Tag Archives: asking why

So That We Can Comfort….

I was taking a walk with a new friend recently when I mentioned that I write a blog for people struggling with infertlity. It’s hard to explain to my peers why I still write it — our own journey ended long ago, I no longer lead the Bible study, I’m not trying to sell books or raise my profile… and I’m getting white hair, for goodness sake!

I just feel called.

Periodically, I wonder, “Is it time to stop writing?” I’d been praying about that for a while and seeking a clear answer. I’d had several unexpected, unprompted and very encouraging affirmations, but honestly, I still wrestled with this question: “Does someone who’s this far removed from that particular journey need to keep writing?”

Then, I got this email:

Hi Susan,

I just ran across your blog today and I am so happy I did. I almost cried because I have been searching for months for something to help bring me back up. A lot of other bloggers have stopped writing as their lives get hectic once they have children. It’s just so heart-warming for me to scroll down to the bottom of the last post and see the time stamp be within this month and this year. I don’t know why I find it so comforting, but I do. I’m purchasing your book and diving into your blog. I’m so happy and so encouraged now.

Katie

I couldn’t ask for a clearer answer. Not only do I need to keep writing, but there’s the answer to “why?” Scripture puts it this way:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” [2 Corinthians 1:3-4]

Reading blog posts about other infertile couple’s fears and failures won’t reduce Katie’s worry. Just like comparing notes in the doctor’s waiting room won’t reduce her stress. Yes, “misery loves company,” but her spirit is not encouraged by reading or hearing about other people’s suffering. The details of their grief don’t inspire hope

Only those of us who have made the journey and experienced the incredible faithfulness and goodness of God can attest to it in ways that will resonate in the midst of Katie’s circumstances. We can comfort her with the same truth that comforted us. We can share our stories and bear witness. We can point out the path of peace, having taken it ourselves.

Katie’s right. Too often, infertile couples become new parents so busy with their long-awaited joy that they don’t think to offer a helping hand to those still making the journey. No judgment; it’s understandable, but it’s bittersweet for people like Katie who are still struggling and left wondering, “Why them, but not me?”

I’m honored to have been given the privilege of walking alongside Katie — and each of you as you encounter the living God in the midst of your infertility journey.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” [Ephesians 3:16]

May His truth speak through me and resonate in your spirit, and may peace — however fleeting — be compelling evidence of His presence.

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Need more cause for hope? Visit PregnantWithHope.info

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From Heartache to Hope

After writing about my friend, Gayle’s, recent heartbreak, I came across these words in Jesus Calling:

“Sometimes, My blessings come to you in mysterious ways: through pain and trouble. At such times, you can know My goodness only through your trust in Me. Understanding will fail you, but trust will keep you close to Me.”

That’s the briefest and most accurate description I’ve ever encountered of the path that leads from heartache to hope.

The steps are clear….

  1. “…you can know My goodness only through your trust in Me.” — Life is hard…, but God is good. To recognize and experience that goodness in the midst of suffering, you must trust the One who is in control. That means letting go — of your need for control, of your right to what seems fair, of your timetable and of your plan. It means responding to disappointment, grief, and the fear that comes soon after with hope rooted in the belief that all is not lost. In fact, all is well! Despite how it may look or feel, God is still in the midst of your circumstances. If you acknowledge His presence by faith, you will experience a deepened sense of it. Trust is the only way to find His goodness in the midst of your suffering.
  2. “Understanding will fail you….” — When a miscarriage occurs or a procedure fails, you will be tempted to demand answers to the questions that will not stop: “Why?! Why me? Why us? Why now? Why this time? Why, when we’ve tried for so long? Why, when we’ve believed for a good outcome? Why, when the doctor said…?” You will rarely, if ever, find satisfying answers. Instead, you will face the choice of clinging to the questions and cycling through them again and again, or releasing them to the only One who knows why — and who answers, “for My good purpose.”
  3. “…but trust will keep you close to Me.” — Trust opens the door to peace, to calm, to patience… all things that would comfort you, except that they seem to elude you. Trust enables you to move through the emotional turmoil that suffering brings, and to step into the reassurance of hope that is deeply rooted in the Truth. It is not foolish to trust God; He is faithful. It is not naive to believe His word; He cannot be other than who and how He is. It is wise to relinquish control and trust in His goodness and purposefulness.

