Category Archives: Battles

Infertility forces us into battles over our thoughts, emotions, choices, and priorities. What can we do about it?

Nothing is Wasted

My friend, Gayle, told me a few days ago that she’s ended a relationship with a man she’d hoped to marry. She is grieving the loss of John’s presence. But more than that, she’s grieving the loss of a highly-prized idea. She had believed he was “the one.” But it turned out, he wasn’t.

She’s frustrated that she “wasted so much time” on what proved to be a dead-end. And she’s stressed, knowing that the time can never be recovered and the clock is ticking.

Does any of that sound familiar? I wanted… and I thought… but it wasn’t… and I’m devastated… and now, I’m stressed… and what if it never….?!

I listened and offered comfort and support. And then, I told her nothing is wasted with God. Everything can be carried forward and used for good. My belief is rooted in Romans 8:28 which promises:

“All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”

It’s also rooted in my own life experience — and the experiences of countless couples I’ve watched make their own infertility journeys. Nothing is wasted. Nothing! In the incredible goodness and efficiency of God, it all equips us for what He knows is coming.

“Let nothing be wasted” [John 6:12]

That was Jesus’ instruction to his followers after the feeding of the 5,000. He had transformed 5 loaves and 2 fish into more than enough food for everyone present. Clearly, he could provide more in the future. But instead, “Jesus distributed… as much as they wanted,” and then told his followers to gather every leftover. They were to take nothing for granted. Every bit had value — and it would likely be needed and used in the not-too-distant future.

How does that connect to Gayle’s story? Or to yours?

I’m convinced that everything God allows into our lives has a purpose. In the moment, it is often impossible to imagine how. When suffering and self-pity overwhelm us, it’s easy to think God has turned away, rejected our pleas, and hardened His heart.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

When we give God our suffering and ask Him to use it for our good, He promises to transform it and give us “beauty for ashes, and joy for mourning.”

By faith, we can claim today’s heartache as the foundation for tomorrow’s joy. Gayle can choose to walk by faith, believing that God is well able to bring the right man into her life at the right moment. You can choose to walk by faith, too, trusting that all the bad news that comes with infertility is never the final word. That belongs to God.

“Let nothing be wasted.” Lift up your suffering in open hands. Let Him replace it with joy.

=================================================

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Battles, Loss, Perspective

Who Can You Trust?

A few days ago, I wrote about prayer journaling and neglected to mention that, if you try it, you are likely to hear a voice that can’t be trusted. Before you can hear the Lord speak to you, you must silence it:

“Remember that the evil one is the father of lies. Learn to recognize his deceptive intrusions into your thoughts. One of his favorite deceptions is to undermine your confidence in My unconditional love. Fight back against these lies! Do not let them go unchallenged. Resist the devil in My Name, and he will slink away from you. Draw near to Me, and My presence will envelop you in Love.”  – Jesus Calling

Don’t believe there’s a battle for your mind? Then whose voice is it that whispers, “You’re not meant to have a baby. You never will. This treatment isn’t going to work. Everyone else conceives, but not you. You are defective, flawed, irreparably damaged. No birth mother would choose you, and no baby would love you. It’s not meant to be — ever — so give up, and get on with your life.”

Have you ever heard those words whispered in your spirit? Even now, years after giving birth to two children, they still unsettle me — taking me back to a time when I felt hopeless and alone. Have you ever heard similar words  and thought, what if it’s true?

Those are not the words of the God who loves you, who knows your heart aches, and who answers every prayer with love and wisdom. Those are the words of the evil one, who wants very much for you to turn your back on God. He will speak to you any time you’re willing to listen — and make this journey much harder for you to bear. He may even be able to convince you that it’s hopeless.

Unless, you choose to trust God.

If you do, rather than limp through this marathon toting a growing burden of despair, you will find the hope you need to keep going — and the strength you need to reach the day God intends: the day when you become a parent to the child who’s coming.

“Draw near to Me, and My presence will envelop you in Love.”

Claim this promise! Let God the Father comfort you, his beloved child, and whisper words that will give you hope.

