10 Things I Would Say to the Woman Struggling With Infertility

10 Things I Would Say to the Woman Struggling With Infertility

Infertility is a topic that is rarely discussed, but that affects one in eight couples. Chances are, if you are not struggling with infertility, you very likely know at least one person who is. This post is specifically written to a woman struggling with infertility. Through my 6 years of struggling with infertility, this is what I would say…

1. It’s not your fault.

You are not broken. God is not punishing you for your past mistakes. He is not against you. You did not do anything (or fail to do something) to cause this suffering. Some form of suffering happens to every human on the planet at some point in their lives because we live in a broken world ruled by evil and sin. But if you believe in Christ, you can rejoice that evil and brokenness will not win in the end.

2. God has not forgotten about you.

With every month that passes, baby shower invitation you turn down, friend who announces their pregnancy and then delivers their baby, it is easy to feel forgotten and left behind. It’s easy to feel stuck in the mud while the world continues to move forward, while you desperately struggle to break free. But you are not forgotten nor overlooked. God sees every aspect of your struggle. He sees every tear that escapes your eyes. He sees every moment you long for this to end. He is with you, always, and in all moments.

3. This is out of your control.

It sucks, I know. But it’s true. You do not have as much control over your situation as you would like to think. No matter how hard you try, calculate, time things, and pour money into procedures, you simply cannot control when or how a life is created. Life only comes from the Lord. As hard as it is to accept this truth, it is also pretty freeing to realize that you don’t have to be the one to carry this huge burden. Trust Christ to carry this burden for you. Your story may not (and likely will not) turn out how you planned, but relinquishing control can also bring so much beauty if you trust the One who is in control.

4. This does not define you.

It’s so easy to label yourself as “Infertile.” Please note I did not title this post as “10 Things I Would Say to an Infertile,” because that is not who you are. You are not defined by your circumstances or your suffering. Your circumstances and your roles in life will most certainly change over time, but your true identity in Christ, as His precious daughter, will never change. But your thoughts are more powerful than you may realize, so take careful effort to be aware of how you view yourself during your struggle. If you view yourself as a victim, as a broken woman, as worthless person, then your heart and attitude will quickly follow. It’s up to you to choose to think differently about yourself, and to choose to see yourself how God already sees you: so precious, worthy, and loved that He gave His Son for you, just so He could call you His daughter.

5. Don’t compare journeys.

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression that “comparison is the thief of joy.” There is much truth and wisdom to this. Comparing your particular journey to another’s will do no good. Please understand there is a difference between relating to and feeling empathy towards others. But comparison occurs when you discount or elevate your journey when thinking of another’s journey. Thoughts like “Well, at least I didn’t have a miscarriage, so maybe I should just get over my sadness about my infertility” or “I’ve had three miscarriages and two failed IVFs, yet this woman has the audacity to complain about not getting pregnant after only a year of trying” only lead to self-centered thinking. Respect the uniqueness of each person’s story. God gifts us uniquely, and He writes a unique story for each of us.

6. There’s freedom in surrender.

If you can accept the truth that you do not have control over your situation, then you have taken the first step in surrendering. But there is another level to surrender: all of yourself. Steve McVey in The Grace Walk calls this brokenness. He defines brokenness as reaching the end of yourself. In other words, when you are trying your hardest to overcome a situation in your life, by your own self-efforts, then you are not depending on the Lord. You are depending on yourself. The moment you realize the futility in this, and choose to depend on Christ instead of yourself, is your moment of brokenness. I can assure you there is much freedom in making this choice. I finally reached a point in my journey where “I Quit” – I told God, for the first time truly meaning every word, “If I never get pregnant, I will be okay, I know You are still good. I trust You.” I finally trusted Him to make us parents however and whenever He wished. It was a very hard choice, but I never regretted making it.

