Doubt vs. the Voice of Truth

Andy Stanley gave a great talk on doubt last Sunday (here’s a link), and what resonated most with me was what he DIDN’T say.

He didn’t say, “Real Christians never doubt God.” He didn’t say, “Doubt is evidence of weak faith — and it explains why things aren’t going well in your life.” He didn’t condemn. He didn’t judge. In fact, just the opposite.

He said: “Everyone doubts.”

Everyone.

Here’s why that’s important. Lots of couples struggling with infertility are secretly afraid that their doubt-filled faith has alienated God, and that infertility may be the direct result. Now, the question is whether to commit wholeheartedly to doubt, abandon God and embrace science in the hope that it can do what He hasn’t — or, try to keep trusting a God who can’t be seen to do something that (seemingly) can’t be done.

That’s not an easy choice. And, I’ve come to believe, that’s the point.

When life is not going according to plan, doubt gains a foothold. When you realize you are not in control of things you desperately want to control, it’s human nature to wonder whether God is working with you… or against you. That gives doubt a chance to gain ground.

When things go from bad to worse, the voice of fear starts to whisper.  Negative thoughts begin to circle like vultures, “I doubt God’s listening. I doubt He cares. I doubt this means anything to Him. I doubt He’s going to help. I doubt He’s even there.” Those thoughts can be frighteningly persuasive.

What do you do in when fear invites doubt and threatens your faith? Do you listen?

The band Casting Crowns sings,

“The voice of truth tells me a different story. The voice of truth says, ‘Do not be afraid.’ The voice of truth says, ‘This is for My glory.’ Out of all the voices calling out to me, I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.”

Did you catch those words? “I will choose….”

Not, “I will think of myself as a victim — passive, helpless, broken, forgotten.” But, “I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.”

It was a challenge for us when we were trying to conceive. Doctors made (positive) predictions that didn’t come to pass. There were multiple miscarriages, failed IUIs, harrowing trips to the hospital. We felt so alone! It seemed as if we were the only ones who couldn’t conceive at will — except when we crossed paths with other worried souls in waiting rooms and hospital corridors. It was an awful, painful, where-is-God-in-all-this time in our lives.

And doubt made a run at me more than once.

I instinctively did what Andy Stanley and Casting Crowns advise: I clung to the truth. I couldn’t will the doubt away, but I held faith and doubt in two hands, and I kept them open and uplifted, believing that God somehow knew I was doing the best I could, given the circumstances.

I see now that that my willingness to hold things in two hands — rather than drop faith entirely while embracing doubt — brought Him glory. My willingness to trust Him demonstrated my faith — not just to Him, but to every person who asked me, “How do you keep hoping?” That had power. It had value. It was a witness and a testimony to the faithfulness of the God I chose to trust.

Don’t get me wrong: I was afraid. I was full of doubt. I cried more often than I can remember. But, as soon as I could muster the strength, the courage, the will to choose to believe that God was still good and still in control, I would lift my hope to Him and pray, “Please, Lord. Show me that my faith is not misguided. Help me not to be afraid. Help me trust You.”

Don’t endure a season of struggle and grief without meaning. Make it a season of spiritual growth for you and glory for God. Despite your doubts about the future, choose to believe...

“All things work together for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”  -Romans 8:28

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For more messages of hope in the midst of infertility, read Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

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The Next Generation of IVF Miracles

Time Magazine just released a story on Augment, a procedure not yet approved in the U.S., which it hails as the “the next generation of IVF.” According to the president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, “We could be on the cusp of something incredibly important.”

What is it? A process of harvesting mitochondria from a woman’s ovarian cells to recharge her feeble eggs and energize the fertilization process. The result? It yields “a night-and-day difference in the number of strong embryos” a couple can produce compared to traditional IVF. It’s new, it’s exciting, and it’s starting to generate healthy embryos that are enabling formerly-desperate couples to become new parents.

That’s the good news.