============================

Learn more about God’s promises and the battle for your mind in Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Battles, Hope, Trust

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

=======================================

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Battles, Hope, Trust

Comfort One Another

Andy Stanley, my all-time favorite pastor and a terrific counselor (despite his claims to the contrary), frequently reminds us to “one another one another.” By that he means we should love one another, help one another, teach one another, serve one another, encourage one another, support one another… seek ways to “one another one another” as an expression of our love for each other and the embodiment of Christ’s love for us.

But how do you find the strength to do all that “one another-ing” when you’re struggling yourself?

That’s Melissa’s challenge.

She wrote to me a few days ago asking for prayer. She’s incredibly grateful to have given birth two weeks ago: “We had only one embryo, only one chance. But God! …miraculously we conceived.”  Her joy is tempered by her father’s sudden death 7 months into the pregnancy. Overwhelmed by grief, her mother cannot fully enjoy the new life in the family. And, before the baby was two weeks old,  Melissa’s husband learned he may have cancer. How does she triage the needs of all the people she loves most in the world, and keep her own emotions in balance?

Instinctively, she reached out to someone who has also experienced infertility, the joy of new life, the early death of a father, the grief of a widowed mother, the fearful waiting for news of cancer and all that that may foreshadow. In doing so, she offered me a chance to live into a powerful promise from scripture:

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” – 2 Corinthians 1:4

“He comforts us….” There is no question whether God will comfort us; He will and He does. When? “… in all our troubles.” Not some of the time. Not only when He decides our troubles are someone else’s fault and we are innocent victims. He comforts us all of the time in all of our troubles.

How does He do that? Through scripture. Through the indwelling comfort of the Holy Spirit. Through those who love us. And sometimes, through those who hardly know us — those who are completely unaware of the ways in which their words or actions help us or give us hope.

Why does God do that? Not because He owes us something. Not because we’ve been guaranteed an easy life or a quick rescue from heartache. He does it “…so that we can comfort others.” He comforts us in a whole host of ways that are designed to meet our needs so that we can pay it forward. So that we can embody His love for us and extend it to someone else. So that we can “one another one another.”

The verse goes on, “When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” I’m claiming that promise! Melissa is troubled, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, I will be able to give her the same comfort God has given me as I have struggled through each of the difficult challenges she’s now facing. By the grace of God and according to His promise, I will be able to give her the comfort that gave me peace in the midst of loss and uncertainty.

I will be able. Not because I’m me, but because God is faithful. And because He equips us to “one another one another.”

====================================================

Find more cause for hope in Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

1 Comment

Filed under Battles, Control, Hope, Loss, Perspective

The Best Defense…

It doesn’t happen often, but when someone willfully violates my boundaries and I am struggling to respond constructively (or just to hold my ground), it takes a heavy toll on me – and my body pays the price.

I’ve learned recently that many of us absorb our feelings deep into our bodies.  Rather than resolving issues that may require us to confront people we’d love to avoid, we push the hurt down, away from our thoughts to a place deep in our spirits, and we tell ourselves that we’re handling it well.

But we’re not.

A book I’m reading now makes clear that our health (and fertility) is profoundly affected by our thoughts and feelings.  When we feel helpless and hopeless – or when we push our emotions so far from our consciousness, we can’t even say what we feel – negative physical consequences often result.

How?  Research has shown that anxious, worried, stressed, frustrated, anguished, hostile thoughts and feelings have the power to alter our immune systems, making it hard to fight off sickness.  They can undermine our sleep, making it harder to recover through rest.  They can affect our concentration, making it difficult to think clearly and make good choices.  And much, much more.

Bottom line, they can become the enemy within.

Literally.

That was the epiphany for me.

I’ve realized that when I allow negative thoughts and feelings to dwell in my spirit, I open the door to all sorts of bad consequences.  The chain reaction starts off simply enough.  My skin breaks out, or my shoulders ache.  I narrowly avoid an accident or somehow provoke an argument because I’m tired and distracted.  I’m not hungry, so I don’t eat.  Without the energy to exercise, I skimp on that, too.  Soon, good self-care falls by the wayside.  And before you know it, I look bad and I feel worse.