7. Remember to see the heart behind insensitive comments.

It is inevitable that you will hear comments that are hurtful and insensitive. But it is imperative for your heart that you choose to extend grace to these people so that bitterness cannot take root. I encourage you to memorize and recite Ephesians 4:32 for moments such as these. Most people are not trying to hurt you (admittedly, some are, but this is likely rare). It is difficult for people to know what to say to someone who is suffering or hurting with something they have not experienced. But they mean well. They may say something that is the polar opposite of helpful, but their heart’s intention is to comfort and show love to you. If you feel bold, you can kindly take the opportunity to help educate others about infertility and encourage them about what is helpful and supportive to say. But at the very least, remember to give them some grace.

8. This season will end, someday, somehow.

All suffering will end one day because Christ conquered sin and will return one day to restore this broken world. But even before that day, your suffering will likely end or at least change. If you continue to depend on Christ through your suffering, you will not feel burdened by this for the rest of your life. It comes back to realizing where your true identity is found – in Christ alone. As you trust and depend on Him, your suffering begins to take a backseat. Not that you won’t ever feel saddened again, but your suffering will no longer rule your heart and mind. God’s plan for why you are experiencing this suffering may not yet be revealed. Remember Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” He is using your story for His good – you just need to keep trusting Him.

9. Actively seek the good in this.

Happiness is a feeling, but joy is a state of mind, or a choice. You can experience both sadness and joyfulness simultaneously. Joy is found by choosing to look for the ways that God is bringing good out of your journey. I promise there is good to be found, but you must choose to seek it out. You may need to start small: being thankful that it’s a new day, that you met a friend who also struggles with infertility. But if you keep practicing and seeking His goodness, your perspective will grow larger: a stronger marriage, a more mature character, a closer relationship with the Lord…all because of your struggle with infertility. Eventually you can reach a point where you are grateful for your struggle because of all the ways you’ve seen God bring good out of it, and you wouldn’t change a thing about what’s happened in your journey.

10. Don’t waste the waiting.

I do not enjoy waiting, and you likely do not either. It is especially difficult to wait for something your heart desires with no guarantees at the end or a time frame of how much longer you have to wait. But this time of waiting for your heart’s desire is every bit as precious as the desire itself. Don’t waste it by wallowing in your suffering. Instead, use this time to grow. Grow in every way you can: in your marriage, in your friendships, with your family, and most importantly with the Lord. When you have a tough day, cry out to the Lord. Lean on Him for all your needs and seek His peace and comfort. My husband has said for many years, “the blessing is not just the baby at the end of the trial, the blessing is the trial itself.”

Good, Good Father

You're a Good, Good Father

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. – James 1:17

The idea of God being a Good, Good Father, who delights in giving good gifts to His children has been present in my heart lately. But if every good thing and every perfect gift is from the Lord, then where do bad things and suffering come from?

A few months ago, I felt the Lord telling me that my body is healed and my womb is open – something very unlike me to think because I tend to think negatively about my infertility so as not to get my hopes up each month. But that thought wouldn’t go away. I also felt peace about pursuing fertility treatments, something we hadn’t felt comfortable doing in the past 6 years. So I decided to talk to my husband so he would know what had been on my heart. To my surprise, he too had been feeling peace about pursuing fertility treatments.

We felt like that was God’s way of confirming a path forward for us, so in faith we scheduled an appointment with a specialist for the following month. But about two weeks later, I discovered that I was pregnant.

To say I was shocked is an understatement. For over 6 years I had hoped and strained my eyes to see two lines on the pregnancy test, and there I stood, facing two lines that appeared immediately. As I shared the joyous news with my husband, I began to delicately weep (read: fits of sobs and snot caused by my overwhelming happiness in the moment).

I was so touched by this good gift that God had just given to us. But I also knew there was a chance this gift may not last. I don’t mean that in a negative, hopeless way, but more of an acknowledgement that miscarriages are a very real and regular loss that women experience, and that may have very well been the outcome of this pregnancy.

