Tag Archives: comfort

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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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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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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It’s a Blessing…

Once couples who’ve battled infertility reach the goal of parenthood – whether by conception or adoption – it’s tempting for retroactive amnesia to take hold.  Who wants to remember the heartache of the journey?  Why would anyone hold on to memories of loss, grief and suffering?  After all, given the time, money and effort it took to become a family, why do anything but enjoy it?

Because it’s not just about you.

Everything God does has a purpose.  Every difficulty He allows into your life is for a reason.  And very often, His reason extends beyond the impact of this journey on you and your faith life.  He also intends to use your experience, and its life-changing effect on you, to bless others.

As scripture says…

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.

The temptation to focus on a hope-filled future, while intentionally forgetting the faith-challenging past, is just that:  a temptation.  It is a common one, a completely understandable one, and one you should resist.

Why?

Because part of our calling is to be the body of Christ for one another.  “…To comfort those in trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive.”  The infertility journey doesn’t end with parenthood.  Instead, we graduate to the next stage of the journey – one in which God calls us to set aside our former need for privacy (secrecy?) and openly witness to God’s goodness and faithfulness in order to give hope to those making the journey behind us.

Kristi and her husband, Carlos, kept his male factor infertility a secret from their family and friends.  But they confided in me, asking that I pray for their decision-making process, and for peace in the midst of uncertainty about the outcome of their journey.  [For more on their story, click this link].

Recently, Kristi got a call from a close friend who confessed that she and her husband were struggling with infertility.  In a split second, Kristi had a decision to make:  should she protect her privacy and the perception of an effortless conception, or should she share her story?  Kristi felt God nudging her to tell the truth.  She did.  She also talked about Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples, and about this blog.  “It was a spiritual lifeline for me,” she assured her friend.

Kristi’s friend hung up, immediately ordered a copy of the book and went online to read recent posts.  She called Kristi back in less than thirty minutes, and “we cried together over how good God is, and how everything happens in His perfect timing.”

Kristi shared this story with me so I would know how much the book and blog helped her — and by extension, her friend.  I pointed out that Kristi’s now taken on the role I played during her journey — of comforter, encourager, faithful witness, and Spirit-filled friend.

You can do that, too.

Do you know someone who’s struggling to find hope in the midst of the infertility journey?  If you’ve become a parent, share your story.  If you’re still making your own journey, it’s not too soon to help someone else.  Pass on your copy of Pregnant With Hope.  Send a link to this blog with a verse of comfort.  Risk exposing your need for God’s help and allow Him to use you to deliver a message of hope.

You will experience the joy that proves the axiom “It is a blessing to be a blessing.”

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Filed under Blessings, Hope, Speaking Up

Here’s What Infertile Couples Want & Need

This is a rerun of my all-time most read and recirculated post.  Share it with someone who has no idea how to help you….

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What can you say to the people around you who want to love you through the struggle with infertility, but have no idea what to do or how to help?  Kathleen Parker, an Opinion columnist for the Washington Post, offered guidance in an editorial about gifts….

“Here is giving:  Listening.  Sparing time.  Not interrupting.  Holding that thought.  Leaving the last drop.  Staying home.  Turning it off, whatever it is.  Making eye contact.  Picking it up.  Take the room’s temperature.  Paying attention.  Waiting.”

That’s how you help an infertile couple.  That’s how you love us through this incredibly challenging, frustrating, stressful, heartbreaking journey.  That’s how you stop trying to fix it, and instead, bless us by being fully present in the moment with us.

By listening, not interrupting, holding that thought, and paying attention –  Sometimes, we need to voice confusion or wrestle aloud with our uncertainty.  Don’t give us “the answer.”  That’s patronizing.  If it were simple, we would have figured it out already.  Instead, keep quiet and give us a chance to blow off steam, rant without fearing a reaction, or cry without worrying you can’t take the drama.  Don’t.  Say.  A word.  You’ll be amazed how your attentive silence speaks volumes.

