I’ve been re-reading Job recently, and I’ve been struck by the many ways Job’s friends acted morally and spiritually superior – even though they were wrong. They were wrong about what was happening. They were wrong about why. They were wrong about God’s silence, and they were wrong about Job’s response to it. They were wrong about almost everything. But, that didn’t stop them. And because they knew enough to sound credible, they caused Job tremendous grief.
Does that sound familiar?
Does anyone you know ask questions or offer insights that make you feel your struggle is somehow your fault? That God is withholding your heart’s desire, or punishing you for some reason? That His silence means He is ignoring your pleas? That you deserve the life you have – but not the one you want? That you should just give up and accept your fate?
Take another look at Job. You’ll get a new perspective on friends like that….
Job’s three friends came to comfort Job not long after his ten children and 11,000 livestock died (all in one day). Just before they arrived, Job broke out in painful sores from head to toe. When the friends saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him. “They began to weep… and sat with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.”
Many counselors call that the ministry of presence. The friends didn’t offer answers or explanations, only compassionate concern expressed through silence.
But then, Job voiced his feelings about his sudden suffering and they couldn’t resist the temptation to respond. They could not hold their tongues. Instead, they indulged themselves in judgment of the friend they’d come to comfort. They chose to “help” him by closing their ears and opening their mouths.
After withstanding as much as he could bear, Job responded: “How long will you torment me and crush me with words? I also could speak like you, if you were in my place. But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief.” Does he sound comforted? Enlightened? Not at all. He’s angry, hurt, and resentful. These are not true friends — their words only compound his grief and make him doubt God’s faithfulness — and he lets them know it.
And then, Job says, “My intercessor is my friend, as my eyes pour out tears to God….” In other words, compassionate action speaks louder than words. Anyone who lifts me up in prayer when I am grieving or struggling is my true friend. If you want to do more than sit with me in silence, then actively intercede for me with the only One who can truly help me. That would bring me comfort.
Job’s words equip us to discern who will be the true friends along this journey. They are the listeners. The compassionate comforters who do not pretend to know the mind of God. The untiring intercessors who are driven by our tears to petition the only One with the power to change everything.
Do you have a friend like that? One who will stand by you throughout this journey? One who will pray for you when you are too exhausted to pray for yourself? If you are fortunate enough to have a true friend — or more than one — tell them what a blessing they are to you.
If you don’t have a single friend like that, don’t despair. You are not in this alone. Read the lyrics of this hymn (written in 1855) and know that you do have a friend who stands with you:
What a friend we have in Jesus. All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! Oh, what peace we often forfeit. Oh, what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer! Can we find a friend so faithful,who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer. Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear. May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.”
Find more cause for hope at PregnantWithHope.com, and read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.
They’re Clueless About Infertility
For infertile couples, part of the frustration – and a major source of heartache – is other people’s cluelessness. It may be rooted in ignorance, inexperience, a lack of social skills, or pure self-absorption. Whatever the reason, the words of others can cause deep, lasting pain to hearts that are already fragile.
Just after I miscarried twins, we called my husband’s brother to share our heartbreaking news. We had no idea that he and his wife were also planning to start a family. His reaction? “That’s too bad… but now we’ll have the first grandchild!!”
I was speechless. It took everything I had to get to the end of the phone call.
Thankfully, it’s not always that bad. But people can be incredibly insensitive. Has that been your experience? People you think of as loving family or supportive friends suddenly seem incapable of saying anything helpful? Instead, their words slice right through your spirit and take your breath away?
It’s a common problem for couples going through infertility.
People you trust and care about will be thoughtless enough to ask, “why haven’t you two started a family?” Or, they’ll hand out gratuitous, unsolicited advice like, “just adopt – you’ll get pregnant right away” or, “go on vacation – that’s how we got pregnant” or, “stop worrying about it – it’ll happen sooner or later” – as if tossing these tidbits is all it takes to help you.
Surely, they don’t mean to be heartless. Or patronizing. Or dismissive of the challenge you face. But, all too often, they pour salt in your wound. When the tears threaten to pour down your cheeks, you may wonder, am I being oversensitive? Too defensive?
I don’t think so.
It is hard to explain this journey to someone who hasn’t made it – the stress… the fear… the tension… the uncertainty… the worry… the anger… the grief… the sense of being far removed from everyone and everything “normal”… the inability to get on with your life because you’ve put everything on hold.
How do you say all of that in the middle of a phone call? Or a church hallway? Or a restaurant?
But, here’s what you can do:
Set some boundaries – Recognize that you know better than anyone else what helps you now – and what doesn’t. Set firm, healthy boundaries that will protect your vulnerable heart. Make choices that fill your spirit with hope and surround you with people who truly understand how to help. Say “no” to people and events that leave you empty, discouraged, or afraid. Remember, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power….” [II Tim 1:7]. Use that power to enforce good boundaries.
Give some grace – It’s hard to imagine trying to muster compassion for someone whose remark has just reduced you to tears. The temptation is to focus on the pain they’ve caused. Don’t do it. Release it, reclaim your hope, and let God heal your wound. As Jesus prayed, “…forgive them, they know not what they do” [Luke 23:34].
Find some community – You may be looking to the wrong community for encouragement and hope. If family and friends have failed to offer meaningful support, seek out other couples who understand this journey. Meet with a counselor or clergy member who is not afraid to confront your feelings. And claim this promise, “…hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” [Romans 5:5]. When no one else stands with you, God delivers His hope to you through the Holy Spirit.
Make some progress – There is no greater satisfaction in this journey than sensing forward progress. Instead of measuring it just by test results or egg harvests, learn to measure progress this way: “… let us throw off everything that hinders us… and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” [Heb 12:1-2]. Hurtful remarks hinder us. So does dwelling on them. If we are to run with perseverance, then this isn’t likely to be a sprint. We must pace ourselves – and applaud every bit of progress we make.
The Finish Line is waiting. Don’t be distracted by the voices of the crowd.
Find more resources and cause for hope at PregnantWithHope.com
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