Because of that possible reality, I remember feeling incredible gratitude for this good gift today. Even if this pregnancy doesn’t go full-term, I am grateful for the good gift I’ve been given today and yesterday.

God didn’t have to give us the gift of natural conception. I had accepted that this may not be part of our story, and I trusted God’s plan and that He was still good if that was to be the case. But my Good, Good Father wanted to give a sweet gift to His daughter, and so He did that day.

Through our years of infertility, I struggled a lot with doubting God’s goodness and questioning His plan. I couldn’t understand how a loving God could withhold something as beautiful and good as the desire to have a child. The nerve He had to keep a baby from my womb!

But through my years of suffering, I also learned that the 100% truth is that God is always and only good.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. – James 1:13

Bad things, tragedy, pain, and suffering are inevitable circumstances that will befall human beings because we live in a broken world where Satan still has power. Christian or non-Christian, it is a certainty that you will experience some form of suffering.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. – 1 Peter 4:12-13

Admittedly, it can feel as though some people are lucky lottery winners who escape harsher forms of suffering, but ultimately it is not profitable to compare one’s journey to another’s. And chances are, people who you suspect of being lottery winners are simply wearing masks to avoid showing their real pain. Pain and suffering comes in all shapes and sizes, some very in-your-face and others that can be hidden for a while. But no one is immune to suffering.

So since we all suffer, how best to handle ourselves when we’re suffering? In short, depend on God.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. – James 1:5-8

The way I used to understand verses 6-8 was that someone who doubts that God can answer their prayer is basically not going to get the answers hoped for from their prayers, as if God will not fulfill your wish list if you doubt His ability to do so.

But now my understanding is a bit more straight-forward and literal: the person who doubts — lacks faith and dependence on the Lord — is exactly like the imagery described: tossed about by the wind and surf, unstable. In other words, when you choose to live independent of the Lord (thinking you know better to handle things yourself), your life will not look steady and your emotions will be all over the place on any given day.

Whereas trusting the Lord, and depending on Him for everything — His peace, His strength, His love, etc. — will keep you grounded in truth and a firm foundation that will help you ride out any storm you’re facing in life.

The Muscle of Faith

the-muscle-of-faith

Familiar feelings can trigger memories almost like a familiar scent. That tickly feeling of a tear running slowly over the bridge of my nose and dropping onto the pillowcase as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep. Trying not think anymore about whatever painful thought is responsible for the tears. That familiar, tickly feeling usually triggers painful memories of all the previous nights I cried myself to sleep while being angry at or questioning God for my circumstances at the time.

But through the years of painful suffering, I learned something that is irreplaceable and completely worth all the tears: to have faith in God means to trust that He is always and only good. Through my years of hurting, my faith has grown.

Faith, or trusting God, is like a muscle in many ways. When trying to build muscle, you can attempt a wide variety of approaches, but the reality is it takes consistency and time to build. It cannot be rushed and cannot be shortcut. It requires endurance and a conscious choice to focus on.

And like working out your muscles, it can be a painful process at times. You may not know this if you’re not interested in fitness, but in order to build muscle, your existing muscle fibers must first break down, then rebuild stronger than before. The weights are usually pretty heavy, much like the circumstances in your life that require faith to endure well. Soreness can linger for a time afterward.

But as you build muscle, your body adapts and is able to perform the same exercise more easily, like muscle memory. That’s why a variety of exercise and increasing weights results in the best fitness, as opposed to doing repetitive tasks.

Much like muscle memory, you can practice having faith or trusting God with the circumstances in your life. The more you practice, the easier it gets over time for that to be one of your first reactions to a situation. I’m certainly not an expert at this – I feel like I will always be learning how to better trust God with more and more of my life. But I love the idea that, like muscle building, you can begin to see progress of growth even if you’re still growing.

