Tag Archives: doubt

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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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.

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When the Church Fails

Rightly or wrongly, many of us view ministers/pastors/priests/clergy (whatever you want to call them) as an embodiment of the church.  We unconsciously expect them to exhibit a Christlikeness that the rest of us only aspire to, and to do so – especially to do so – when life is hard, when our faith falters, and when doubt whispers to us, “Don’t believe.”

We look to these men and women to model the obstacle-surmounting faith we want and need to survive the journey through infertility.

But sometimes, the church fails.

My husband had an experience yesterday that reminded us both that even the best, most respected ministers can fall far short of our expectations.  They can momentarily lose sight of God’s will and purpose — and their responsibility to inspire us to follow their example.  When they do, they can profoundly disappoint us.  In response, we’re tempted to turn our backs on what feels like a sham.  A pretense.  An every Sunday dog and pony show that’s actually make-believe.

Of course, Satan loves when church leaders fail.  When they refuse to acknowledge their own limitations, doubts, struggles, shortcomings or uncertainties.  Why?  Because he knows “God opposes the proud” – and it’s pride that keeps clergy from admitting their imperfections.  Whether it’s because they want to maintain a mystique or fulfill unspoken expectations, their unwillingness to admit that they don’t always know how to minister to us cripples their ministry – and sometimes, our faith.

Many infertile couples leave the church as a result.

But here’s the thing to understand:  even when the church – through its leaders and its congregants – fails to be compassionate, honest, transparent or accountable, God doesn’t fail.   He hasn’t.  And He won’t.

The truth is, only Christ can be fully Christlike.  Only He has ever walked in faith at all times, and through all circumstances.  The rest of us?  Feet of clay.  As Scripture declares,  “[We] all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  We’re all imperfect – most especially, those of us who stand in the pulpit and preach Christlikeness while failing to walk the talk.

Is that hypocrisy frustrating for infertile couples?  You bet.  Alienating?  Definitely.  Unforgiveable?  No.  Why?  Because that’s the tension between who we all are and who God calls us to be.

It is journeys like the one through infertility that help us grow in faith — in the process, narrowing the gap between who we are and who we can be:  Stronger believers.  More humble, better equipped, growing in gratitude and increasingly ready to parent the children God has planned for us.

That’s one of infertility’s blessings-in-disguise.

So, remember:  Though the church may fail you, Christ never fails.  He has promised to comfort, strengthen, and guide you.  He has committed to pray for you, grieve with you, and give you hope.  He shows you through Scripture what is possible by faith in the God “through whom all things are possible.”  He never, ever fails.

Build your faith upon this rock.

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Infertility & the Leap of Faith

Not long ago, I met with a couple going through infertility – and a lot of other struggles.  The husband said his life feels “like riding a flaming motorcycle down a dark highway at 100 mph.”  That’s not a bad metaphor for life feeling totally out-of-control.

I vividly remember the same kind of feeling when we were going through infertility.  My father had just died, my mother was getting a bone marrow transplant, and I was 2,000 miles from home taking care of her.  I was also taking fertility meds, scheduling IUIs, and sneaking bloodwork at the oncology clinic… all while trying to juggle a demanding job, an impatient boss, a frustrated client, and a (temporarily) long-distance marriage.  It was crazy!

I joked with my sister that, sooner or later, I was going to hit a wall and fall in a heap on the ground.  She responded, “Are you kidding?  You’ve broken through the wall.  You’re in totally uncharted territory.”

Does that sound familiar at all?

It’s scary to admit when things feel totally out-of-control.  The bad news keeps coming and coming.  Meanwhile, you are going as hard and fast as humanly possible, knowing this is not sustainable.  You know it’s just a matter of time ‘til you come apart under all the pressure.  But, you also know you can’t let that happen because what would happen next?  It’s too much to consider.  So, you do the only thing you can:  keep struggling.

There is an alternative.  Try taking a leap of faith.

Here are three reasons to consider doing it:

1)      You’re tired of trying to get out ahead of your problems.  You’re tired of trying to do it all alone.  You’re tired of being tired!  A leap of faith means rest.  The “leap” doesn’t actually require much effort at all.  It’s more like an exhale of faith.  A letting go of faith.  A “here, God, you take it” of faith.  Can you imagine a moment like that?  A few hours?  A day?  How might that give you a chance to recover from all you’ve been through?

2)      You’re not in control.  You never have been.  With infertility, it’s just not possible.  Rather than continuing to fight the truth, why not make peace with it?  Admit the obvious, and then turn to the only One who has control.  If you can believe He exists and that He is who He says He is, then the leap of faith only requires you to remember – that He is near you, He cares deeply, and He is insuring “all things work together for good.”  Trust, and leave the details to the One with control.

