Thursday, August 15, 2013

"but Hannah had none."

Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Benjamin, Samson, Samuel, and John... 

What do these folks have in common?  They were all prayed for and longed for by their parents before they were conceived and born.  The Bible is full of infertility.  Isn't that interesting?  I sometimes think of it as a contemporary issue (though, it may be more common now), but in reality, many women were "barren" back then.  Back in that time, if you were barren, you were seen as lacking God's blessing; His hand of blessing and favor was not upon you.  

Oh, how my experience has been different.  Our journey (struggle? fight? plight?) of infertility has been and will continue to be long and hard and challenging, yet because of our infertility, we have reached depths of God that I am sure I would never have reached otherwise.  I am convinced that through the specific struggles and trials we each go through in life, God is able to take us to, in turn, specific places of depth and intimacy.  That's not to say if you haven't gone through infertility, you won't go deep with God; I believe there is a unique place of BLESSING and intimacy that God placed aside for us, that we could only get to by going the way of trial and hardship.  

Let me share with you an excerpt from one of my favorite books, Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard.  It's an allegory about The Shepherd taking a timid, crippled girl to the high places, and what happens to her on the journey.  In this part, The Shepherd has just introduced to the girl the two guides that will accompany her on the journey:  the guides are called Sorrow and Suffering.  They have veiled faces.

"I can't go with them, " she gasped.  "I can't!  I can't!  O my Lord Shepherd, why do You do this to me? How can I travel in their company?  It is more than I can bear.  You tell me that the moutain way itself is so steep and difficult that I cannot climb it alone.  Then why, oh why, must You make Sorrow and Suffering my companions?  Couldn't You have given Joy and Peace to go with me, to strengthen me and encourage me and help me on the difficult way?  I never thought You would do this to me!"  And she burst into tears.
(chapter 4, pg 86)

This is how we often respond to trial or discipline.  Yet suffering is a friend, not a foe, when we are yielded to and controlled by God. When our wills are surrendered at His feet, we are under His perfect care.  So we can know and trust that everything that comes into our life has been filtered through His tender, loving mercy.  He can turn all things into good for those who love Him.  So, I have been able to accept this path of Sorrow and Suffering, knowing that my Shepherd is leading the way.  I want to go where He goes.

Sigh. But I sometimes I daydream about not having to go down this path.  If we had gotten pregnant when we planned, we would have a one year old right about now.  Crazy to think about.  Crazy to look around and see the friends who got pregnant before me, had their babies, and their babies are nearing their one year birthday.  And I'm still not pregnant.  I just never could have imagined this would have gone this way...  

But you know what?  It has gone this way.  And I'm still here.  I'm still smiling.  I'm still hopeful.  I still love Jesus with all of my heart.  I still believe I will be a mom, and Andy will be a dad.  I still love my friends' babies and get excited to hear when new wombs become pregnant.  The only reason why is the faithfulness of God.  The reason why I can declare with joy that God is Faithful--even though I still have empty arms--is because I am standing here today and thriving.  

I must be honest, though, there have been many days or instances where I feel like I'm not thriving.  I feel lonely.  I feel invisible.  I feel hurt.  I feel like my heart can't possibly break even more than it has. BUT GOD...  He meets me.  He carries me.  He takes my hand and walks me to a spacious place where I can breathe.  He leads me beside quiet waters; He restores my soul.  There have been times when I just hoped silently that someone would ask me how I'm doing today?  How are things going?  How is your heart?  Where I hoped someone would just pray for me or send me a note.  And those things didn't happen, BUT GOD... He did those things.  He's always been there, and He always will be.  This change in my life has really matured me in this way.  "Hey, Emily, if you want someone to ask you how you're doing and they don't, either go up to them and share your heart or press into God."  Yes, it's nice when friends just know what and when to say things, but I don't want to become bitter when people don't read minds.  And the point is, where people have let me down, God has been there.  

Did you also know that just because you're mourning and grieving, it doesn't mean you've lost hope or faith?  I have absolutely never lost hope.  My hope is in God alone.  I hope in Him because He is faithful.  I have absolutely never lost faith.  I fully believe that in an instant God could heal Andy and heal me and give us a child naturally.  I fully believe and have faith that God is doing something deeper than I could ever know.  But just because we have HOPE and FAITH doesn't negate the fact that there is pain in our hearts.  We can simultaneously grieve and mourn loss and hard things while still holding onto hope and faith.  I believe the more the church knows this, the less feelings that will be hurt by, though well-intentioned, haphazard words.  (When sharing my heart and being vulnerable, I have more than a few times then been asked, "Do you still have hope?")  So be encouraged, if you, too, are in a trial and are experiencing sadness, mourning, or grieving.  The enemy may discourage you and tell you you're not being faithful, but in reality, if we let God properly deal with our hurting hearts, we will come out the other side with even greater hope and faith.  Hope is the expectation of good because God is good.

Andy and I are in another sort of waiting period.  This whole journey has felt like a waiting game.  There have been lots of 2 week, 4 week, 6 week waits.  Lots of shots. Lots of pills. Lots of creams.  Lots of ultrasounds, not looking for a baby.  Lots of appointments.  My hands are open to what God would do.  However He wants to build our family, I trust Him.  My heart is open wide.  I hate waiting; but I love it just the same.  Ann Voskamp, the author of One Thousand Gifts, writes about waiting this way, 

“Because sometimes in the waiting for what we long for, we praise God long when the gift comes at long last. Sometimes God has his people wait long, so our gratitude becomes deeper and wider.” – Ann Voskamp, The Jesse Tree Journey

He sure is having us wait long.  We're coming up on two years of actively "trying to conceive".  In someways I can't believe it.  In other ways, I can smile contentedly and know that He is up to something.  May you be encouraged by reading this, if you are in your own waiting period or your own trial.  He is so faithful.  Sometimes it seems that He speaks a promise, and then our life takes the completely wrong or opposite turn.  No, no.  He knows what He's doing.  Sometimes we have to enter into what one of my favorite pastors, Jimmy Seibert, calls "the trials of hope."  Will we come out of the trial praising God, trusting His name?  Or will we come out defeated, bitter, angry?  I have decided that I really can only trust Jesus because He saved my life.  There's nothing else I can do.  When we enter into the "trials of hope", after a promise is spoken but we go a different direction, will we surrender it all to Him again and let Him work on our hearts in the process of reaching our Promised Land?  

"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen."  Ephesians 3:20

Oh, and let's not forget Hannah (or Sarah or Rachel or Elizabeth...):  "...the Lord remembered her. "


  1. I am not struggling with infertility but your words, Emily, have brought comfort to me. I am waiting for the Lord to answer prayers about a great loss we recently suffered and a trial we have been going through for some time. "We can simultaneously grieve and mourn loss and hard things while still holding onto hope and faith." "Hope is the expectation of good because God is good." So true. Only possible with Jesus. Thank you Jesus! How do people get through this life without Him? God bless you abundantly.

    1. Cathy, I'm so thankful you were encouraged today. I don't know where we would be without His grace! I pray for your family now, that He would continue to meet you in your trial and lead you by His hand.

  2. such a testimony to who God was, is and will always be. i know i haven't been in on the day to day, but i think about you often and i pray for you. i was reading this and i was oddly so proud of you. i love to see how God continues to grow your faith and you have humbly yielded to His hand. i love you, em.

  3. Continuing to pray for you and Andy! Completely agree that having hope and faith doesn't negate that this process is painful. Thankful we serve a God who understands our pain and provides comfort in big and small ways.