By sparing time, turning it off (whatever it is), taking the room’s temperature, and making eye contact – So much about the struggle with infertility is humbling and demeaning.  Don’t make us beg for your time or attention.  Don’t make us feel something else is more important.  Be attuned to our moods, and when the room’s temperature is too “hot” or “cold,” be sensitive to what that tells you about what we need:  time alone, or a hug?  Eye contact that invites a confidence, or a glance that says, ‘I know you’re hurting’?  Be.  Fully.  Present.  You’ll be amazed how your attentive heart radiates loving support.

By leaving the last drop, staying home, picking it up, and… waiting –  Infertility makes us feel incredibly vulnerable, wounded and fragile.  Your thoughtfulness can be an amazing antidote.  It lifts our spirits without making us feel guilty or indebted.  Don’t make us ask for kindness; we won’t.  Just know that the littlest kindness is magnified a thousand times by our need to feel that someone cares.  It doesn’t take much, and no words are required.  In fact, it’s better if you let your actions speak.  Not sure what to do?  Wait.  Pay attention.  You’ll see an opportunity.  And you’ll be amazed how your attentive action tells us you understand.

Parker concludes, “Do unto others…. The alternative is surely hell.”

That sums it up pretty succinctly.  There are moments along the infertility journey that are hellish.  When there’s no heartbeat on the ultrasound.  When the doctor’s office isn’t calling and the bleeding won’t stop.  When the baby comes too soon and can’t possibly survive.  When it’s time to tell everyone who thought there was a baby, “We lost it.”  When the dream seems to be dying, and hope is barely alive.

In that moment, do unto us as you would want us to do for you.  Would you want privacy?  Give us some.  Would you want kindness?  Extend it.  Would you need a shoulder to cry on?  Offer one.  Would you be angry at the world?  Understand our intense emotions.  Would you need wisdom?  Know that we will seek it when we are ready to internalize it.  Don’t try to force it on us if we don’t ask for it.  You won’t get the response you want.

“Here is giving….”  Parker began.  So, we’ve made it clear.  This is how you help us.  Now that we’ve told you what we need, please give us the gift of love in ways we will gratefully receive.

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Devastated by Loss?

The loss of a pregnancy or a newborn is surely the most devastating part of infertility – and it is often the time when couples feel most alone.  Despite being surrounded by family or friends, caring co-workers or fellow congregants, there is a sense of being singled-out for the worst possible kind of suffering.  The loss is so great – not just the loss of a life, but also the loss of all the dreams that went with it, all the hopes it represented, and all the anticipated joy that is gone in an instant… and seems lost forever.

What does a couple need in a time of such profound heartache?

Tenderness.

Compassion.

Grace.

And wisdom.

Aimee Alexander works at Northside Hospital’s Perinatal Loss unit.  Her hospital delivers 19,000 babies a year.  On average, there is one loss per day.  Even though, statistically, it’s a small number, it is still utterly incomprehensible to every couple crossing Aimee’s path.

How does she comfort them all?   “We can’t change the outcome,” she acknowledged.  “We can’t make babies come back alive – or make people feel better when they don’t, and aren’t ready to.  But, we can try to provide outlets for grief, a sense of hope that they will survive this, and the assurance that they are not alone.”

One of the couples I interviewed for Pregnant with Hope, Amy & Trey, experienced a devastating loss midway through a pregnancy.  “I was put on bedrest, and it was a very rough pregnancy with lots of scares and bleeding along the way,” Amy recalled.  “At 19½ weeks, my water broke and we were forced to deliver the baby, knowing that it would not survive.  We went to the hospital and delivered a little baby boy.”

As Aimee said so often happens, they needed an outlet for grief, a sense of hope that they could survive their loss, and an assurance that they were not alone.  They found all those things through the infertility Bible study that forms the basis for Pregnant with Hope.  Amy said one of the most helpful things they learned was that “when bad things happen, God cries with you.  He doesn’t do bad things to you.  That realization helped me because – when we were angry or I was so hurt, I didn’t necessarily think He was doing bad things to us, but I wondered where He was!  It made me feel better to know that God was hurting with me.”

