October 19, 2009

Infertility: A Season Of Purpose

As we live our lives and go through its many seasons we will experience various kinds of personal loss and grief such as with singleness, marriage, parenthood, and career. Solomon recognized that God had “an appointed time” or “season” for each event in our lives. In Ecclesiastes 3:1,2, he says,

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven —A time to give birth, and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted.”

Like each of life’s seasons, the season of fertility contains its own personal challenges. Some
couples do not experience infertility difficulties until after the birth of their first baby. The months and years pass them by while their first child is growing older and the span of potential years between the first and second is becoming greater.

Accepting the truth about our season of infertility is difficult whether we have none or six children.

For a Jewish woman in Biblical times, to be barren was shameful. Sons were needed to help support the family business and to proliferate the Jewish race. Family was very important to the Jewish tradition. Women were culturally and religiously expected to produce heirs causing them to compare their own personal worth as a wife to how many heirs they produced for their husband.

And, today, some of these cultural traditions and expectations continue, but they are subtle with less direct pressure. Modern forms of shame have emerged in our current culture due to past indiscretions, sex before marriage, abortion, and waiting “too long” to try to get pregnant. We tend to blame our infertility on ourselves promoting the feeling of condemnation from those who believe we have something terribly wrong with us because we are childless. These haunting feelings of inadequacy and failure can penetrate the depths of our marriage, causing relational difficulties.

Infertile couples may even blame each other for their failure to conceive. Sometimes distraught couples begin to reject each other. They begin to point to each other’s past mistakes and sins to substantiate their blame. A couple can be ripped apart at the seams when this destructive behavior is not identified and immediately stopped allowing confession and forgiveness to take place.

Infertility can highlight unresolved hurt and anger in a marriage. When a couple has not developed healthy coping skills with which to overcome difficulties and conflict within their marriage relationship, infertility will certainly put a spotlight on this deficiency.

There are some who claim that it is not personal sin, but their dashed dreams and unfulfilled expectations in having children that have brought them severe pain and anguish. These couples may cry out to God and say, “Why have you kept this blessing of children from our life?” We have tried to live a pure and righteous life! Why us?” However, God’s Word says that he does not withhold blessings from us. Psalms 34:10 says, “The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; But they who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing.”

Blaming God for our barrenness can cause bitterness, hatred, anger, resentment, and much more sin to take hold in our souls that will slowly begin to corrupt us. Blaming God only distances ourselves from our loving creator. We need to seek Him during our time of affliction and we are not to turn away from Him. Psalms 33:20 tells us, “Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield.”

As I struggled with childlessness while hiding my shame, blame and guilt; I found myself just trying to cope in my normal daily life. A few coping mechanisms I identified in my own dysfunction looked like this:

  • I avoided activities where families will be present
  • I dreaded the celebrations associated with Mother’s Day
  • I immediately declined all invitations to baby showers because it hurt too much.

Some of the infertile women and men of the Bible used impure coping mechanisms with which to handle their feelings of shame and lack of self-worth. Sarah was anxious, Rachel was envious, Leah was jealous, and Hannah was depressed. Like these women, today, we may use similar methods to keep us from feeling the pain of infertility.

Compulsive coping mechanisms do not relieve our pain and will only give us short-term control of our situation. Once we recognize we are not coping in righteousness, we need to immediately go to our Heavenly Father and follow His way to cope with our infertility in a more fruitful manner.
This can be accomplished by:
  • Asking God To Reveal Sin
  • Confessing Sin (wrong thoughts, beliefs, actions)
  • Resetting Our Standard
How Do I Reset My Standard?
Step 1: Walk in Faith
The easy way out of a situation is to do what everyone around is telling us to do. Well-meaning friends, relatives, and doctors can give advice and persuade us to follow the world’s path. Submitting our desires to God and waiting for his confirmation and direction can seem an impossible task when we are in deep depression. All these factors make it a challenge to reset our standard to God’s, but it is this challenging time when God does some of His mightiest work.However, God’s ways are not man’s ways (Isaiah 55:8). When we feel desperate in our human abilities and we choose to depend on God, we see Him move in incredible ways. This is when our faith is stretched and strengthened and we become closer to God than we have ever been.

