What Infertility has Taught Us

 

The Lord, in his wisdom and goodness, gives each and every one of us tailor made struggles to help us grown in holiness. Infertility is one of those struggles for me and several women I know. Even women who are able to have children struggle with not getting to have as many as they like, miscarriages, and difficult pregnancies. Our goal is not happiness, it’s holiness in our individual circumstances.

One of the other ladies in my church who struggles with infertility approached me with the idea of writing down lessons she’d learned through this very personal and private trial. I offered to share what she had to say on my blog in the hopes of encouraging others. From that sprang the idea of adding my own lessons and that of another woman I know in another church who also deals with this.

Here are 15 things that the Lord has taught us:

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Leslie Stice

1. I am not in control. I know this seems obvious but I have friends who are teachers and can plan to have all their children in the summer time when they are already off. I get frustrated when I can’t do the same and I have to remind myself of who is in control. I know I’m ultimately mad at God for the situation I’m in and I don’t like that. I think my plans are the best when in fact God knows what is best for me. “A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9  

I know God’s plan for my life is better because “… all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

2. Our ultimate call to life is not to get married, get a 3 bedroom 2 bath home, and have kids. You can be blessed with those things in this life but Psalm 1 describes a blessed man in this way, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.” Our ultimate calling is to love and serve God in this life. We are to strive to be more Christ-like and to “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” Colossians 3:2.

It might feel as though you aren’t as blessed when you don’t have a spouse or kids. It doesn’t make you any less of a person if you aren’t married or don’t have kids. Some people make it seem like there’s something wrong with you if you aren’t married or don’t have kids and they try make things “right” for you. I feel sorry for Hannah because she was provoked by Peninnah for years.

The Bible doesn’t talk less about women who were barren nor does it say that they are being punished in some way. When these feelings come about or people say things that make me feel like there’s something wrong with me, I remind myself of the truth.

3. My sin and discontentment not only affects me but also my husband and vice versa. We both want kids so it’s a struggle for both of us to not have any. We don’t like seeing each other sad or disappointed and sometimes we feel like we failed each other. We have to remind ourselves of number 1 and 2 and realize that discontentment can sneak up in any season of your life.

4. A blessing of not having kids is that my husband and I can serve our church in ways we couldn’t if we had kids. We are trying to use this time to serve our church more.

5. Finally, God uses the trials of this life to bring us to our knees. He wants us to pray. I pray that God will be merciful to me and forgive me of my unbelief. James says it well, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” James 1:2-8

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Abby Jones

1. Idol Factory: I can make an idol out of anything, even something good like having children. It’s easy to look at others who have what you’ve always dreamed of having, and create a scenario in your mind of ultimate happiness: I’d just be happy if I had kids.

You build up this chief goal and the next thing you know, it’s your god. This leads to bitterness and discontentedness because your god isn’t meeting your desires.

Infertility has caused me to wrestle with worshiping other gods and put me on my guard. Even good and right blessings can be turned into idols if we don’t protect ourselves with truth.

2. God’s Goodness: Infertility has forced me to deal with the issue of God’s goodness. Do I trust God is good? Do I trust God is good when I don’t have children? Do I trust God is good when others have multiple children and seem so fertile and I don’t and I’m not? Do I trust God when I get asked again about having children both by people I know and perfect strangers? Do I believe God is good when empirical data suggests otherwise? See 8.

3. Hope: Does my salvation and standing before God depend on having children? No. Am I outside the Kingdom in my childlessness? No. In heaven we won’t even be married! Am I outside God’s will for my life? No.

See, God never promised me anything but to make me more like Christ and all the blessings that entails. Has God used infertility to bring me closer to him? Yes. Has he used it to loosen my death-grip on this earth? Yes. My hope isn’t in having children. It’s in Christ’s death and resurrection. Even if I was to have children, they wouldn’t be my hope.

The Lord helped me push past that dream and cling ever more to him: my true hope. He kept his promise to use everything for my good.

