Infertility and the gospel: My story

May 23, 2016

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.

Jana Howerton

Jana is a graduate of Western Kentucky University with a Bachelors in Communication Disorders. Her husband Josh is the Lead Pastor of The Bridge Church, and they have adopted two precious daughters, Eliana and Felicity. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24