Without realizing it, my dark mood – and all the negative thoughts and feelings it procreates — propels me toward poor choices that reinforce my sense that everything’s coming against me.  It becomes self-fulfilling:  Bad leads to worse, and worse, and even worse….  Then, someone says, “Are you sick?  You don’t look good.”  The vicious cycle accelerates and within hours – or even minutes — my perception is altered without my realizing it and it affects my ability to see things clearly.

An emotional death spiral begins – and soon, it becomes a spiritual one, too.  God feels very far away.

Sound at all familiar?

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The enemy is always seeking a stronghold in our spirits – a place of anger, fear or self-pity that will enable him to set up camp and attack us from within.  It is an opportunistic assault launched when we feel vulnerable (helpless, hopeless) and alone.

We opened the door.  And we can close it.

How?  By asking God to fight our battles.

That’s what I did recently.  I affirmed my right to healthy boundaries, backed away from the person who set off my downward spiral, and asked the Lord to work in his spirit – to convinct him, show him the damage he’d done, and free me from the burden of either defending myself or engaging in an unwelcome “battle” over whether he did me wrong.

I’m confident my body will thank me… as soon as my hands stop shaking.

4 Comments

Filed under Battles, Peace, Perspective, Speaking Up

What Moves the Heart of God?

What moves the heart of God and makes Him want to open a womb so that an infertile woman becomes a mother?  Is it a mystery that cannot – and should not — be explored?  Or does scripture suggest that we can know?

Until yesterday, I would have said there is no way to know what moves God to make an infertile woman suddenly able to conceive.  But, one sentence in Exodus opened my mind to the possibility that God does intend for us to know – and to apply what we understand to our lives.

Let me explain…

In Exodus 1, a new king came to power feeling threatened by the potential for mutiny by his Hebrew slaves.  His solution?  Order the Hebrew midwives to kill all newborn boys.  “The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live” [Exodus 1:17].

In an age when few dared defy Pharaoh — and those who did were killed — the least powerful members of Egypt’s lowest social class refused to obey.  He demanded an explanation.  The midwives brazenly lied to him, saying, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before midwives arrive.”  Pharaoh’s response was to order all baby boys thrown into the Nile.  But notice God’s response:

“…because the midwives feared God, He gave them families of their own” [Exodus 1:21].

Wait a minute….  Did you catch that?

 “Because the midwives feared God, He gave them families of their own.”  What does that mean?  What is it about fear that pleased God – and pleased Him so much that He elected to give these women children of their own?

Despite their fear… – The midwives must have known that defying Pharaoh’s order meant certain death.  Surely, they must have feared for their lives.  And, they must have lived in constant fear of being discovered – which was inevitable, since the number of live baby boys was increasing.  And yet….

… they feared God… – The midwives knew that their God would not condone the senseless slaughter of His people.  Did they fear His wrath if they participated in Pharaoh’s plan?  Possibly.  But in scripture, to “fear” God more often means to reverence and respect Him.  The midwives loved and honored the God who had breathed life into the wombs of Hebrew women.  Their hearts were right with Him, and their lives were lived in service.  It was their desire to do His will, even if it meant defying Pharaoh’s.

 …and they acted fearlessly – Their respect for God’s will spurred them to act without regard for Self.  Whatever doubts and nagging fears may have plagued them, they still acted in accordance with what they knew:  God would not want this injustice to be perpetrated against His people.  And they stood firm:  We will not do it.  They chose defiant action, and they trusted God with the consequences.

God’s response?  “Because the midwives feared God, He gave them families of their own.”

Were the midwives infertile prior to their silent insurrection?  Certainly, the text implies that they were childless in an era when family was everything. They spent their days – and nights – delivering other women’s dreams safely into their arms, knowing that the same dreams were apparently out of reach for them.  Until they put their faith into action.

