Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table (Ps. 128:3).
Recently, our young church has been filled with days of rejoicing for many mothers—Mother’s Day, hospital visits to a groundswell of precious newborns, child dedications, gender reveal parties. These are days of rich joy for many, but due to the effects of the fall (Gen. 3), they are days of deep pain for many others. The desire, longing and love to be a mother is there, and yet the olive shoots have not come.
My heart hurts for the woman who is experiencing the pain of infertility. Infertility is a topic that people discuss very little, but I’ve read as many as 1 in 8 couples struggle with it. Infertility may not affect your family, but chances are you know and love someone it does.I understand and know the struggle because I have experienced the pain of infertility, as well.
The wait and the wondering
Every month, an eager bride excitedly waits to find out if this will be the month (finally!) she sees that beautiful little + sign. She spends her time dreaming of diapers and of the sweet little blessing God is surely going to add to her family. Be fruitful and multiply, right? Her doctor is so certain that she’s going to be able to get pregnant that she is starting to believe it, too. The thought of motherhood and babies is all too exciting, and her heart overflows with the dreams of what life will be like with children.
As the months pass and are then swallowed up into years, her doctor’s optimism starts to fade, and she is told that she will likely never conceive a baby without a miracle. She desperately tries to hang on to hope, believing she might be the exception. More time passes. Eventually, her enthusiasm and hopes fade, too, and she is met with the sorrow, shame and the extreme loneliness of it all. Questions fill her head: Who do I talk to about my heartache? Can anyone truly understand what I’m going through unless she’s experienced this herself? Why doesn’t God want me to have a baby? Is there something wrong with me? What does faith look like in my situation?
This may not be your story, but it is part of mine. The pain and shame I felt over not being able to give my husband a biological child was heart wrenching at times. It is a quiet pain that is often very lonely. But, in his timing, God does make everything beautiful. As God has worked in my heart, I can tell you that the story he is writing is our lives is full of his kindness, grace and mercy. He is good, and he can be trusted.
If you are struggling through the pain of infertility, please let me encourage you with a few ways that God has encouraged me.
- We must counsel our hearts according to truth. Ask yourself: What does God’s Word say about you? What does God’s Word say about him? What is true and real? According to God, your infertility does not define you—his Word does. The cross says you are loved and accepted. You are not broken, and God is good all the time.
- Don’t damage your friendships because you are in pain. You may be feeling hurt or jealous when you see others getting what you want. In this case, it’s a baby. Ask God to give you a heart that will rejoice with those who rejoice—one that is sincerely happy for others. And ask him for a friend who is able to weep with you as you weep (Rom. 12:15). Keep in mind that a friend loves at all times (Prov. 17:17), even if we are in pain; let us be people who give this unconditional love and who are able to receive it.
- Reach out to a trusted friend. Sometimes, we might be tempted to think that if we don’t talk about it, it’s like it’s not real. I kept my pain and struggle hidden for many years, and it wasn’t until I starting talking about my sadness and being honest about it that I was able to start to allow God to deal with it and find peace in him. As I confessed all that was going on in my heart, God used the words of wise women and friends to bring healing to my heart (Prov. 12:18).
- Jesus is our treasure. As much as we would like to think that if God would just answer our prayer for a child, we would always be happy and our longing would be satisfied, it just isn’t true. Yes, children bring joy and happiness, but they can never be the absolute focus of it without becoming idols. Jesus is meant for that place in our hearts and our lives. He must be the ultimate treasure of our hearts. Sometimes in his kindness, God allows us to continue without the thing we so desire because with it, we might not see Him; but, in our pain and longing our hearts might be turned to him.
Tim Keller says, “You’ll never realize God is all you need until God is all you have.” My prayer for you if you’re struggling through the pain of infertility is that you allow this time of longing for what God has not given you to draw you nearer to him. Our circumstances may not change, but we can allow God to change us, grow us and bear fruit in him.