The not-so-good news? Because the process involves mixing cutting-edge science with stem cells and conception, it’s likely to be controversial — just as IVF was in 1978, when the world met the first “test-tube baby.” So religious leaders, politicians and more than a few strangers and family members will feel compelled to weigh in on God’s behalf. To speak to you for Him, as if He cannot speak to you Himself.

That’s one of the hardest parts of infertility: the barrage of unsolicited, gratuitous advice — accompanied by the clear assumption that you cannot talk with God directly. It can be offensive, hurtful, demeaning and disheartening.

And unnecessary… because God can speak for Himself.

And He does.

That happened today when I heard Casting Crowns’ “The Voice of Truth.” The song’s verses describe situations of feeling overwhelmed and ill-equipped, and of thinking, “I can’t!” — and then the chorus says…

“The voice of Truth tells me a different story. The voice of Truth says, ‘Do not be afraid.’ The voice of Truth says, ‘This is for My glory.’ Out of all the voices calling out to me, I will choose to listen and believe the voice of Truth.”

It made me think, I don’t know if Augment will turn out to be all its developers’ claim. And I don’t think we should charge into a Brave New World without grappling with moral and ethical issues as they arise. But I believe God is a Creator who never stops creating. And, as my physician father used to tell his patients, “Sometimes God does His work through other people. They are the miracle.”

So, here’s what I suggest. Read the article. Find hope in the fact that God has created scientists and doctors with a desire to help you conceive. Trust that He is well able to guide you through the moral and ethical uncertainties — to where He intends you to stand on this issue. He can and will speak to your heart about whether this is right for you if you ask Him, “Lord, what would have me do?” Just as in the song I heard — the voice of Truth will say, “Do not be afraid. This is for My glory,” and you will know whether that means YES or NO.

Either way, thank God for the hope He continues to give you as you make this journey.

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For more inspiration, read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

 

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Reading the Tea Leaves

I have a smart and successful friend who has been a Christian all her life. Most people would say Gail is confident and capable, but she struggles with uncertainty. When her desire for control becomes too strong to resist, she has a secret:  She sees a psychic — and, together, they attempt to read the tea leaves to discern what the future holds.

It’s a struggle for me to hold my tongue. Not because she’s wasting her money or because she’s desperate for answers (who hasn’t been?), but because I’m convinced it’s a false security that she gains. And I believe it moves her further from, rather than closer to, the only one who truly knows what’s coming. The Lord says, “Trust me” and “Do not be afraid.” But, it’s too hard for her to resist peeking behind the curtain. Or trying to anyway.

I want to help you make a better choice.

First, let me say I totally understand the desire to know what’s coming. So does anyone who’s every wrestled with the many unknowns of infertility:  Is the doctor right about what’s wrong? Are we wasting time? Are we wasting money? Whose fault is it? If we knew, would that change anything? Is all this failure a sign? If we can’t know, should we keep trying — or should we give up?

And just as urgent are the even-bigger questions:  Will we always be the ones who never had a family? And if we are, will we walk away from God?

The answer is not in the tea leaves. Or in the cards. Or in today’s horoscope. Or wherever it is you turn hoping for a view of the future you are not meant to see. I say that with a high degree of certainty….

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.   – Isaiah 55:8

So, where does that leave you?

Maybe…. reassured. God’s thoughts are not your thoughts? That means He’s not worried, or desperate, or afraid. He’s not thinking about who to blame, or how to answer questions people have no right to ask. He’s not thinking about failure or biological clocks or limited budgets or imperfect doctors. His thoughts are not your thoughts.

Instead, His thoughts flow out of who He is and what He has promised. He is faithful. He is unchanging. He is Almighty. He is abundant sufficiency. And He loves you.

His ways are not your ways? So then, He’s not biting His nails, waiting for the test results, staying busy to avoid thinking about what’s not happening. Instead, He is drawing near to those who draw near to Him. He is seeking the hearts of those who are suffering and struggling, and He is offering help and hope — through his Son, and through the Holy Spirit.

He is not avoiding what’s hard and heartbreaking. He is in the midst of it — with you.