4. Contentment: Infertility could breed bitterness, or by God’s grace contentment. After many tears, many prayers, and much thought, God gave me a certain amount of contentedness in this area. This was a hard, long battle.

He used my infertility to crush idols, challenge my trust in his goodness, turned my eyes to heaven, and in all that he has given me peace. This in turn has produced:

5. Tenderness: I know what it is to want something with an inexpressible desire. I know what it is to have to set a good dream at Jesus’ feet and trust that its lack of fulfillment is good for me. I know what it is to go to another baby shower, or congratulate another woman on her pregnancy, while trying to hold back the tears. I know the “bitter watches of the night”, the discouragement, sense of failure, and even disgrace. All of this makes me gentler with the struggles of others. You never know the fight someone is engaged in, so you go gently. You talk softly. You watch your words. Infertility has taught me tenderness.

 

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Paige Giarrizzo

1. Christ is My All in All. Infertility is teaching me that Christ is My All in All. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is all I need. Infertility is teaching me that Christ is my only hope, my only strength, my only joy. He is the giver of life, the opener and closer of the womb. Apart from Him, there is nothing. Before infertility, I knew this in my mind but through infertility, God has continually brought me back to Himself. I’m learning He is all I need. His grace is sufficient. When I suffer, I know that Jesus suffered more intensely than I ever will. When I’m lonely, I know that He, the incarnate God, has experienced loneliness greater than I will ever know. Hebrews 4:14 tells us that Christ sympathizes with our every weakness and we can call on Him in our time of need. I’m so thankful for that truth, because infertility has taught me that I am completely reliant on Him for everything.

2. I Need the Church. Infertility is teaching me that I need the local church. Where would I be without the body of Christ? Throughout this infertility journey, Christ is teaching me to truly love His bride. I have been overwhelmed by the love of others who have come alongside me with encouragement, fervent prayer, help, and exhortation. I’ve had people who I don’t know that well tell me that they are praying for us regularly. I’ve even been surprised to find out that dear brothers and sisters in other churches in other states are also remembering us in their prayers. What a blessing this has been! The church has comforted me as they have been comforted. The church has mourned with me as I mourn, with literal tears and weeping, and they have also rejoiced with me as I have rejoiced. My friendships have deepened, my love for Christ has been strengthened, and God has used me to encourage others as I have been encouraged.

3. It’s Not About Me. Infertility is teaching me that it’s not about me. Growing up, I dreamed only of two things: getting married and being a mother. Like many children do, my sister and I used to love to play house. As the older sister, I was always the mother, of course; my sister was the father, much to her chagrin. And we always had lots of children. As a high school student on career “dress up” day, I dressed up like a mother. (Well actually I dressed up like Santa Clause to be funny, but I reasoned that Santa and a mother were pretty much the same thing!) The plan seemed simple. Find a spouse. Have kids. Easy. David and I met in high school and were married in our earlier twenties. The plan was coming together nicely. But God. He had other plans. It wasn’t long into our marriage until we realized things were not going quite as planned. I literally thought we would get pregnant the first month we officially “tried.” But the months turned into years, and our plans, we felt, were crumbling before us.  Through this time we are learning over and over again that it is not about us. We have celebrated many new babies over these years, but never our own. And we are learning, it’s not about us. We are learning to die to self, to rejoice with others, to seek Christ above all. His ways are higher than our ways and the secret things belong to Him. It’s not about me. It’s about Him.

4. Gratitude. Infertility is teaching me to be grateful for what God has given me. We so often focus on the things God is withholding, rather than on the good gifts God has already given. Infertility is teaching me to count my blessings. I am thankful God called me at a young age to follow Him, sparing me years of heartache and searching. I am thankful for God’s gift of a godly husband and a beautiful 10+ year marriage. I am thankful for a wonderful church with a plurality of elders who seek to follow God’s Word. I am thankful for many friends and family members who are in Christ and stand beside me in joy and in pain. I am learning to be grateful, even for the seemingly small gifts God has given. He is showing me that everything I have is because of Him and nothing I have is my own.