Does that path sound impossible for you to follow? Does God’s caring about your circumstances seem unlikely — or even, patently untrue? In the weeks ahead, I will dig deeper into the ways He proves His faithfulness. My hope is that you will discover, as I have, that in every heartache, there is an invitation to hope in Him.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”  – Psalm 34:8

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Want to learn more about the path to peace? Read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

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Struggling with, ‘Is Infertility My Fault?’

Six months ago, the LORD laid on my heart the need to write this.  You’ll know when you read it if God nudged me to re-run it for you….

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In the midst of infertility, uncertainty frequently begs the question, ”Why is this happening?  Why to us?  Why now?”  There is a deeper, much more painful question that many people struggle to avoid:  “Is this my fault?  Is this happening because of what I did?”  It is a worry laced with fear – and often, long-buried guilt.  It is virtually never voiced because the one who is desperate to know the answer is also desperately afraid to hear it.

When Angela and Sean tried to start a family, they encountered a series of unexpected hurdles.  “We thought — like everyone else — you get off birth control, wait six months and ‘boom’ you get pregnant,” remembers Angela.  “But I wound up in the ER with an ectopic pregnancy, then a cyst, then surgery for a closed tube, and then a miscarriage….”

Frustrated and worried about their lack of success, they tried to make sense of things.  Sean admits, “My first thought was, ‘Crap, we were on birth control for ten years.”

Angela’s fears went deeper:  “Maybe we weren’t letting God work in His way and that was why we had infertility.”  They tried IVF and failed.  “Maybe we didn’t let it happen naturally and so this was my punishment,” she reasoned.  She began seeking answers in terms of deserved consequences.  “I was asking myself, ‘What did I do wrong before marriage, or during marriage…?  Why is this happening?’”

She didn’t know it, but Sean was also finding fault in his past.  “I grew up Catholic, but when I was 16, I stopped going to church.  Now, I wasn’t praying.  I wasn’t reading the Bible.  We were going to church, but just going through the motions.”  Was God angry at Sean and Angela?  Was this His punishment?  Does He withhold children from those whose crimes are unforgiveable?  They wanted to know, but they couldn’t bring themselves to ask – even each other.

So, where can the answers be found?  And can they provide any peace?  Any reassurance that there is hope for those who’ve made choices or done things that might have angered God?

I have good news, and it starts with Rahab’s story….

When the Israelites headed toward the Promised Land, it was already inhabited by the Canaanites.  Scripture and archaeology reveal their culture was steeped in some of the most shocking, abominable practices imaginable – including incest, bestiality, institutionalized sexual abuse of women and child sacrifice [Leviticus 18:24-28].  In the midst of this depraved society lived a prostitute named Rahab.

Long story short, she knew the Israelites planned to invade Canaan, destroying everyone and everything, under strict instructions from God.  She agreed to help them take the city – in exchange for her life, and the lives of her parents and siblings.

Timeout. Look at Rahab.  She existed on the lowest rung of a sick society.  She had a family that could have provided for her; but apparently, she chose to pursue her profession with all its inherent risks.  Did her constant sexual activity produce children?  She never mentioned any when she negotiated for her life and that of her family.  So, either she disposed of whatever she conceived (abandonment? abortion? child sacrifice?), or she didn’t care enough to protect the lives she’d brought into the world; the invaders could slaughter them.

Does anything in that profile strike you as potentially offensive to God?  Inexcusable?  Unforgiveable?  Then you might want to hear the rest of her story….