When your mind is full of urgent questions, it is easy to turn away from God and turn to anyone or anything you believe might give you the answers you crave. But I can tell you from experience:  Infertility is an extended invitation to get to know God better. Deeper. More intimately than you’ve ever imagined possible. Not because He needs it; because you do.

It will make you a better spouse, a better parent, a better friend, a better neighbor, and a better ambassador for His Kingdom.

And when your baby comes, you will realize that a time you thought was all about suffering was actually all about growing in faith — in anticipation of the blessing that was destined to come.

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For more inspiration and cause for hope, read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

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Watch Your Words

This morning, I was reading Jesus Calling, and I came across this imperative:  “Watch your words diligently. Words have such great power to bless or to wound.” I think it’s fair to say that I am painfully aware of words’ power to wound.

When I miscarried twins — shortly after a maternity clothes shopping spree with my mom — I felt compelled to return everything we’d bought. Somehow, it seemed like it would bring closure.

But then, I reached the counter at Macy’s and held out my pile of unused clothing. The saleswoman asked, with a mixture of surprise and resentment, “You want to return ALL of this? Why?!”

I froze. The women behind me in line stared. Really? I was going to make them wait while returning ALL of this? The looks on their faces spoke their thoughts: We resent you wasting our time. I looked back at the saleswoman and said tearfully, “Because I just miscarried twins — and if I’m not pregnant any more, I don’t need these any more.” There was dead silence as the weight of my words sank in. I started to cry, she began scanning the tags, and the women behind me stared at the floor.

Was it the words she said? Yes, but also the ones she didn’t say. She indulged herself in resentment at my expense — without knowing the whole story. The arrogance was staggering, and belittling. And I was hurting so much already. Was she an awful person? No. She was a busy, insensitive one who lost sight of the fact that her job was to serve me… graciously. Instead, she left a wound that took a very long time to heal.

The same sort of thing happened when we called my brother-in-law to tell him about the miscarriage. My husband and I sadly shared the news, and he responded with a whoop and, “Now WE’LL have the first grandchild!” We were shocked by the realization that his competitive streak extended to bringing a baby into the world. Oblivious to our feelings, he let the words fly out of his mouth unfiltered. Like the saleswoman, he indulged his baser instincts at our expense. And it hurt our hearts.

I know it’s happened to you, too. Someone has spoken thoughtlessly and broken your heart.  Brought you to tears with a careless remark that cost them nothing but feels like it costs you everything: your composure, your dignity, your hope. Isn’t infertility hard enough already?

It killed me to be on the receiving end of the words slung at me by the saleswoman and my brother-in-law. And yes, there were many others: the boss who responded to office grapevine news of my miscarriage with the question, “Were you TRYING to get pregnant?,” the gynecologist who blithely reassured me, “You can always try again,” the high-risk Ob who saw the ultrasound and muttered, “hmmm… probably Down’s Syndrome,” the people at church who asked again and again, “When are  you two going to start a family?”

And on, and on, and on….

Their words left wounds, and some left permanent scars.

But, there’s good news: 1) their words did not determine our future; that power is God’s alone. And, 2) those experiences taught me the truth of these words from scripture:

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” [Prov 12:18].

Research has shown that we always imprint an experience more deeply if there is an emotion attached to it. Infertility — and the careless remarks people make — prove quickly that it’s true. But, so do your responses to this blog.

These are words that the Holy Spirit has willed into being by whispering into my spirit, nudging me to come to the computer to share what I see and understand. I am a stranger to you! And my only tools to help you are the promises of scripture and the healing power of words. But, I use those — one-on-one, with small groups, in my book and in this blog — to do all I can to deliver help and hope as you make your way through this painful journey to the amazing future the Lord has planned for you.

There’s nothing special about me or what I say 0ther than that the Holy Spirit works through me to guide you, encourage you, reassure and inspire you, and help you keep the faith.

So, the next time someone says something callous, heartless or just plain clueless…. come back here for words that will soothe your spirit and renew your hope. I’ll do what I can to bring healing.