So wherever you are in the process of struggling with something, you can decide to begin working out your muscle of faith. You can decide to trust God with your circumstances and know that He is good, and He is working your situation out for good, even if you don’t understand or see how yet. There is hope in the growth that’s taking place in your heart.

Joy vs. Happiness

joy-vs-happiness

I have come to really dislike phoniness. I think this especially irks me during this election season when it seems that the candidates wear whatever mask they think it takes to convince someone to cast a vote for them. But even in day-to-day life, phoniness bothers me, makes me feel unsettled. I have come to find that my closest friendships are with people who aren’t afraid to tell it to me straight and be genuine with their feelings. Those friends continue to inspire me to be the same way. After all, most people’s lives are not all roses and sunshine, so chances are, you can relate or support one another through whatever hardship you’re experiencing.

For many years I could not understand this verse from James 1. Joy when you encounter various trials? I used to think that meant that I should put on a smile and will myself to be happy when tough things happen. But can you imagine if that were actually what this verse meant? People smiling and acting happy while they bury a loved one, watch their marriage fall apart, lose their job, or any other myriad of heartaches that could happen. No, that would be insanity. Grief is not meant to be hidden or never experienced. A facade of happiness is not the same thing as experiencing joy.

In other words, joy does not equal happiness.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2

I think it’s safe to say that Jesus did not feel happy while enduring the torture of a death by crucifixion. I would imagine that He felt agony and grief, but He was joyfully obeying God the Father’s will.

Trusting God during hard times does not mean you have to act happy. Being joyful is a choice, or a state of mind, whereas happiness is a feeling.

Likewise, sadness is a feeling. And it’s okay to feel sad and to grieve when something painful happens. Jesus experienced grief when Lazarus died (John 11:35). But the key is to not let feelings dictate your attitude or state of mind and to not doubt God’s love for you or His goodness. You can be joyful while simultaneously feeling sad.

Even if you can’t understand why something painful has happened or you feel angry (another feeling), you are still capable through God’s grace to trust Him. I encourage you to not try to hide your feelings of sadness or convince yourself that it’s wrong to feel sad when something painful happens (don’t be that person who always answers “How are you?” with “Great!” if it’s not really true). Allow yourself to feel sad for a time, but trust that God is using the experience for good somehow.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13

When Your Future is Uncertain

When Your Future is Uncertain

Have you ever driven in dense fog? I took this picture a few years ago as I was driving to work through very dense fog that prevented me from seeing much past the front of my car. I had no idea what lay ahead of me on that road. I just had to continue driving and hope that there wouldn’t all of a sudden be a large object in my path. All I had to rely on was the familiarity of the route itself and my short-distance vision. The future can feel like that sometimes – unclear, a little nerve-wracking, moving forward with uncertainty…

When you move forward through an uncertain future, you’re likely to hope for several things: that your path will become clear, that you’ll understand why you had to go through this period of uncertainty, and of course that you will find yourself safely or happily at the end of this uncertainty.

But as you move forward, trusting amidst the unknown, it’s a little scary because there are no guarantees that your journey will end the way you desire it to. Perhaps you could be okay with however it ends, but for me, sometimes it’s more of the uncertainty of it all that makes me nervous.

I tend to get so anxious to see where this road leads, just to know what will happen. (And yes, I was one of those kids who pestered Mom and Dad with “ARE WE THERE, YET?!”)

When facing the uncertain, you have no clue as to how long the road is, if you will take any detours or not, where the heck it goes, and what stops are along the way. And that can be really hard to deal with on a day-to-day basis.

But there is good news – one thing is for sure: you are not the one driving. And that brings me so much comfort and peace when I choose to remember that truth.

There is One who knows exactly where all roads lead and end. There is One who is carrying you through each day of your journey.

He is One who I trust with my future, uncertainty and all. Heck, He’s the ONLY one I trust with my future!

So when the anxiety of the unknown begins to weigh you down, threatening to take over every thought you possess…stop and fix your eyes on the One who knows all and sees all, and trust Him to lead you through it.