Then, God gave them what their courageous action had made possible for others.  He rewarded their selflessness with the greatest gift a woman of that era could receive:  descendants who would carry on the name and traditions of their ancestors.  Children of destiny whose lives would matter to the God who’d created them.

What is the learning for us?  A right heart, selfless conduct, and a willingness to put our lives completely in the hands of God wins His heart – and it delights Him to bless us in response.  When we act out of faith, rather than fear, we invite Him to work in and through our circumstances to make the impossible possible.

He can, and He will.

=======================================================

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Battles, Bystanders, Control, Hope, Trust

Predicting the Future

Raise your hand if you’d like to be able to predict the future.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know how the story’s going to unfold?  Whether you’re going to conceive – and when?  Or whether you’re not?  Whether you’re going to adopt a healthy, beautiful baby?  Or whether, at some point, you’ll move on to live life without children?

What will happen?

Wouldn’t you give anything to know?

You’re not alone.

A friend confessed to me that she’s begun seeing a psychic.  Her need-to-know overcame her initial unease, and she made an appointment.  Reassured by the predictions she was given, she quickly became addicted.  She’s now a regular, allocating portions of each week’s budget to psychic predictions.

The “need” to know can make us all do crazy things.

This morning, I read about a king turning to his captive for dream interpretation. It seemed crazy to his royal counselors, but threatened by a dream he could not understand, Pharaoh called on Joseph to tell him what it meant for the future.  Generations later, Nebuchadnezzar asked the same of Daniel.

These rulers were used to absolute power.  But, they knew they were at the mercy of an unseen, unknown future.  They needed to know what was coming — and God’s followers knew Someone with the answers.

When Pharaoh called for Joseph to explain his dream’s meaning, Joseph responded, “I cannot do it, but God will….”  Daniel had a similar exchange with Nebuchadnezzar.  He said, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who can….”

The prideful arrogance of both kings made them want to resist God, but their urgent need to know caused them to humble themselves – briefly – and admit, “I need to know what God has to say to me.”

There have been times – especially recently – when sobering statistics have made me want to know the future with certainty.  The doctor has told me the odds of a particular outcome and I’ve felt a surge of fear.  And a need to know.  In the moment, I’m tempted to attribute god-like powers to the doctor so that he can tell me what will happenBut he can’t really.

He can speculate, based on the available test results and those who’ve covered this same ground before us.  He can make an educated guess.  He can even pretend to know (like my friend’s psychic).  But the truth is, he doesn’t know.  Only God knows.

And only God can tell me, if He so chooses.

If He doesn’t?  Then, like my friend, I can create false gods.  I can resort to substitute sources of information — people who believe in their ability to predict my future (especially if I’m paying them).  I can tell myself to trust them, and project onto them a level of knowledge and understanding that they don’t actually have.  I can choose to believe, “now, I know” and put my energy into proving them right.

But experience has taught me, none of that will bring peace.

Or, I can follow the kings’ example.  I can recognize my limitations – and those of the people I typically consult as I try to anticipate what’s coming.  And then, I can give God my undivided attention:  “What do you have to say to me, Lord?  What do you want me to hear?  You’re the only One who knows what’s coming… and I’m listening.”

With those words, I fling open the door, welcoming Him into my story and the future that only He knows.

1 Comment

Filed under Battles, Control, Humility, Peace, Trust

The Battle for Peace

“Praise and thanksgiving in all things is a powerful spiritual weapon.”  Those words leaped off my calendar yesterday.  As always, God’s timing was perfect.

Let me explain…

I am currently making my way through the hardest thing I’ve ever had to face.  Like many of the challenges that have come before it, this journey involves living into what I’ve written – both in this blog, and in my book:  trusting God, letting go, patiently enduring suffering, nurturing hope despite discouraging statistics, and more.

It has been a joy to discover that I have grown spiritually since I last covered this ground.  Don’t get me wrong.  Fear and doubt have their moments.  They rush at me like tidal waves and threaten to drag me under a turbulent sea of uncertainty.  But then, I remember what I’ve learned – and what I’ve tried to teach you:  give up the illusion of control, take fearful thoughts captive, claim God’s promises, and speak words of confident hope over your circumstances.

