The Bible speaks numerous times in the Old Testament about the barrenness of women. One of the most famous stories of an infertile woman in the Bible is Hannah. In 1 Samuel we read about Hannah crying out to the Lord, asking Him to grant her a child in such anguish that Eli thinks she is drunk. This image paints the picture of the desperation of a woman who longs so deeply for a child that God has providentially chosen to not give.
I relate well to this desperate cry to God for a child, as infertility has been the journey that God has taken me, and my family, on for the past 21 years. It is the means by which He has chosen to teach me more of who He is, to awaken His Word to me, and to change me—little by little—more into the image of His Son.
I was married at the young age of 23 hoping to start a family, but not anticipating the challenging path God would take us on. One year turned into five and then into ten without any positive pregnancy tests. We visited doctors only to hear that we had a case of “unexplained infertility.” We prayed and pleaded with the Lord to allow us to have biological children. When it seemed as though His answer was clearly a “No,” the Lord graciously blessed us with three children through adoption. In time, we began to see God’s plan more fully and were thankful for the infertility. It has been through infertility that God has brought treasure, richness, and unique blessing into our lives in the form of our children and their birth families. For that, we are immensely grateful!
We thought we had God all figured out, and had learned the lessons He wanted to teach us until the biggest shock of our lives. Just before my 42nd birthday, and after 18 years of marriage, God decided to open my womb. He had apparently not forgotten the cries of our hearts and we believed that He was choosing to bless us with a biological child. There was great excitement and anticipation among the whole family. Then at 15 weeks into the pregnancy that precious baby growing inside of me went to be with Jesus. We were devastated, confused, and once again we didn’t understand God’s ways. The very thing we had longed for, prayed for, and pleaded with God for was finally granted to us after 18 years. And then, in a moment, it was taken again from us. I was left feeling empty, angry, and desperate to understand how God’s love would allow this. The next few years God used this time of grief and confusion to forge a deeper trust in Him, a better understanding of His character and His Word, and a new perspective on how God can use infertility and loss to do a good work in our lives.
The Purposes of God
Romans 5:3-5 says, “tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character…”
Inherent in the trial of infertility is the longevity of the struggle and ongoing pain. Month after month the infertile couple tries to get pregnant and then waits expectantly, only to face the letdown again and again. Often, this heartache goes on for years and years in the lives of infertile couples. At the time, it can feel cruel and exhausting. Yet, we are promised in Romans 5 that our tribulations bring about perseverance. This waiting and hoping month after month isn’t fruitless or cruel. Through it, God is producing in us patient endurance as we wait on Him and trust in His plan.
Experiencing infertility brings about many opportunities to test our faith and our character. The struggle reveals our sinful hearts and responses. One of the most trying aspects of infertility is that often, a couple is surrounded by friends and family who are getting pregnant and growing their families with seeming ease. This can easily become a temptation toward discontentment, jealousy, and bitterness. Romans 5:4 tells us that our tribulations bring about proven character. As the infertile woman seeks to turn her trial into fruitfulness in her life, she will have to ask the Lord often for help to “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15) and not allow jealousy to overtake her heart. There is a great temptation to pull away from family, friends, and church because the painful reminders of loss and emptiness seem to be everywhere. But, it is in these difficult times that God is changing us and plucking out the weeds in our souls. If we are obedient and reliant on Him, then the long road of infertility can yield proven character.
Second Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you.”
One of the most poignant lessons God has taught me through infertility is that I cannot do things in my own power, will, or strength. God took a woman who likes the feeling and security of controlling a situation and placed me in a struggle in which I was completely reliant upon Him. When we were in the process of adopting our son and things were not going as planned, God led me to 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. I identify with the apostle Paul and his imploring of the Lord to remove his thorn in the flesh. I too, implored the Lord to remove my infertility, knowing it was solely in His power to open my womb. And yet, God’s answer to me was not found in a positive pregnancy test, but by giving me His sufficient grace. It was in my weakness that He wanted to show me His power. I have learned through infertility, that it is in my lack of control and in my limitations that God does His best work.
Gladness in my Heart
Psalm 4:7 says, “You have put gladness in my heart, more than when their grain and new wine abound.”
Infertility has a way of revealing what we are depending on to bring us satisfaction. The relentless quest to have a child can devour years of a woman’s life, as she seeks to have the one thing she thinks will give her happiness. Along the way, she can miss the blessings God is giving her and she can become consumed by what she doesn’t have. In my struggles, God showed me from Psalm 4:7 that I can have lasting peace and gladness that is not dependent upon a successful pregnancy or a home full of children. He promises to be the One who satisfies us and put gladness in our hearts (Psalm 63:4).
What I have shared only skims the surface of all the things God has convicted me of, revealed to me, and taught me through infertility. He has been abundantly faithful to me, and my family, as we have walked this road. He has allowed us to experience a painful difficulty, but has clearly meant it for good, and I pray He has received glory through it. The Romans 5 passage ends by saying that tribulation also brings hope. It has taken time, but in God’s patience and kindness, He has used tribulation to help me reorient my hope away from temporal things and place it in the One who satisfies.