The Hardest Question II: “Is Infertility His Punishment?”

As much as most men don’t like to talk about infertility, they really aren’t eager to talk about how it makes them feel.  That doesn’t mean, though, that they aren’t wrestling with the question, “Is infertility punishment for something I did?  Something in my past that God doesn’t plan to forgive?”

Two days ago, I wrote a post about the topic of infertility as punishment – sharing the story of Rahab’s journey from deviant-society prostitute to respected wife and mother, and ancestor of Jesus.  It would seem logical that the same amazing grace would be available to men… but is it really?  Or is Rahab’s the Old Testament story that proves the exception to the rule of God’s harsh judgment?

I came across the answer this morning.

I’ve been re-reading Joseph’s story.  As a young man, he had dreams of his brothers and parents bowing down to him.  When he shared the dreams, his eleven brothers’ growing resentment of their father’s favorite son boiled over.  They plotted to kill him, then changed their minds and sold him into slavery in Egypt instead.

Many years later, Joseph had become Pharaoh’s trusted right hand – and the brothers went to Egypt seeking grain during a famine.  They didn’t recognize Joseph, but he recognized them.  That set the stage for an unforgettable encounter….

Joseph spoke harshly to them, wanting to be sure they had changed their ways before he blessed them.  They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of [what we did to] our brother…. that’s why this distress had come upon us.” Guilty consciences, combined with fear of someone else’s power over them and their future, convinced the brothers they were being punished.

The Bible says, “Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, ‘What is this that God has done to us?’” The brothers were convinced God was using their circumstances to punish them for their unforgivable crime.  No one knew their secret past but God – so this situation must be His intended vengeance.

Just like these brothers, men sometimes assume something in their past is thwarting their dreams for the future.  More than one aspiring father has confessed that fear to me….

Sean thought it was his decision to turn his back on God as a teenager.  Carlos thought it was marrying a black Protestant against his Catholic parents’ wishes.  Brent worried it was his resentment that God’s plans hadn’t matched his own.  Trey thought it was because he’d taken a charmed life for granted.  Mike thought it was because he’d been  insensitive to friends who’d needed his support when they’d struggled through infertility.  Joe worried it was because he’d been a phone-it-in Christian for years.

All these men worried that God might be holding a grudge.  That He might be keeping score and seeing this as a chance to get even.  That anything less than lifelong, heartfelt devotion and choices worthy of Jesus might be cause for punishment from a wrathful, take-no-prisoners judge.  That this might be their fault.

Joseph’s story shows how wrong they were to be afraid.

Joseph put his brothers through a series of tests designed to reveal the truth in their hearts.  When he found honesty and selflessness, he revealed his desire to bless them.  Not only did he offer food for them and their descendants, he and Pharaoh announced “the best of all Egypt will be yours.”

Their crime was never punished; in fact, Joseph explained that God had used their past actions to fulfill His plan for the future.  What had been done with bad intentions was used by God for good.

The same can be true for us.  God can take what we have done and use it – to teach us, to mature us, to bless us.  And to bless others.  What matters is not what we have done, but who we are ready to become.  Are we willing to be accountable for past actions?  Are we ready to put self aside and  trust in God’s unmerited favor?  If so, just like Joseph, God stands ready to forgive those whom He has always loved… and to bless us.

Accept His amazing grace – and join Sean, Carlos, Brent, Trey, Mike and Joe as humbly grateful fathers.

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