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For more encouragement, help and hope, read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

 

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Do Not Be Afraid

It is a source of great joy for me to work in my yard — planting, trimming, nurturing living things. The challenge is to create something beautiful that thrives without constant maintenance, something that lifts my spirits whenever I look out the window and calls me back outdoors. Because we’ve had so much rain over the past few months, all my plants have exploded with new growth. So, I decided to spend a few hours outside shaping the bushes and pulling weeds.

In the midst of my peaceful productivity, a neighbor suddenly yanked open her blinds and screamed at me, “Get away from that bush! What are you doing cutting it now?! Don’t you know….!?!?!”

I was so shocked by the sight of her — tightly wrapped in her white robe, arms flailing, face beet red — that I didn’t process any more of what she yelled at me. All I experienced was her RAGE!! I dropped the shears and looked down at my hands; they were shaking.

What in the world…?

I walked to her door and knocked. No answer. I knocked again and waited. Still, no answer. One more time, I knocked…. and nothing.

I knew she was in there, but she was not going to engage with me. I walked back home feeling bewildered. I’d been judged — condemned, and blasted! — and I would be given no chance to appeal.

Only this morning did I make the connection between that bizarre experience and the way many young couples have described infertility and the God they don’t understand.

For much of their lives, God has seemed largely silent and invisible — like my neighbor. They trust that He exists, but they have no real relationship with Him, nor do they sense that He wants one. In their minds, He has lived behind closed blinds and a locked door for so long, they don’t expect Him to make a sudden appearance.

They would welcome His assistance with their efforts to grow something wonderful — but they don’t believe He will offer to help because, like my neighbor, He never has.

Their latent fear is that, if He suddenly does materialize, it will be to vent anger. Just as she did, He will yank open the blinds, blast them with His fury, and then refuse to engage or explain. Better, they decide, not to engage Him at all.

Does that sound familiar to you? Do you find yourself avoiding a God you believe may be angry, rather than risking engagement? Have you tried to talk with Him, only to find Him unresponsive? Has He come to seem more like a cause for alarm than a source of hope? Like a condemning judge, rather than an ever-present help in times of trouble?

Then you need to claim this promise:

“… neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  – Romans 8:38-39

Whatever you may have done or not done, it cannot come between you and the One who loves you. Your circumstances may make you feel that His love has been withdrawn and you have been forsaken, but you do not need to be afraid. Scripture says:

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ” – Romans 8:1

Begin to see your circumstances as an invitation to knock on the door, initiate a conversation, accept God’s limitless grace, and experience the truth that He makes all things possible. You will NOT have the experience I had with my neighbor. Instead, you will discover the source of all love and hope. Trust me.

Ball up your courage.

Knock on the door.

“Do not be afraid” [Matthew 28:10]

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Want more encouragement and cause for hope? Read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

 

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“Our God is Truly Awesome”

A few days ago, I wrote about the minister and his wife who adopted twins after despairing that they might never become parents. They were matched within weeks of presenting their profile to the adoption agency, and they flew across the country to witness the births of their boys. What a story of God’s incredible goodness!

Some of you who are in the depths of despair over your own infertility struggles may be tempted to argue that that story sounds like a fairy tale — that things like that don’t happen to people like you, and that it’s unlikely to change your circumstances if you trust a God who seems to be failing you already.

I understand those feelings. I wrestled with anger and resentment for years as we attempted to start our family.

So, here’a another story — with a very different outcome.

Jovita Nwaugwu was unable to conceive after years of fertility treatments. She discovered this blog and, through it, the book Pregnant With Hope. She emailed me recently asking for an opportunity to share her story with you. Rather than paraphrase her testimony, I will just post it here in her own words:

“Hello Susan,

I emailed you years ago about how to pray when you are struggling to conceive. Now, I want to share my testimony…

After 7 years of fertility treatment and no success, I decided to seek God seriously. During that time, I realized God does not owe me a child. I changed my spiritual environment and started fasting and praying to know when to stop the fertility treatments. Finally, my pastor told me it was time.