3)      You can find the kind of strength you truly need.  You’ve shown persistence, determination and resourcefulness already.  But you still haven’t reached your goal.  Take a big leap of faith and build “muscles” like confidence, hope, and even joy.  These are the ones that will sustain you until your hope becomes reality.

“Leap, and the net will appear.”  That’s the advice I was given years ago as I contemplated turning from self-reliance to something more like God-reliance.  It was terrifying advice.  And hugely helpful.

Now, it’s your turn.

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Update:  The husband featured in this post took a leap of faith by electing to have a surgery doctors told him was unlikely to affect his fertility.  He and his wife were told they could schedule IVF six weeks post-surgery.  But, two weeks after the surgery, they conceived naturally.

For more inspiration and cause for hope, click this link…

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Confident with Hope

The devastating experience of loss is inherent in the infertility journey.  Loss of a pregnancy, of an achiever self-image, of the illusion of control, of a naïve belief in invulnerability, of the highly-prized idea of Happily Ever After achieved effortlessly and on the ideal timetable.  Every one of us experiences these losses.

And then what?

I firmly believe the way we respond to our losses determines how our journey will unfold.  We can choose to dwell on them incessantly – filling our minds with thoughts of defeat, failure, disappointment and doubt.  Or, we can choose to metabolize our losses, learn what we can from them, and step forward into our future with faith in the Lord’s promise:  “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

I ran into a man I met through the infertility group this past weekend.  His wife conceived recently, after years of infertility.  You’d think he’d be ecstatic, but other things in his life remain challenging.  So, rather than choosing to focus on the incredible blessing they’ve received, God’s responsiveness to their prayers, and the ongoing encouragement of many friends, he continues to dwell on what he doesn’t have.

He maintains a steady stream of negativity – a gallows humor monologue that he says is his coping method.  It may give him an outlet for stress, as he claims, but I’ve noticed that it doesn’t seem to make him feel better.  Instead, it drives away those who try to encourage him (sometimes including his wife), and it persistently speaks a lack of faith over his circumstances.

Does that really matter?  Does his running commentary do any harm?

The Bible says,

“Therefore… since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

Those words aren’t just a suggestion.  They offer powerful insight into what we can do to change our circumstances and reach our goal(s).  In his book, Success God’s Way, Dr. Charles Stanley explains what this verse says about our role in our success.

“The good news in this passage,” he writes, “is that you are surrounded by a host of encouragers, both those who are living and those who have gone to be with the Lord.  You are wise to be encouraged by them and to seek to be like them… always with the perspective, what God has done for others, He can and will do for me!”  He continues, “The Lord Himself should be our principal encourager.  He is the One who continually speaks deep within our hearts, ‘I will help you succeed.’”

Unfortunately, it is impossible to hear God’s encouragement when we persist in filling our minds with thoughts of failure, disappointment and resentment.  The Holy Spirit can – and will – help us remove these roadblocks when we ask for His help, but He will not overpower our free will.  If we choose to reject thoughts of hope in order to dwell on past heartaches and current fears, He will respect our freedom of choice.  And we will remain mired in hopelessness.

Are you fearful about whether you’ll ever succeed in becoming a parent?  Are you doubting that God is with you in the pursuit of your dreams, or that He will enable you to realize them?  If your answer is yes…

1) Ask God to help you overcome the roadblock of negative thinking that has stalled your progress.

2) Get in agreement with His promise, “Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”

3) Resist the temptation to make self-indulgent u-turns that revisit past failures, refresh feelings of despair, and oppose hope in God’s promises with “realistic” negativity.

4) Anticipate God’s love for you being converted into action on your behalf – and walk boldly into the future He has planned for you, confident with hope.

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Need more inspiration and cause for confident hope?  Read Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples and hear ten couples’ first-hand accounts of their journeys from hopelessness to joy.

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Hanging on by a Thread

Men rarely discuss infertility.  That’s why it’s so important and helpful for them to participate in support groups.  In this “safe” environment, they can expose feelings and share concerns they’d otherwise feel compelled to hide.

My husband had no such support group.  He had to struggle through infertility with no one but me to talk to about his questions, his fears, and his sense of frustration that he couldn’t “fix” our problem.  Now, as a psychiatrist, he specializes in helping people face their challenges head-on, confident in the knowledge that “all things work together for good” [Romans 8:28].

Over the past few weeks, I’ve shared with him some of the stories you have shared with me — and invited him to write a guest post in response.  Here’s what he wanted to say….

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As a New Year begins, thoughts often turn to hopes and plans for the future.  But, what is for many a time of eager anticipation can, instead, be a season of continued suffering for those battling infertility.