For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light. – Mark 4:22

Yes Lord, I Would

Yes Lord, I Would

The death of a loved one. Terminal illnesses. The loss of a child. Abuse. Addictions. Heart-wrenching sufferings. If you’re praying, hoping, or waiting for something…and it is never realized…if something you hold dear is taken away…would you still love the Lord?

This is a tough, tough question to ponder. Believe me, I know. Really. I spent 4 years wrestling with this question as I considered the possibility that I may never get pregnant. I especially fought with God over this topic because I felt convinced that He had been the one to give me the desire to have a child in the first place. And then He had the nerve to not give me that desire? I felt confused, frustrated, angered, and most of all hurt. Never before had I struggled so much with the idea that God is good.

In my darkest moments, I started to believe that maybe He isn’t good, that maybe He has completely forgotten about me. But sometimes you have to experience darkness in order to notice the spark of light that was there the whole time.

I love how the movie Facing the Giants illustrates this topic. (Warning: contains spoilers) Brooke (the wife of the main character) is hoping to get pregnant. Then there was a heart-breaking scene where the main character, Grant, finds out from the doctor that he is sterile or has a low sperm count and that the two of them will likely not have children naturally. It was on the same day that Grant also finds out that he is unwanted as the head football coach, and is left feeling like a complete failure in every way. Grant and Brooke are sitting across from one another at the kitchen table as Grant pours out his heart before his wife about his tough day, and finally tells her that he can’t give her the children that she desires. They both cried and tried to tell one another it will be okay, but they both questioned God about what He was doing, where was He.

But then Grant spends the whole night in the Word, seeking after God. When Brooke approaches him in the morning, Grant asks her, “If God never gives us children, would you still love Him?” At the time, she doesn’t answer. But later in the movie, after Grant surrenders his career to God and beautiful changes take place with his team, Brooke’s heart is softened too. She also has been experiencing sickness, so she goes to the doctor to see if everything is okay. She is told that she is not pregnant, but instead of letting the despair of the disappointment overcome her, she holds her head high, and goes out to her car, where she tells God that she will still love Him if she never gets pregnant. But just before driving away, a nurse runs outside and stops her – her test results were mixed up with someone else, and she is pregnant. It was so beautiful watching her reaction to the joyous news.

facingthegiants

Once you notice that spark of light, there is the potential for something wonderful to happen to you.

You can begin to surrender your desires to the Lord, trusting Him to work things out according to His plans instead of yours. You can begin to experience a kind of supernatural peace that can only come from a loving, Heavenly Father. You can begin to choose joy even though your suffering remains.

And then before you know it, you realize that the room you were in is no longer dark, but is getting lighter day by day. Not because your suffering has ended, but because you have accepted that you are not the one in control (or under the illusion that you were in control in the first place). No matter how your story ends, you can still choose to trust God and choose to be joyful no matter the circumstances.

Letting Go of Your Plans

Letting Go of Your Plans

I don’t know about you, but I’m a planner by nature. I make to do lists, sometimes just so I can feel the satisfaction of scratching something off a list. You know the type. After two months of dating, we had “the plan” all laid out: get married, finish school, get jobs, save money, buy a house, have two kids no more, no less (we had names already picked out for a boy and a girl), and live as a happy family. Such naiveté. That sweet, young girl had no idea what was in store for her.

I’m so glad that I am unable to see the future. That cliché question “If you could know the day you will die, would you want to know it?” is very applicable – sometimes knowledge is a burden. Not knowing can allow a person to live without a sense of dread. But I can also understand the argument that when facing an uncertain future, a person can feel overwhelmed with anxiety of all the possible outcomes.

For someone like me, I find it comforting to make plans. It helps me feel more in control. And making plans is not inherently a bad thing to do. But I have learned through my periods of suffering that clinging to your plans is setting yourself up for a lot of hurt.

