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.

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

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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.

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

 

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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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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.”

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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