Monthly Archives: November 2015

Suffering: The Shield

Yesterday, the Holy Spirit called my attention to a particular passage in Tim Keller’s book, Prayer. It referred to the story of a woman who was widowed in her early 30’s, and then forced to flee her home country.

St. Augustine told the woman she should embrace her “bereaved and desolate condition” because…

“Her sufferings were her ‘shield’ — they defended her from the illusions of self-sufficiency and blindness that harden the heart, and they opened the way for the rich, passionate prayer life that could bring peace in any circumstance.”

So many times, readers of this blog have contacted me directly to ask: How…?

How do I let go of (the illusion of) control? How do I find strength when my dream is dying? How do I communicate with a God I don’t know or understand? How do I trust Him without knowing His plan? How do I find peace in all this uncertainty?

In that one sentence, Augustine captures the blessed paradox of infertility.

He explains that the same suffering that upends us also rescues us. It knocks us loose from our moorings, shakes us out of our sleepwalking, and frightens us into fearful attention. It compels us to cry out, “Where are you, God?!”

In the process, it protects us — from the illusion of self-sufficiency that urges us to turn our backs on God, and the semi-slumber of a comfortable life that leads us to presume we don’t need Him or His help.

Essentially, Augustine tells us…

Lucky you! Your suffering has the potential to catapult you to a new level of spiritual power and peace. How? By protecting you from the arrogant delusion that you are the god of your life. And, by inviting you to acknowledge the real God on the throne.

You’re already suffering. The question now is whether you will continue to fight for control, or acknowledge the fact that you cannot achieve it — and begin to yield.

The choice is completely yours — so, to that extent, you are in control.

Resist facing your limitations and the truth of your ongoing suffering, and it is likely to continue. Again and again, you will find yourself facing the same choice. Embrace the truth, and Augustine says your suffering “will open the way for the rich, passionate prayer life that could bring peace in any circumstance.”

I will tell you from experience, a rich, passionate prayer life can change everything — not only your perspective on your present circumstances, but also who you will become and what will occur in the life of your family. It can completely alter the trajectory of your story by making it part of God’s story, played out in your life.

See your current circumstances not as punishment, but as the Lord’s  invitation to come closer. To go deeper. To seek not just His presence, but His perfect will in all areas of your life. As Keller concludes, “There is every reason… to accept his invitation.”

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Want more help and hope? Visit www.PregnantWithHope.info and read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

 

 

 

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When It’s Time to Pray…

Four years ago, I wrote a post titled, “The Infertility Prayer God Always Answers.” According to stats, thousands of people continue to seek out and read that post every year. Why is that?

I’m guessing it’s because they’re hoping to learn how to twist God’s arm or bend His will to align with their own. Truth be told, wouldn’t you like to know how to do that, too?

Infertility makes us want to compel God to solve the problem we cannot seem to solve for ourselves: “I want to be pregnant, God. For some reason, I can’t seem to make it happen… so You need to. Get busy!! Amen.”

That is not the prayer God always answers. Far from it.

That You-work-for-Me mindset (even when tactfully expressed) treats God as a means to our desired end. It attempts to trade roles — putting us in the position of control by putting God in the role of dutiful servant, fulfilling the will of the one in charge.

So, if imperative commands don’t get a response, what should you be praying?

According to Tim Keller’s book, Prayer, more than 1500 years ago, St. Augustine made clear, “You should not begin to pray for all you want until you realize that in God you have all you need.”

Take that in before you read on….

Until you realize how blessed you are to know the grace of God the Father, the love of his son, Jesus, and the constant fellowship of the Holy Spirit, you should not pray for what you want.

Why? Because everything you pray will be distorted. Your prayers, Augustine writes, will simply give voice to your worries and the lust for what you’re sure you must have… now! Those prayers will bring no relief from “your melancholy burden” because God will not answer [James 4:2-31].

Why? Because when we ask for what is not good for us, or what is right but at the wrong time or for the wrong reason(s), God loves us enough to say, “No. That is not My best for you.”

When I miscarried my first pregnancy, I prayed fervently for another one. My husband and I invested all the time, effort and money we could into doing everything possible to bring another baby into being. I told myself God would be pleased that I was praying about our future while doing all I could to make it happen.

In hindsight, I can see the truth of Augustine’s words. My prayers at the time were rooted in fear and urgent longing — “What if….?” “I want….!” “What if….?!” “Please God…..!” — but never once did I pray, “You are all I need.”

Not once.

The need I felt to be a mom was too strong to be patient or still. It felt tangible and desperate. I wanted a baby! We needed to be a family! No amount of focusing on God seemed likely to reduce the intensity of that need.

Until…. we failed to fulfill our dream ourselves. And no doctor could guarantee a positive outcome — no matter what service was offered or how much we paid for it. All roads led to the same clear conclusion:  Only God could make the impossible possible.

So, infertility sent me on a search for the God of the impossible. That was no accident. In the course of that long journey, I learned to trust Him in a way I had never imagined. I learned to live my life with open hands and prayerful acceptance of His will, not mine.

And, I became a mom.

