. I really wanted to give him something special while I had the freedom of America (and access to gifts he’ll actually like). I prayed that God would make a way and room in the budget. I got him one gift, but I really wanted to get him a watch — he’d wanted one last year, but we never found one he really liked in our budget. But this year, it was still just out of the budget. The day before his birthday, we spoke to a group of senior citizens. Afterwards, as we were walking out the door, out of nowhere, an old lady walked up to me, gave me a hug, handed me some cash and said, “Use this to buy your husband something special.” Then she walked away. I couldn’t believe it! I immediately ran to the mall to get him his dream watch, which he now wears every day. I like to tell him, “Every time you look at that watch, remember that God really cares about you and even the little things you care about.” And it’s a reminder that He cares about me, too.
I have a bigger story to share, but you have to promise not to judge me. Promise? Okay. [Note: In hindsight, I removed this story. Don’t judge me for that either!]