When I do these things, I find myself strengthened and encouraged.  I discover that I’m able to swim to the surface of the anxiety and gain a new perspective – one that sees things very differently and recognizes there is more to reality than what I feel.

Those feelings are deceptive.  I know.  I remember.  They mislead me into sensing God’s absence, or worse, a lack of concern for my struggles.  Of course, that is a lie whispered to me by the one who hopes to deceive me into despair – and ultimately, into a sense of separation from the God who loves me.

That’s why words of praise and thanksgiving are a powerful spiritual weapon.

Jesus’  last words before leaving this earth were, “I am with you always.”  Always.  In fear.  In darkness.  In uncertainty.  In despair.  In confusion.  In grief.  In a sense of separation from the love of the Father that is only an illusion, an attempt by God’s enemy to trick me into grieving something that can NEVER be lost.

God has not abandoned me!  Christ has not forgotten me.  The Holy Spirit has not left me.  “I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.’”  That is the Truth.  That is the life raft I cling to whenever waves of fear wash over me.

Last week, I made my own journey to the cross.  I brought my hope for the outcome I want and laid it at the feet of the God I trust.  I poured my heart out, along with my tears, and confessed my deep desire to control things I cannot control and force an outcome I cannot force.  And then, I let go.

I acknowledged the very real possibility that this will end differently than I would have scripted.  I grieved that possibility – and then I opened my hands and said, “Your will, not mine.”  My whole heart has chosen trust and obedience.  I accept whatever is coming with praise and thanksgiving.

I genuinely believe that, even if I can’t see it, God’s will will be His best for me.  And I choose to claim that now.  Confident that He will not fail me.  He will not leave me or forsake me.  He will not forget me or neglect to bless me.  Despite the fear that uncertainty evokes, I believe.  And therein lies peace.  The ultimate spiritual weapon.

Whatever the outcome of this particular medical battle, I have won in the way that matters most.  Thanks be to God.

1 Comment

Filed under Battles, Control, Hope, Peace, Perspective

When the Longed-for Blessing Brings Bad News

Many of this blog’s posts have focused on the longing for a pregnancy that brings a baby safely into the world.  But what happens when that longed-for blessing no longer feels like one?

I got an incredibly honest, heartrending request for prayer today.  It came in an email forwarded by a woman whose friend conceived on her 6th IUI (hurray!), and just discovered the baby has Down’s Syndrome.  You might be tempted to stop reading, since the thought of such a possibility threatens to  undermine your shaky confidence in a joyful future.  I hope you won’t, because the note I wrote in response to that prayer request made me realize the importance of affirming God’s faithfulness in all circumstances

That’s easy to claim when you’ve experienced effortless conception, an uneventful pregnancy, a straightforwarded delivery, and what looks to the world like happily-ever-after.  But what about when it isn’t so easy, and — by the world’s standards — it doesn’t go well?  Where is God in that?  Where is hope?  What good is faith if it suddenly seems flimsy and feeble?  And where can you go for strength?

My husband and I had to face these questions.  And at the time, there was no one to help us find answers.

We’d scheduled a vacation before our baby was conceived.  As it turned out, it was the week we needed to do an amnio if we wanted to be sure the baby was healthy.  We scheduled an appointment with a high-risk pregnancy specialist found through a friend of a friend.  The doctor started the appointment with an ultrasound.  We’d had several already, and we happily anticipated the chance to see our baby again.

But the doctor took an unusually long time with the ultrasound.  I lay on the table watching lines appear in his forehead as he scanned one area over and over and over.  My husband and I sent each other increasingly anxious looks, but no one spoke.  Then, the doctor said, “Your baby has a large hole in her heart.”  The jolt of adrenaline made me nauseous.  “Usually, that means the baby has Down’s Syndrome.  Has anyone talked to you about this before?”