After experiencing so many months of disappointment with infertility God started working on my heart, slowly peeling back one finger at a time to release my grip from my plans, and gave me a new plan: to trust His plan.

Jeremiah 29:11
‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’

It’s important to remember the above verse when your plans fall apart – God has not forgotten about you. He has a plan for you, and even if it includes painful events, it is meant for you to trust Him with your future and have a heart of hope.

Romans 5:1-5
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

The Lord has taught me that there is so much more to life than “my plan”…this life is meant to build a legacy of trusting God with an uncertain future and bringing glory to Him. He is the Lord Most High, and He is worthy of praise, each and every day…during triumph and during struggle, during blessings and trials. There’s so much freedom in giving up “your plan” for God’s plan – whatever He chooses it to be.

Complaining

Complaining

I haven’t been getting very good rest lately. My cat acted loony and messed up the table cloth. My workout was really hard today – both squats and deadlifts. I regularly struggle with not liking something about my body. I was stuck behind slow-moving traffic while running errands today. I ordered some new pants, and they didn’t fit right. The dogs barked at the UPS delivery guy while my daughter was napping. These are just complaints I’ve thought since I woke up this morning. Without even trying, you can find yourself complaining or focusing on the negative far too often. This made me wonder: is it okay to complain?

I thought a good place to go to focus on this topic is the book of Job. To provide some context, in case you’ve never read Job, it goes something like this:

Once upon a time, there was a righteous man named Job who had lots and lots of possessions, a large, happy family, and honored God faithfully with his life. One day, God and Satan were having a conversation and God allowed Satan to test Job because Satan suspected that under trials, Job would curse God. So in a matter of hours, all of Job’s possessions (livestock) and all of his children were killed or taken away from him. Job was so upset that he tore his clothes and shaved his head (I’m assuming this was a custom of showing grief back then), but still, Job did not curse God. In fact, after cursing himself and the day he was born, he still had the faithfulness to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” [WOW!] As if the above wasn’t bad enough, God then allowed Satan to strike Job with boils from head to toe so that he was physically suffering in pain too. Job’s wife even pressured Job to curse God, but Job replied “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”

What an amazing response, so grounded in his resolve to love the Lord no matter what.

It’s true though, God is not only worthy of praise during the highs in our lives, but during the lows too.

The rest of Job is discussion back and forth between Job and his “friends” – Job cursing himself and questioning God about why this has befallen him, but never cursing Him, and then Job’s “friends” rebuking Job for being sinful. It’s a little hard to understand because it’s written in poetic form, but there is no doubt that Job is complaining about what has happened to him.

So back to my question: is it okay to complain? “Complain” is only mentioned 5 times in the New Testament, but only two verses stand out to me as addressing this question:

James 5:9
Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.

and

1 Peter 4:9
Be hospitable to one another without complaint.

After contemplating these verses, and talking more with my husband, I don’t think the act of complaining is in and of itself wrong, but I think it steers your thoughts and attitude inward (selfishness, bitterness, etc.) Perhaps it’s better to ask: is complaining beneficial? I would of course answer no, most often complaining is not beneficial and only leads me to focus on myself.

In life and especially when experiencing suffering it’s easy for me to complain about a lot of things. My takeaway from this is that if I feel the need to complain, I should do so to God, just like Job did, but not to others because who wants to be around a negative person?

It’s okay to ask God why something has happened to you. It’s not okay to blame Him or curse Him, but I think it’s part of us having a relationship with Him to question Him and express anguish or confusion over something in our lives we do not understand. But ultimately, we should trust Him and keep faith and hope in Him amidst trials in our lives.

I like how Job does this in these two verses:

Job 13:14
Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.

Job 14:14
All the days of my struggle I will wait 
Until my change comes.

I love that last one, I will wait until my change comes. It’s a great reminder that every period of suffering has a beginning and must therefore have an end. Someday, somehow.