5. Vulnerability. Infertility is teaching me vulnerability. I have always had a difficult time developing deeper connections with others and had attributed this to “shyness” or my lack of conversational skills. My circle of friends was very small and I rarely took the time to develop significant relationships outside of this circle, not because I didn’t want to get to know others but because I didn’t want others to get to know me. My insecurities, thoughts, and feelings would be too exposed with too many. However, infertility is teaching me that I’m not the only one with insecurities, heartache, despair, loneliness, joys, and struggles. As I am learning to be more open with others, to share details about my life and what God is doing in these details, I am getting to know many others who experience the same things I experience and who enjoy talking to someone who can relate. Infertility is teaching me to let down my defenses, to show others who I really am, and in turn to develop deeper, meaningful relationships in Christ.

2 cor 4.16-18

Infertility is a pain you carry around for many years. It affects both spouses. It can make you feel on the outside of life looking in. But, God has used it mightily to bless and sanctify me and these two dear sisters. We hope that by sharing basically the same things in so many different words, we can be an encouragement to other couples, to those who are single, to those who are lonely. God is good. He can be trusted. He keeps his word.


Being a Childless Wife

Happy Mother’s Day (A Happy and Sad Article)


 

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (A short review)

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

By Jeremiah Burroughs

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1494424797/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1494424797&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=NZTWVIW2SFJIBJOX

I started reading this book, providentially, at the same time I faced chronic health issues that sapped my energy and forced me to be house bound and mostly couch bound. What a blessing from the Lord! This book challenged me to keep my heart in the right place, trust the Lord, and seek the spiritual growth that comes from affliction.

This is an excellent, easy-to-read, manual for every believer on the importance of contentment and keeping a pre-ash, treasure in heaven mentality. He covers health issues, money issues, and many many heart issues poking in deep to help you root out a complaining heart.

This book isn’t without a small handful of doctrinal issues. At one point Burroughs declares that God is more interested in your private bible study than He is with your church attendance. There aren’t so many that value can’t be gleaned, but don’t read this book blindly. Keep your theology cap firmly in place.

I can see myself reading this book again, or referencing particular parts of it during times of struggle. God has taken care of His church through good times and bad, down through the ages, by giving us pastors and teachers. We are fortunate to get to read the shepherds of the past.

(If you follow the link above, it will take you to Amazon where you can order the book for $0.99 on your Kindle.)

 

Being a Childless Wife

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Before going into this, I want to make it clear that this article didn’t arise out of some Mother’s Day anxiety. God is my hope and comfort. I love my Moms, they are two of the most amazing women I know, and I love the mother’s God has put around me. They are a delight to me.

I want to try and put into words what it’s like to be a childless wife, specifically as a Reformed Baptist. I honestly can’t write outside of who and what I am, so I thought I’d just be up front about that.

Reformed Baptists tend to lean towards big families. They tend to connect well with and be saturated with large, home schooled, ridiculous children. I can say that because I’m second oldest of five, home schooled, and moderately ridiculous myself. We were an average-sized family within the early Reformed Baptist movement surrounded by families with 7, 8, or even 12 kids. Now, more and more people cling to the 1689 and Confessionalism causing the Reformed Baptists to become more . . . interesting. We are growing to represent many different walks of life including childless couples. Looking around my own church, I see how much more diverse it is now than it was when I joined it almost twenty years ago. And I am, as a childless wife, part of that diversity.

I don’t want to share this so that women with children suddenly walk on egg-shells around us few childless wives. I don’t want people to suddenly feel like they can’t ask a woman about having kids for fear of offending her. I’m not looking for pity or political correctness. This is born out of a desire to gather my own thoughts and experiences and communicate with other childless wives so that the feelings of aloneness are lessened. Being alone is a terrible place and when you realize you’re not alone it can help you carry on for another hour or day or year. I’ve found encouragement in not being alone. I hope you do too, and I hope you mothers out the will look on us with love and know we are cheering you on every step of the way.