She lied to protect the spies sent by the approaching invaders.  It was a traitorous act, committed to help people whose law called for a prostitute to be stoned.  But she chose to entrust herself to the God who had given that law, and to His people.  What became of her?

The whole city was invaded and burned, but she and her family were saved.  She accepted God’s offer of forgiveness for everything in her past.  Then, she married an Israelite who saw beyond that past – and together, they had a son.  Many years later, their great-great grandson, King David, was born.  And many generations after that, her descendant Jesus came into the world.

Does that sound like the story of a woman who got what she deserved?  Who suffered mightily because God was angry at the choices she’d made?  Not to me.  I see Rahab’s story as evidence of God’s incredible mercy.  He knows what’s in all hearts, He understands all motivations, and He stands ready to forgive all pasts – if we are willing to trust Him, act out of that trust, and receive the future He longs to give us.

Does that sound too good to be true?  Not to Sean and Angela, the proud parents of a boy and a girl.  It’s not too good for you, either. Receive God’s grace, and may the blessings begin to flow. 

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Needing to Know, ‘Why?’

Knowing why I have to do something, or why something is happening, has always mattered to me.  I guess it’s because I didn’t like taking orders as a kid.  “Because I said so” was my father’s justification for most of the demands he placed on me, and I (silently) resented that.  It struck me as an abuse of power, and it left me feeling powerless.

It seemed to me that if something was important, it was reasonable for me to want to know why, and for whoever was in authority to explain that to me.

Many times, as an adult, that same “need to know” trait has made me hesitate to obey God’s commands, or to trust Him in a particular situation.  Especially when there’s no obvious reason why He’d want things to go a certain way, I find myself dragging my feet, waiting for an explanation.

Here’s why that’s a problem:  when I refuse to budge until I get a satisfying answer, my circumstances don’t change.  Like a longsuffering parent with a willful child, God lets me stew in my situation until I humbly acknowledge that maybe trying things His way – even if I don’t understand why – is reasonable.

Is that an abuse of power?  In the midst of infertility, I sure thought so.  I struggled mightily with anger and resentment at God’s apparent lack of interest in my suffering.

Why wasn’t I ovulating?  Why couldn’t I stop miscarrying?  Why was having a baby so hard for us and so easy for everyone else?  Why didn’t our doctor have all the answers?  And if God had them, why wasn’t He giving them to us?  Like a petulant child, I wanted to know, “Why?!  Why?!  Why?!”  I kept silent only out of fear I’d make Him angry.

In hindsight, all that drama looks like a lot of self-inflicted suffering.  Why?  Because if we truly trust God to keep the promise that “all things work together for good,” then there is always an answer to “why?”:  it is part of His plan for our lives.  Sometimes, in the moment, that needs to be enough.

Either we trust Him, or we don’t.

That, of course, is the great struggle of infertility.  Will I trust Him, or will I fight to retain control?

With that as context, I had a big epiphany recently about the injunction “Pray without ceasing.”  I’d read and heard those words plenty of times before, but always wanted to know “why?”  Really, I think I wanted to know, “What’s in it for me?  I get why it makes you feel appreciated, God, but why should I put in all that effort — especially if you don’t seem to respond?”

A few days ago, in a moment of incredible grace, God showed me why.  Now, I know it’s vitally important for infertile couples to obey.  Here are the reasons:

1)      Constant prayer is an acknowledgment of His role in our story.

2)      It means we recognize and respect His authority, and we welcome His powerful presence — even though we cannot control it.

3)      It keeps us talking and listening to the only one with the ability to change anything & everything about our circumstances.

4)      Constant prayer creates healthy boundaries between us and a constant barrage of negative thoughts, worries and doubts.

5)      It enables us to experience moments of gratitude, even when we aren’t grateful for infertility.

6)      It helps us maintain perspective – God’s perspective.

7)      It helps us tune out the world’s messages about instant gratification, and helps us remember that God’s timing is always perfect.

8)      It grounds us in who we are to God, and who He is to us.