God does grieve with us when our hearts are broken.  He has tremendous compassion for our suffering.  At the same time, He is able to see beyond the moment of grief to the joy that awaits in the future.  The joy that He knows is coming.  We cannot see it, and so we must trust in – cling to! – His faithfulness.  Even when we don’t understand why something has happened, or how we will ever recover, we can lean into believing that He is a promise-keeping God who longs to give us His very best… and intends to.  Our trust will enable our hearts to heal and our hope to be renewed.

Very few people are willing to attempt what Aimee Alexander does every day – to stand with someone who is overwhelmed with grief, pour love into their heart for as long as it takes, and wait patiently for them to realize:  I’ll be okay.  Very few. But God is always willing, and always able.

He alone has the compassion, love and grace to carry you through grief, the patience to walk alongside you toward the future, and the power to make that future full of joy.

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Find cause for hope & many more resources at PregnantWithHope.com

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What Infertile Couples Want & Need

What can you say to the people around you who want to love you through the struggle with infertility, but have no idea what to do or how to help?  Kathleen Parker, an Opinion columnist for the Washington Post, offered guidance in an editorial about gifts….

“Here is giving:  Listening.  Sparing time.  Not interrupting.  Holding that thought.  Leaving the last drop.  Staying home.  Turning it off, whatever it is.  Making eye contact.  Picking it up.  Take the room’s temperature.  Paying attention.  Waiting.”

That’s how you help an infertile couple.  That’s how you love us through this incredibly challenging, frustrating, stressful, heartbreaking journey.  That’s how you stop trying to fix it, and instead, bless us by being fully present in the moment with us.

By listening, not interrupting, holding that thought, and paying attention –  Sometimes, we need to voice confusion or wrestle aloud with our uncertainty.  Don’t give us “the answer.”  That’s patronizing.  If it were simple, we would have figured it out already.  Instead, keep quiet and give us a chance to blow off steam, rant without fearing a reaction, or cry without worrying you can’t take the drama.  Don’t.  Say.  A word.  You’ll be amazed how your attentive silence speaks volumes.

By sparing time, turning it off (whatever it is), taking the room’s temperature, and making eye contact – So much about the struggle with infertility is humbling and demeaning.  Don’t make us beg for your time or attention.  Don’t make us feel something else is more important.  Be attuned to our moods, and when the room’s temperature is too “hot” or “cold,” be sensitive to what that tells you about what we need:  time alone, or a hug?  Eye contact that invites a confidence, or a glance that says, ‘I know you’re hurting’?  Be.  Fully.  Present.  You’ll be amazed how your attentive heart radiates loving support.

By leaving the last drop, staying home, picking it up, and… waiting –  Infertility makes us feel incredibly vulnerable, wounded and fragile.  Your thoughtfulness can be an amazing antidote.  It lifts our spirits without making us feel guilty or indebted.  Don’t make us ask for kindness; we won’t.  Just know that the littlest kindness is magnified a thousand times by our need to feel that someone cares.  It doesn’t take much, and no words are required.  In fact, it’s better if you let your actions speak.  Not sure what to do?  Wait.  Pay attention.  You’ll see an opportunity.  And you’ll be amazed how your attentive action tells us you understand.

Parker concludes, “Do unto others…. The alternative is surely hell.”

That sums it up pretty succinctly.  There are moments along the infertility journey that are hellish.  When there’s no heartbeat on the ultrasound.  When the doctor’s office isn’t calling and the bleeding won’t stop.  When the baby comes too soon and can’t possibly survive.  When it’s time to tell everyone who thought there was a baby, “We lost it.”  When the dream seems to be dying, and hope is barely alive.

In that moment, do unto us as you would want us to do for you.  Would you want privacy?  Give us some.  Would you want kindness?  Extend it.  Would you need a shoulder to cry on?  Offer one.  Would you be angry at the world?  Understand our intense emotions.  Would you need wisdom?  Know that we will seek it when we are ready to internalize it.  Don’t try to force it on us if we don’t ask for it.  You won’t get the response you want.

“Here is giving….”  Parker began.  So, we’ve made it clear.  This is how you help us.  Now that we’ve told you what we need, please give us the gift of love in ways we will gratefully receive.

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