Growing up, my main goal in life was to be a wife and a mother. That’s all I wanted in life. I believed and still believe motherhood is the most honorable profession for women. I grew up in a large family and I wanted one of my own. Not to mention, we all know the push, be it subtle and subconscious, within the Reformed Baptist/Home Schooled movement for big families. It’s there and us childless wives feel it. We feel it all the time.

So, here I am now, 35, with about two solid pregnancy scares under my belt in 13 years of marriage. My time, my window, is coming to an end. It’s not the end. I could still get pregnant, but it’s becoming less and less likely. I must seriously face the fact that it may never happen. That’s a hard thing to look in the eye and not fear.

But, look I must.


These are my struggles and my hopes. I trust that other childless wives will find themselves here. I pray you may be encouraged in your trust in our mighty God.

Contentment: Just like when I was single and struggling with contentment, so I’ve struggled with childlessness. I have wept often before the Lord seeking to bring my will captive to his. Has the Lord answered that prayer? Yes. He has blessed me with a measure of contentment. I may never have children, but my hope in this life isn’t wrapped up in having children. My eternal significance isn’t wrapped up in having children. It is all in Christ. In him only do I find my all. This isn’t easy. And sometimes it hurts so deep inside. Even after years, and with seasons of peace, the fact that I don’t have children and may never have children still rises up with intense pain. Yet, God is good. He chose this for me and I trust him in it. It isn’t what I would have chosen. Not in a million years. But, I trust him in the choosing. So, every time the empty hollow of childlessness tears open, the flow of sorrow is stopped by the tender hand of the Father who sent his only Son to die for me and the Holy Spirit who comforts me.

Time: Without children, a wife finds a certain amount of time on her hands that other women may not have. Believe me, most of us would give up all that extra time in a heartbeat for just one set of chubby cheeks to call our own. My struggle is to use the time I’ve been given wisely. It is easy, and largely encouraged by our day and age, to use your time for you. Yet, we childless wives have a unique opportunity to serve. We can serve our church and our families in a way mothers can’t. For each of us this will look different. Some of us pour that time into a career and use the extra income to serve our church. Others of us use the time to physically serve with extra meals, an extra pair of hand, and sometimes just an extra set of shoulders to cry on. Some of us use the time to pray and read and study. Every childless wife has to evaluate her use of her extra time to avoid selfish laziness and worldliness. I have found that this time can be a great blessing if it is used in the service of the Lord.

Feeling Outside: I’ve had single friends complain about women’s books and conferences focusing only on married women and mothers. As a childless wife, I know exactly how they feel. It is no fun to read book after book, or attend conference after conference, only to feel like nothing exactly applies to you. The childless wife struggles with feeling outside the group. She can understand all the parts about marriage but what is she supposed to do with the parts about children. The temptation to shut down when other women talk about raising kids is real. Instead of indulging in self-pity, we need to file the information away so we can better pray for and understand our dear sisters who are raising kids. Let’s be honest, there are a far greater number of couples raising kids than the small minority of single women, childless wives, and single mothers. While we may all feel on the outside, we should never let that be an excuse to withdraw from the body of believers. It may not affect you right now, but you never know when that will change and the more you understand, the better you can pray for others. But, the struggle of feeling on the outside looking in is very real for us childless wives. The struggle to control tears and emotions while others talk about how to raise children is real.

Childless Husbands: Husbands of childless wives can contend with feelings of failure and guilt. They can feel helpless and weak. Some of them vacillate between contentment and deep sorrow. Regardless the reasons for the state of childlessness, both spouses are affected. A couple can go through seasons of regular discussions about children and they can go through seasons where the discussions are so painful they are just easier to avoid. As a wife, you never want to be the source of a husband’s sense of failure. For us it can become easy to just bottle up all the emotions and struggles. We’ve all been over it again and again and more tears isn’t going to change anything. The struggle is between letting this trial grow you together or grow you apart. It requires prayer, honesty, and an understanding of the purpose of our lives. We aren’t here for ourselves but for the glory of Christ. If he chooses for our lives to be childless, we must trust him in that.