Bottom line, “pray without ceasing” is an imperative command because it’s good for us.  It helps us.  It comforts us, renews us, and strengthens us for the journey.

This command is not an abuse of power.  It is a gift.  An invitation.  A chance to draw near to the one who knows our struggles and loves us deeply.  It is a blessing that is available whenever we choose to make ourselves available.

Is that enough reason for you to pray?  It is for me.

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

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

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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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The Hardest Question: “Is Infertility My Punishment?”

Several days ago, the LORD laid on my heart the need to write this.  I’m not sure who it’s for – but you’ll know when you read it if God meant it for you….

In the midst of infertility, uncertainty frequently begs the question, ”Why is this happening?  Why to us?  Why now?”  There is a deeper, much more painful question that many people struggle to avoid:  “Is this my fault?  Is this happening because of what I did?”  It is a worry laced with fear – and often, long-buried guilt.  It is virtually never voiced because the one who is desperate to know the answer is also desperately afraid to hear it.

When Angela and Sean tried to start a family, they encountered a series of unexpected hurdles.  “We thought — like everyone else — you get off birth control, wait six months and ‘boom’ you get pregnant,” remembers Angela.  “But I wound up in the ER with an ectopic pregnancy, then a cyst, then surgery for a closed tube, and then a miscarriage….”

Frustrated and worried about their lack of success, they tried to make sense of things.  Sean admits, “My first thought was, ‘Crap, we were on birth control for ten years.”

Angela’s fears went deeper:  “Maybe we weren’t letting God work in His way and that was why we had infertility.”  They tried IVF and failed.  “Maybe we didn’t let it happen naturally and so this was my punishment,” she reasoned.  She began seeking answers in terms of deserved consequences.  “I was asking myself, ‘What did I do wrong before marriage, or during marriage…?  Why is this happening?’”

She didn’t know it, but Sean was also finding fault in his past.  “I grew up Catholic, but when I was 16, I stopped going to church.  Now, I wasn’t praying.  I wasn’t reading the Bible.  We were going to church, but just going through the motions.”  Was God angry at Sean and Angela?  Was this His punishment?  Does He withhold children from those whose crimes are unforgiveable?  They wanted to know, but they couldn’t bring themselves to ask – even each other.

So, where can the answers be found?  And can they provide any peace?  Any reassurance that there is hope for those who’ve made choices or done things that might have angered God?

I have good news, and it starts with Rahab’s story….

When the Israelites headed toward the Promised Land, it was already inhabited by the Canaanites.  Scripture and archaeology reveal their culture was steeped in some of the most shocking, abominable practices imaginable – including incest, bestiality, institutionalized sexual abuse of women and child sacrifice [Leviticus 18:24-28].  In the midst of this depraved society lived a prostitute named Rahab.

Long story short, she knew the Israelites planned to invade Canaan, destroying everyone and everything, under strict instructions from God.  She agreed to help them take the city – in exchange for her life, and the lives of her parents and siblings.

Timeout. Look at Rahab.  She existed on the lowest rung of a sick society.  She had a family that could have provided for her; but apparently, she chose to pursue her profession with all its inherent risks.  Did her constant sexual activity produce children?  She never mentioned any when she negotiated for her life and that of her family.  So, either she disposed of whatever she conceived (abandonment? abortion? child sacrifice?), or she didn’t care enough to protect the lives she’d brought into the world; the invaders could slaughter them.

Does anything in that profile strike you as potentially offensive to God?  Inexcusable?  Unforgiveable?  Then you might want to hear the rest of her story….

She lied to protect the spies sent by the approaching invaders.  It was a traitorous act, committed to help people whose law called for a prostitute to be stoned.  But she chose to entrust herself to the God who had given that law, and to His people.  What became of her?

The whole city was invaded and burned, but she and her family were saved.  She accepted God’s offer of forgiveness for everything in her past.  Then, she married an Israelite who saw beyond that past – and together, they had a son.  Many years later, their great-great grandson, King David, was born.  And many generations after that, her descendant Jesus came into the world.