Twice.

That was all part of His plan. He had always intended to bless us with children. But first, I needed to learn to trust Him, and release my claim on the future.

There is a plan for your life, too. And you don’t need to convince God of anything in order for that plan to unfold in His perfect timing. You just need to seek Him with all your heart, put Him first in your life, and let go.

It’s that hard… and that easy.

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

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When It’s Hard To Be Thankful

As we enter into the official season of gratitude, I’m coming off a week that made it hard to feel thankful. It seemed like I was pushing water uphill in virtually every aspect of my life — and I found myself increasingly discouraged and overwhelmed.

Sound familiar?

While the world celebrates other people’s successes, you struggle with the secret — or worse, the very public awareness — of your repeated failure. That failure becomes a heavy burden that can seem even heavier when the calendar announces, it’s time to gather and give thanks.

What if you don’t feel thankful?

Last Thursday, exhausted by continuous efforts that failed to achieve any of my objectives, I melted into tears when my husband asked, “What’s bothering you?”

When simple questions bring tears to your eyes, gratitude is not the first emotion. Resentment, anger, despair… those are the familiar feelings that surge to the surface and belie any words to the contrary.

The truth is, it’s hard to be thankful when life is hard. Where is God? Why isn’t He helping? Why won’t He answer fervent prayers?

I told my husband that I’d been praying about several different situations while working to resolve them all. None of that had done any good. Everything was coming apart. And God’s promises didn’t seem to be translating into positive outcomes.

He told me what he sometimes tells his patients: “Let it go.”

He was right. It’s the best response when you come face-to-face with the realization that you are not in control.

Why? Because God is.

There are times when unanswered prayers are a blessing, when the struggle of the moment is setting the stage for the miracle that’s coming. Even if you can’t see it yet, it’s not defeatist to stop pushing water uphill. Nor is trusting God simply wishful thinking. It is choosing to affirm that He is who He says He is.

But, has He forgotten me? Does He care about this situation?

That’s the voice of doubt speaking. Doubt opens the door to fear and undermines faith with worry-filled fantasies that are contrary to the promises of God.

When your mind fills with doubt, worry and fear, it’s time for faith to flex its muscles. How? By exercising your freedom to choose whether to worry, or whether to trust. By definition, the more you do of one, the less you will of the other. One will weaken your faith; the other will make it stronger.

Receive that knowledge as a gift this Thanksgiving season. Recognize its incredible value, and give thanks for your freedom to choose: fear or faith.

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Need more encouragement during a challenging season? Read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Face-to-Face with the Hardest Question

This morning, I caught a glimpse of a newborn in the obituaries. In his photo, tiny George’s eyes were closed and he held his head in his hands. He was naked and peaceful.

I could not look away.

Years ago, I miscarried twins, one at a time. Their lifeless bodies remained inside mine for a short but surreal period of time as we waited to see if they would “leave” on their own or require surgical removal. To say that I sleepwalked through those days does not begin to capture the feeling of that time.

Our hope for a family of our own, for a future that extended beyond my husband and me, was concentrated in those babies. We loved the idea of them. And once they were conceived, we loved the knowledge of their presence. Our joy was beyond words. Our exuberance, boundless! We were having twins!!

And then… we were having just one baby. A surviving twin. Welcome and loved, but forever a reminder of loss.

And then… none. As it turned out, we were having only loss. And deep despair.

That was a dark and hopeless time. We told very few people, and none of them knew what to say. There were no words to answer our question: “Why?!” Why breathe life into them only to let them die? Why give us hope and then snatch it away? Why force us to circle back and share bad news so soon after we’ve shared joy?

“Why, God?!”

He was silent. And we were left to struggle through dark days of heartbreak, anger, resentment, and grief. God knew what had happened. He had allowed it. Or maybe, He’d willed it. He’d foreseen our celebration of good news… knowing death would follow. He’d given life to our dream… and then, watched as it died.

How were we supposed to make sense of that? of Him? And how could we ever trust such a capricious God?

That was the beginning of our journey. It was the crossroads moment that forced my husband and me to face the hardest question, “What kind of God are you?!” It would be many years before each of us found the peace that transcends circumstances and came to trust God in all things. There would be many, many more tears. More days of confusion, fear and loss.

Now, I can see in hindsight that the Lord truly has been “Emmanuel,” God with us. He has kept His promise never to leave or forsake us. He has given us joy in place of grief, and hope in lieu of fear. He has taught us the truth of who He is and of His great faithfulness.

Yes, that first loss took our breath away. It revealed our powerlessness to us. It also focused our attention and shook us out of a spiritual complacency. It compelled us to seek the God who wants to be known, and who promises…

I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me.”  [Proverbs 8:17]

Would we have wished for that experience at the time? Not a chance. But now, are we grateful for what it brought about in our lives? Absolutely.

Are you face-to-face with the question, “Why God?! What kind of God are you?!” My heart goes out to you — but I also have great hope for what’s in store. Seek Him diligently and you will find all that you need.

Welcome to the journey.

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Need wisdom and insight as you make your journey? Read Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

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