Step 2: Surrender Control to God
God wants us to know He is in control of our past, present and future. He proved His position of control to us with the lives of Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah and Elizabeth. God’s perfect timing and great plans are more important than our desires and selfish demands. As Elizabeth and Zacharias (Luke 1) did, we need to remain focused on God’s bigger plan for our lives. We need to let Him operate in His perfect will and timing specific to His global perspective and plan. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”God tells us in Proverbs 21:5 that we are to do nothing in desperation. The passage says, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.” Resist the temptations associated with desperation and turn your face to God for His answers. Becoming sensitive to God’s voice and direction develops as we mature in Christ.

Step 3: Learn to Manage Expectations of Family and Friends
Well-meaning friends and family can create additional stress in our lives during infertility. I remember for myself as we were probed us for answers regarding our childless situation. The personal questions and careless statements often felt hurtful as we struggled through our infertility issues. For couples that are experiencing similar probing, it is important to realize that these family members and friends are showing their concern and interest about your life in the only way they know. It is easy for a grieving couple to believe people are being “nosey” and insensitive when in fact the opposite is true.
Step 4: Recognize the Blessings of Infertility
With the emotional ups and downs of infertility, the only way we can experience true hope and peace is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. God uses times of infertility and loss in our lives to bring us closer to Him. He desires that we rely on Him for meeting our needs and wants. He wants us to give control over to Him. He wants us to recognize our human limitations and yield to His ways.The blessings we receive from our pain and suffering are sometimes difficult to acknowledge when we are deeply involved within our struggle. However, we are instructed by God’s Word to be thankful in all things (Phil. 4:6-7). In our despair, we must open our eyes and let them expand beyond ourselves, to see God at work. He is always “at work.” We need to recognize that we are a small part of a much bigger picture. Sometimes it takes a crisis in our lives before we can slow down and recognize the blessings He is bountifully bestowing on us.

Step 5: Ask God, “What is Your Plan for Me?”
Waiting on God during infertility can be a very trying time. We are tempted to place many of our future plans and decisions on hold while we seek and ponder which direction to take in our lives.We ask, “Should I buy that new house or car, quit my job, save money, serve on that board or committee, set up a nursery, and place that seed of excitement in my heart?” So much of our decision-making rests on the answer to the question, “God, what is your plan for me?”Life cannot come to a standstill while we wait for our “little blessing” to arrive. Keep moving forward in your plans while seeking God’s direction. Proverbs 16:9 puts it this way, “The mind of a man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”It was a difficult and painful reality to come to terms with the fact that I had potentially missed my greatest opportunity to have a child of my own. I had squandered my fruitfulness on empty dreams and deceptive beliefs. This must have been how the prodigal son felt when he came to his senses and realized he had squandered his inheritance on emptiness and foolishness.
But, thankfully our God is a God of second chances who is loving, gracious and merciful to our needs and desires. As in the book of Joel, God says he restores what the locusts have eaten. We do not always know or understand how He will do this, but His Word says He will and I believe His Word. I may have missed my season of fertility, but God had mercy on me and gave me a second chance, in a unique and surprising way. During healing from my grief of infertility, God showed me that I am not in control of my fertility, He is. Through exercising humility, I came to understand that I have no entitlement to mother-hood. Becoming a mother is purely a blessing from God.
Step 6: Don’t Compare
I strongly urge you to resist comparing your life against the backdrop of other people’s lives. Your neighbor or co-worker may appear to have the perfect life with children, but we do not know the real path or true pain of their lives. The path God designed for you contains a valuable purpose. Let go of the temptation to believe that God has forgotten you. Have patience and courage to wait for God to act and confirm His will on His timetable. As I pursued God’s plan for my life, He began to unfold it for me and I finally concluded that His plan was beautiful, unique, purposeful, and created just for me.
As I have seen in countless situations, God uses a season of infertility for His purposes. The main purpose can be to allow healing in one or both of the couples’ lives from a buildup of a series of traumatic or grievous events. Another purpose may be to help drive the couple closer to Himself and to each other. Sometimes infertility allows for the consideration of adoption to help care for the world’s tremendous orphan needs. However, whatever the reason for infertility, God wants to use the time of waiting for His purpose and for His glory. I urge you to not give up hope during your season of infertility but to seek God for His answers.
kimberly taylor


Fran said...

Infertility can be one of the most distressing thing for couples. The Bible is so right about a time for everything. We hear stories about women bearing kids after many years of waiting. So, I have to say God knows best at all times. But, this is not something one wishes for even their enemies...

Lady A said...

@Fran, which makes me all the more thankful that I had no problem having children. From concieving, carry to full term and delivering, God has blessed me! Thanks!