That’s the story of a young minister in Manchester, England.  Despite his strong faith, he is experiencing spiritual struggles following his wife’s recent miscarriage.  He finds himself obsessing over “Why?”

The loss of a pregnancy or death of a baby is one of the darkest points during the long night of infertility.  How do I know?  Because I’ve been there.  So have countless others.  Where can we turn for hope and inspiration during this time?

Scripture gives us the answer.  It tells us the disciples were overcome by grief and fear when  Jesus was captured, crucified and buried.  For them, the days following Jesus’ death were a period of great spiritual confusion and despair.

What a dramatic turn of events.  A few days earlier, they’d been celebrating Jesus’ return to Jerusalem with hope and excitement.  But his death left them believing their dream had died. Where was their faith?  Circumstances had led them to focus on unanswerable questions:  “Why is this happening to me?” and “What am I going to do now?”

In the midst of their despair and confusion, God acted.  Not on their timetable, but on His.  The resurrected Jesus stood before them (on several occasions) and renewed their hope.  What they had been sure they understood was not the end of the story.  There was no cause for despair; this was not defeat.  This was victory – in a way they could never have imagined!

The disciples’ story reveals the pattern of God’s intervention.  He allows our dreams to motivate us.  Then, when we realize we are powerless to bring them to pass, He lets them die and lets us grieve.  But then, he resurrects the dream in a new form – and He demonstrates His incredible love and power by realizing His dream for us in all its fullness, completeness and glory.

That’s the pattern Scripture reveals.  And, that’s God’s promise to us.

Many of you going through infertility may have had a period of initial joy when you got pregnant, only to see that feeling give way to despair following a miscarriage.  Like the disciples, you may feel like huddling in a spiritual corner, overwhelmed with fear and confusion.  You may believe you’re hanging onto faith by a thread.

Take heart in knowledge the disciples didn’t possess – the knowledge that God’s faithfulness will bring about your victory.  You may not see it or feel it, but it is coming.  Victory will be yours by the will of God.

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When You Can’t Take it Any More, Leap!

Not long ago, I met with a couple going through infertility – and a lot of other struggles.  The husband said his life feels “like riding a flaming motorcycle down a dark highway at 100 mph.”  That’s not a bad metaphor for life feeling totally out-of-control.

I vividly remember the same kind of feeling when we were going through infertility.  My father had just died, my mother was getting a bone marrow transplant, and I was 2,000 miles from home taking care of her.  I was also taking fertility meds, scheduling IUIs, and sneaking bloodwork at the oncology clinic… all while trying to juggle a demanding job, an impatient boss, a frustrated client, and a (temporarily) long-distance marriage.  It was crazy!

I joked with my sister that, sooner or later, I was going to hit a wall and fall in a heap on the ground.  She responded, “Are you kidding?  You’ve broken through the wall.  You’re in totally uncharted territory.”

Does that sound familiar at all?

It’s scary to admit when things feel totally out-of-control.  The bad news keeps coming and coming.  Meanwhile, you are going as hard and fast as humanly possible, knowing this is not sustainable.  You know it’s just a matter of time ‘til you come apart under all the pressure.  But, you also know you can’t let that happen because what would happen next?  It’s too much to consider.  So, you do the only thing you can:  keep struggling.

There is an alternative.  Try taking a leap of faith.

Here are three reasons to consider doing it:

1)      You’re tired of trying to get out ahead of your problems.  You’re tired of trying to do it all alone.  You’re tired of being tired!  A leap of faith means rest.  The “leap” doesn’t actually require much effort at all.  It’s more like an exhale of faith.  A letting go of faith.  A “here, God, you take it” of faith.  Can you imagine a moment like that?  A few hours?  A day?  How might that give you a chance to recover from all you’ve been through?

2)      You’re not in control.  You never have been.  With infertility, it’s just not possible.  Rather than continuing to fight the truth, why not make peace with it?  Admit the obvious, and then turn to the only One who has control.  If you can believe He exists and that He is who He says He is, then the leap of faith only requires you to remember – that He is near you, He cares deeply, and He is insuring “all things work together for good.”  Trust, and leave the details to the One with control.

3)      You can find the kind of strength you truly need.  You’ve shown persistence, determination and resourcefulness already.  But you still haven’t reached your goal.  Take a big leap of faith and build “muscles” like confidence, hope, and even joy.  These are the ones that will sustain you until your hope becomes reality.

“Leap, and the net will appear.”  That’s the advice I was given years ago as I contemplated turning from self-reliance to something more like God-reliance.  It was terrifying advice.  And hugely helpful.

Now, it’s your turn.

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

For more inspiration and cause for hope, click this link…

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