I wanted to scream, and my mind was racing.  Who is this man?  What does he know?  Why wouldn’t anyone have told us?  It can’t be true….  We’d already lost several pregnancies to miscarriage, but this baby was thriving.  She was meant to come into the world!  Why would God say “yes” to a baby, but “no” to all we wanted that baby to be?

When I received Elizabeth’s prayer request today, the memories of that day flooded my mind.  And I knew God had given me an opportunity to speak the truth of His faithfulness out of my own experience.  I wrote to her:

When I was pregnant with my daughter, they found a HUGE hole in her heart during the amniocentesis.  They told us that, if she survived the pregnancy, she would almost surely have Down’s Syndrome.  We waited several agonizing days for results of the amnio.  In the interim, a couple we knew delivered a baby with unexpected Down’s Sydrome.  It was an extraordinarily stressful time.

Ultimately, our daughter’s test results indicated she did not have Down’s, but she did have the largest hole they’d ever seen in a baby’s heart at this stage of development.  It was hard to know how to pray about this.  Still, God was — and is — faithful.  Our daughter underwent open heart surgery when she was only four weeks old, and despite the odds they gave us as they took her into the OR, she survived and she’s thriving.

I realize the details of this story are different from yours.  At the same time, I feel as if I have some understanding of what you’re facing, based on our experience and the experience of our friends whose son has Down’s.  Neither we nor they would trade the children we have for any other.  We consider all that we’ve struggled through with and for them to be a small price to pay for the extraordinary blessing they have been in our lives.  The challenges we’ve faced as their parents have made us that much more passionate about being the best possible stewards of their incredible souls.  And I believe that was part of God’s purpose.

I don’t in any way mean to minimize what you’re going through.  But I can say with tremendous confidence, God is good and He blesses us in all sorts of unexpected ways.  I truly believe this is one of those well-disguised blessings — and some day, you will say so yourself with complete conviction and JOY.”

If “God not only loves you very much but also has put His hand on you for something special” [1 Thes 1:4], take heart in the knowledge that He will not abandon you to make your journey alone.  He has already begun equipping you.  That was part of the purpose of the infertility journey.  And He will not fail to comfort, strengthen or guide you.  Ever.

He never fails.

=======================================================

For more inspiration and cause for hope, click this link to order your copy of Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

2 Comments

Filed under Battles, Control, Loss, Perspective, Trust

Searching for Answers: Male Factor Infertility

A woman wrote to me recently asking for scripture-based wisdom on dealing with male factor infertility.

Expressing both frustration and anxiety about the lack of answers, information and guidance for Christian couples facing this problem, she said, “There is no [Bible-based] paradigm to study.  As far as I can remember, every case of infertility other than Elisabeth’s and Zechariah’s shows evidence of originating with the woman.  Male factor infertility spawns a set of questions quite different from ‘ordinary’ female infertility.

“For example:  Does God not acknowledge my infertility because it is my husband’s ‘problem’?  What solace can I take from Scripture since my circumstance is not mentioned?  How can I get the help I need when doctors keep putting us through IVF cycles without proper diagnosis beforehand?  How do verses such as ‘He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children’ pertain when I am not, in fact, ‘barren’?  And how should a fertile woman married to an infertile man curb herself so that she does not unintentionally undermine his masculinity?”

That’s a lot of questions, but Christ has promised, “Seek and ye shall find.”  So, let’s try to tackle them one at a time….

1) Where can I look for a Bible-based paradigm?  It depends on what constitutes a paradigm for you.  Are you looking for the story of a man accurately diagnosed as having male factor infertility who goes on to father a child after God intervenes?  That story is not in scripture.  There are, however, several stories of childless men becoming fathers extremely late in life (when, we can safely assume, infertility was statistically likely).

Recent research shows that volume, motility and structure of sperm all decline with age; meanwhile the odds of fathering a baby with Down syndrome or schizophrenia increase dramatically.  So, overlay that state-of-the-art medical knowledge onto Bible stories of late life fatherhood, and a paradigm does begin to emerge…

Statistics don’t matter when God is fulfilling a promise.  His purpose and timing supersede all universal “laws” as we understand them.  No doctor ever has the final word.  Only God does.