Does that sound like the story of a woman who got what she deserved?  Who suffered mightily because God was angry at the choices she’d made?  Not to me.  I see Rahab’s story as evidence of God’s incredible mercy.  He knows what’s in all hearts, He understands all motivations, and He stands ready to forgive all pasts – if we are willing to trust Him, act out of that trust, and receive the future He longs to give us.

Does that sound too good to be true?  Not to Sean and Angela, the proud parents of a boy and a girl.  It’s not too good for you, either. Receive God’s grace, and may the blessings begin to flow. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Hope, Trust

The Need to Know Why

Knowing why I have to do something, or why something is happening, has always mattered to me.  I guess it’s because I didn’t like taking orders as a kid.  “Because I said so” was my father’s justification for most of the demands he placed on me, and I (silently) resented that.  It struck me as an abuse of power, and it left me feeling powerless.

It seemed to me that if something was important, it was reasonable for me to want to know why, and for whoever was in authority to explain that to me.

Many times, as an adult, that same “need to know” trait has made me hesitate to obey God’s commands, or to trust Him in a particular situation.  Especially when there’s no obvious reason why He’d want things to go a certain way, I find myself dragging my feet, waiting for an explanation.

Here’s why that’s a problem:  when I refuse to budge until I get a satisfying answer, my circumstances don’t change.  Like a longsuffering parent with a willful child, God lets me stew in my situation until I humbly acknowledge that maybe trying things His way – even if I don’t understand why – is reasonable.

Is that an abuse of power?  In the midst of infertility, I sure thought so.  I struggled mightily with anger and resentment at God’s apparent lack of interest in my suffering.

Why wasn’t I ovulating?  Why couldn’t I stop miscarrying?  Why was having a baby so hard for us and so easy for everyone else?  Why didn’t our doctor have all the answers?  And if God had them, why wasn’t He giving them to us?  Like a petulant child, I wanted to know, “Why?!  Why?!  Why?!”  I kept silent only out of fear I’d make Him angry.

In hindsight, all that drama looks like a lot of self-inflicted suffering.  Why?  Because if we truly trust God to keep the promise that “all things work together for good,” then there is always an answer to “why?”:  it is part of His plan for our lives.  Sometimes, in the moment, that needs to be enough.

Either we trust Him, or we don’t.

That, of course, is the great struggle of infertility.  Will I trust Him, or will I fight to retain control?

With that as context, I had a big epiphany recently about the injunction “Pray without ceasing.”  I’d read and heard those words plenty of times before, but always wanted to know “why?”  Really, I think I wanted to know, “What’s in it for me?  I get why it makes you feel appreciated, God, but why should I put in all that effort — especially if you don’t seem to respond?”

A few days ago, in a moment of incredible grace, God showed me why.  Now, I know it’s vitally important for infertile couples to obey.  Here are the reasons:

1)      Constant prayer is an acknowledgment of His role in our story.

2)      It means we recognize and respect His authority, and we welcome His powerful presence — even though we cannot control it.

3)      It keeps us talking and listening to the only one with the ability to change anything & everything about our circumstances.

4)      Constant prayer creates healthy boundaries between us and a constant barrage of negative thoughts, worries and doubts.

5)      It enables us to experience moments of gratitude, even when we aren’t grateful for infertility.

6)      It helps us maintain perspective – God’s perspective.

7)      It helps us tune out the world’s messages about instant gratification, and helps us remember that God’s timing is always perfect.

8)      It grounds us in who we are to God, and who He is to us.

Bottom line, “pray without ceasing” is an imperative command because it’s good for us.  It helps us.  It comforts us, renews us, and strengthens us for the journey.

This command is not an abuse of power.  It is a gift.  An invitation.  A chance to draw near to the one who knows our struggles and loves us deeply.  It is a blessing that is available whenever we choose to make ourselves available.

Is that enough reason for you to pray?  It is for me.

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

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

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