I prayed for a confirmation. It was time for us to start fertility treatments again and my husband refused. He said, “God doesn’t want us to go back for any further treatment.” Even though he had wanted us to go back to treatments, he suddenly changed his mind. I said okay, and I thanked God for His confirmation by my husband’s refusal.

This was in 2014. Then my husband said, “Let’s see what God has for us this year.” This was in April/May.

In August, I found out I was pregnant. Usually, when I’m pregnant, my progesterone level is low and my pregnancy ends up in miscarriage, but this time my progesterone level was perfect. I started thanking, trusting and believing God.

My daughter was born on March 17th and her name is Grace Ogechi. “Ogechi” means “in God’s time.”

Please, I want you to continue encouraging your readers. Your book, Pregnant With Hope, gave me all the hope I needed to go through the wilderness of infertility — and God saw me through. My pregnancy wasn’t an easy journey, but God was with me from start to finish. Our God is truly Awesome and doesn’t share His glory.”

And all God’s people said, Amen.

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For more help and hope, visit PregnantWithHope.info and read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

 

 

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“He Lifted Me….”

Several years ago, when I was leading a group of infertile couples through the Pregnant With Hope bible study, a minister’s wife shared her story. She and her husband had tried to conceive for years, but she’d never been able to carry a baby to term. Meanwhile, her husband was climbing into the pulpit every Sunday morning to preach the goodness of God. It felt like living a lie, and it became an impossibly difficult situation.

As a dark cloud of despair and resentment began to settle on both of them, he took a leave of absence from the church, and they sought comfort away from their inquisitive congregation.

Like all of us who have struggled with infertility, they wrestled with self-pity. It is, as Jesus Calling affirms:

“…a slimy, bottomless pit. Once you fall in, you tend to go deeper and deeper into the mire. As you slide down those slippery walls, you are well on your way to depression, and the darkness is profound.”

When they arrived at our group’s first meeting, they were hoping for little more than commiserating community. But over the course of ten weeks, they opened their minds and hearts to the messages of the lessons. They came to see that they had fallen into a “pit” of self-pity by ceasing to trust a God who wasn’t responding on their timetable, who didn’t seem to share their vision, and who failed to explain His reasoning — in other words, a God they could not control.

They came to a fork in the spiritual road: They could choose to trust God’s plan rather than their own, or they could reject Him and continue to struggle on without Him.

Jesus Calling says:

“Your only hope is to look up and see the Light of My presence shining down on you. Though the Light looks dim from your perspective deep in the pit, those rays of hope can reach you at any depth. While you focus on Me in trust, you rise ever so slowly out of the abyss of despair. Finally, you can reach up and grasp My hand. I will pull you out into the Light again.”

They came to the realization that God was their only hope. With or without children, He was the source of every good thing in their lives. They would trust Him, even if they did not understand why He would not enable them to conceive.

They surprised themselves by deciding to try adoption. The bible study had led them to the realization that God creates families in many ways, and they saw their decision as an exercise in obedience. Despite being told that they were unlikely to match — “Birth mothers may be put off by the fact that you’re in ministry, and they may not like that you’re older than most new parents” — they believed they were honoring God with this unexpected leap of faith.

A few weeks after submitting their profile, they got a phone call. Would they consider adopting newborn twins?

I still get chills when I tell this story because — as she told me when she called with the news — “no one but God knew we’d always been praying for twins.”

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.”  – Psalm 40:2-3

He lifted….

They trusted, and He lifted.

They stopped resenting and started releasing. They let go and let God. And He did what He’d always planned to do. He blessed them — in His way, on His timetable, according to His plan.

Are you tired of trying to force God’s hand? Of begging and pleading for your dream to come true? Before you slide any further down into the pit of self-pity, lift your eyes up off your circumstances and focus on the only One with the power to change your story.

“The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.”  – Psalm 147:11

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Want to hear more stories of couples whose despair turned to hope? Read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples and visit PregnantWithHope.info

 

 

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