2) Does God not acknowledge my infertility because it is my husband’s problem?  Of course He does!  We are told, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  Therefore, infertility is not “his” problem; it is your burden to share.  It is a challenge God has allowed you to face – together — which, like all things, will lead to His best for you if you trust and obey Him.  That is what scripture teaches.

So, pray for your husband, and ask him to pray for you – very specifically naming your respective needs:  patience, endurance, longsuffering, joy, insight, perseverance, trust, peace, hope, etc.  Work together to prevent “his” problem — and the many challenges of the infertility journey — from driving a wedge into your relationship, and threatening to separate the “two become one.”  This proactive response to your struggle will strengthen your partnership in anticipation of the child God has in mind for you.

3) What solace can I take from scripture since my circumstance is not mentioned?  Plenty.  For example, this morning, I happened to be reading Isaiah 37-38.  In it, Isaiah describes two key events during Hezekiah’s reign.  In both of them, this God-honoring king found himself humbled by (feelings of) impotence in the face of circumstances beyond his control.

In both cases, he turned humbly to God, praying for Him to “hear… see… listen… remember…” and honor Hezekiah’s faith and trust with divine intervention.

In both cases, God did the impossible; He wiped out the enemy and blessed Hezekiah in the process.  The same can happen for us when we honor God, acknowledge our limitations, and turn to Him for help and hope.

4) How can I get the help I need when doctors keep putting us through IVF cycles without proper diagnosis beforehand?  As a doctor’s kid and a doctor’s wife, I’d say, “Start by saying, ‘No.'”  No, I will not undergo a procedure that is not preceded by a clear understanding of the problem.  No, I will not spend money on doctors who do not respond energetically to my need for help/answers/information.  And no, I will not blame others for my feelings of powerlessness if/when I fail to take responsibility for my choices.

Beyond that, I’d look to God for discernment.  Ask Him to keep His promises – to comfort you, to guide your steps, and to show you the way.  He has promised to draw near to you when you draw near to Him… so draw near, and ask Him to help you in ways that will further His will for you (which is His best).

5) How do verses such as ‘He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children’ pertain when I am not, in fact, ‘barren’?  In the most literal sense, this verse is not speaking to you if you’re not barren (meaning unable to conceive due to female infertility).  However, this verse does pertain to your circumstances in the following ways:  (1) It demonstrates God’s concern for the infertile, and (2) It demonstrates God’s willingness and ability to make possible what seems impossible to those who face infertility.

If you’d like to spend more time digging into this verse and its meaning for infertile couples, read this post.

6) How should a fertile woman married to an infertile man avoid unintentionally undermining his masculinity?  Great question, and one that is virtually never discussed publicly.  Why?  According to Peter Schlegel MD, Urologist-in-chief at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/ Weill Cornell Medical Center and president of the Society for Male Reproduction and Urology, “The role of the male in infertility has been grossly overlooked by lay[people] and professionals alike.”  Ditto for the pulpit.

No one EVER talks openly about male infertility… except when they feel safe.  That’s the purpose of PregnantWithHope groups.  They provide a haven for couples to share their struggles, fears and concerns openly – without fear of ridicule, criticism or emasculating pity.

Is it difficult for you or your husband to find a PregnantWithHope group near you?  You could start one (find information on How To at PregnantWithHope.com).  Or, you could have your support group of two, using Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples as your resource and discussion guide.  The book walks infertile couples through ten stages of the journey, and also gives readers a chance to “meet” ten couples who made the same journey and are now parents.  Their stories could give you great insight into how spouses can help one another, as well as how important it is to give grace when we fail to meet each other’s needs.

Does that help?  I know it doesn’t answer every question she had completely.  Nor, I’ll bet, does this post answer every question of yours.  Is there something specific you’d like me to address or explore further?  Email me at susan@pregnantwithhope.com and I’ll do my best to offer you cause for hope rooted in God’s word.

3 Comments

Filed under Battles, Hope, Perspective