“Sing, O barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy,
you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband,” says the LORD. -Isaiah 54
Infertility can seem like a lonely place. I’ve been there. I have felt joy mixed with heartache as a friend shares that she is pregnant. I’ve experienced sorrow after another person unknowingly jokes, “So, when are you and your husband having kids?” I know that, for some, the halls of a church building can be a painful place on Mother’s Day. And, yet, I also know that God used this suffering in my life to teach me more about Himself.
My journey began early-Summer 2010 when I learned that a routine test had shown abnormal results. Anxiety set in as we prepared for the biopsy. When that exam was negative, testing continued for six months. And so did my uncertainty.
I quietly struggled with God as I waited. I clearly remember one particular Sunday, I cried through the entire morning worship service as song lyrics rang in my head: “…In the chaos, in confusion I know You’re sovereign still / In the moment of my weakness You give me grace to do Your will… .” At that moment, I vowed to rehearse the truth of God’s sovereignty when I started to waver: All things are under God’s rule and control, and nothing happens without His direction or permission.
Finally, a blood test revealed a hormonal disorder called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). It is the most common cause of infertility among women. PCOS is estimated to affect up to 10 percent of women of reproductive age. Yet, infertility can seem like a lonely place.
Following the diagnosis, I did two things. First, I mourned. At times I wept over the loss. This was critical to my healing; I took time to truly grieve. Second, my husband and I determined to pursue God’s will rather than to merely pursue a baby. This gave me peace in our decisions. Additionally, for us, it led to the decision not to use fertility medication. Although this might not be the right option for other couples, it was for us.
Instead, God used infertility to stir up a greater passion to raise spiritual children (Isaiah 54:1). He deepened my understanding in His purpose for spiritual parenthood. Pastor John Piper says:
God’s purpose in making marriage the place to have children was never merely to fill the earth with people, but to fill the earth with worshipers of the true God. One way for a marriage to fill the earth with worshipers of the true God is to procreate and bring the children up in the Lord. But that’s not the only way. When the focus of marriage becomes, “Make children disciples of Jesus,” the meaning of marriage in relation to children is not mainly, “Make them,” but, “Make them disciples.” And the latter can happen, even where the former doesn’t.
At the same time, in His great mercy, God placed me in a Bible study group where I connected with other women who were in various places in life. These relationships were further part of His plan to teach me. These women were sensitive enough to really listen and mature enough in their faith to help me see God working. Moreover, I was being held accountable to study God’s Word. Although I was not deliberately seeking to share my story with other ladies (in fact, quite the opposite!) or even to grow closer to God, HE PUT ME THERE. He gently moved me to that group to get my focus off myself.
When a person is suffering, she can forget that pain is part of every person’s life. Sharing prayer requests with another woman of God can help her regain a proper perspective. In fact, God designed Biblical Womanhood to work that way — women helping other women (Titus 2). My struggle was no longer a lonely place.
Different women need to learn different things through their infertility journey. For me, it was grasping that God alone is enough. My journey is like that of Abraham when he was told to sacrifice his child — the son for whom he had waited and waited (Genesis 22). “Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.’” Abraham obeyed. And he told Isaac, “God himself will provide… .”
And God did provide a substitute. In fact, because Abraham did not withhold his son, God blessed Abraham and promised to make his “descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.”
As I have learned to submit in new ways this past year, I have been blessed as well. I had to give up my own ideas of my future family and wait for God to work. He provides.
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Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio. Learn more about Joey and Elaine.