Questions and Pressure: There is a certain point, a certain age where people stop asking when you’re going to have kids. When you first get married, you get asked about kids almost every day. Most of the time, if not all of the time, this is just your friends and families way of expressing love and excitement about your life. It should be taken that way. But sometimes it builds into a great pressure. It makes you feel like without kids you’re behind or just failing at life. As you get older, people just assume you have kids. It can be uncomfortable to explain, yet again, that you don’t have children. I try to take questions about my childlessness in stride. Of course people are going to ask if I have kids. That’s normal. The majority of Reformed Baptists my age have children. Most of the time I have no problem with this question. But, every once in a while it takes every ounce of self -control to answer questions about kids with a smile and a gracious attitude.

Worldly Selfishness: The questions about your childlessness generally leads to the desire to explain that you want kids because you’re suddenly afraid you’re going to be lumped in with people who are choosing to not have children for selfish reasons. It’s hard to tell someone you don’t have kids but want them when you’re not getting any younger. You want to wear a t-shirt that says, “No. I don’t have kids. Yes. I would love to have kids even if they ruin my furniture, destroy my body, take up all my time, and empty my bank account. I didn’t choose to be childless to have a comfortable life.” It’s hard when you pick up from mothers that they think you have it easy. Comparatively, we probably do. But, it’s not because we choose to have it this way. Our house may be tidy most of the time. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t give up our tidy homes in a heartbeat for fingerprints, toys, and general destruction. Don’t assume we just have such an ideal life where everything is always in control. You have something we would gladly sacrifice everything to have. You have the one thing we must fight our biggest battles of contentment over. Don’t look at us and think we have the better life or that we can’t understand why your house isn’t spotless. We know why it’s not and we wish we had the same problem.

Fear for the Future/Disappointing Parents: As a childless wife, it is easy to fear for the future. You picture your husband dying and no one being around to take care of you like your parents take care of your grandparents. Like the rest of life, this comes down to trusting the Lord. He has commanded his church to take care of the widows. He has always had a tender compassion for widows. Coupled with this is a fear of disappointing your parents. As much as you want kids, your parents want grandkids. They have to struggle with contentment just like we do. It’s easier when you have several siblings and some of them have kids, but if you are the only children, I can see where this could be a huge burden. Again, trust the Lord. Be content. Look towards the heavenly treasure.


My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

There are some real blessings in being childless, just as there are in being single. You can dedicate your life to the Lord in ways families with children can’t. You can serve where others can’t. You can adopt and foster where others can’t. But, with childlessness also comes great sadness and constant battles for contentment. I have found these to be lessened as the Lord loosens my grip on this world. The King has come. He even now rules and reigns. This world is not the end but the beginning. This is just the start of my life, most of which will be spent in heaven, not here. This is my hope. My anchor. Christ alone. He comforts the broken hearted. He will wipe away ever tear. He has loved and cherished many childless wives before me and will continue to do so after me. I’m also blessed by a plethora of nieces and nephews. They give me a chance to love those little hands and feet, see first steps, hear first words, answer questions about why this and why that, and make the house a mess. If you don’t have your own children invest in your nieces and nephews. If you don’t have any of those little treasures, find a family in your church and adopt them. There is always a need for someone who can love little people. If you don’t have a desire for this, pour yourself out somewhere else. I know childless wives who take young women under their wings. I know others who serve the church by helping with visitors and open their homes for hospitality. Don’t waste this life by sitting around waiting to have children, or get married, or for your children to grow up. Us childless wives may have children someday. We may never have children. We should all find ways to serve with or without them.

God is so good. Over all the struggles with this life, he has never once left me alone. He has never once made a struggle pointless. Each tear, each cry of my heart has been answered gently, kindly, and with promises, with hope. I may not have any biological children, but I have sisters and brothers in Christ who are young. I have nieces and nephews, and most of all, I have the hope of heaven and my Christ. I hope this has encouraged other childless wives to remember they aren’t alone, and has helped others to see how they can pray for particular parts of their church, for we are one body.

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Yes, this is probably my favorite quote. “All we have to decide is what to so with the time that is given to us.”