Childlessness is not just a path walked by married couples but also single women and men. We have very old histories that we can look to in the Bible that deal with waiting for children and childlessness (Abraham and Sarah, Hannah, and Rachel). In those stories, God did grant children in His perfect timing. However, as Christians we know that God may choose not to heal our bodies or grant our desires while we live on this earth.
“Infertility affects approximately 12% of the U.S. population — more than one in ten couples will struggle with infertility. That number doesn’t begin to encompass the couples who have lost children or miscarried, or the single women who desire to be mothers.”
Crosswalk contributor Matt Appling describes what it’s like to have a childless marriage
“Infertility is like an uninvited guest who then refuses to leave, no matter how many subtle hints you drop. While people have nothing but nice things to say when you have a baby, infertility seems to open up all of the worst kinds of comments and questions from family, friends, and even strangers.”
But unless you tell people, childlessness is not a visible struggle; thereby, making it one of the loneliest. As a married woman or man, you may avoid telling people simply because you dread the comments or advice, and as a single woman or man you may avoid telling others because of the same reason or because you don’t think you’ll be understood or taken seriously.
Here are three words of encouragement that Patterson finds most helpful in the circumstance of childlessness:
1. “Don’t be afraid to grieve.”
You may feel that grieving makes your circumstance all too real, or that grieving means you are giving up, and maybe you feel like you’re not allowed to grieve because your circumstance isn’t the same as someone else’s.
“It’s okay to mourn the death of a dream, and begin to reconcile how an unfulfilled desire fits under the umbrella of God’s sovereignty.
Give yourself room to mourn, lament, cry out to God. Weep in his presence and wrestle in prayer.”
God wants us to bring everything to Him, even the most vulnerable parts of our souls and the things we’ve sought to control and have come to fruition of our own accord. But in our weakness we will see God’s strength and take comfort there.
Psalm 56:8 reads,
“Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll — are they not in your record?”
2. “Know that Jesus knows.”
We cannot hide our sin from God and we cannot hide our suffering. Jesus knows what you are feeling—what you are going through in the deepest parts of your heart.
Patterson reminds us,
“As acquainted with grief, loss, and pain as David was, our heavenly Father knows the depth of sorrows more intimately than anyone. Our Savior is the man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, and actively sympathizing with our sorrows. He is “near to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18). All other comfort pales in comparison to the comfort that can be found in his word.”
Jesus grieved for His friend Lazarus; even knowing that He would raise him from the dead. Jesus suffered and died for all mankind. He knows suffering better than anyone, and He invites you to come to Him bearing your soul because He knows you…
3. “Childless does not define you.”
Just as singleness, or your marriage, a job, or an illness or disability does not define you; childlessness also does not define you. To know what defines us we must look to where our worth comes from, and our worth and value comes from the Lord alone.
“You were created in the image of God. Your soul was created to know God. As a result of that stunning truth, all human life inherently has great value. Your identity shouldn’t be tied to your ability to bear children; it should be deeply rooted in the fact that you are God’s. This trial is temporary, but your identity in him lasts forever.”
This is why Paul tells us,
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” -Col. 3:1-2
There are so many things in this world that will distract us and try to tear our eyes away from the Lord, and the greatest temptation that does this is suffering. We may feel forgotten, unheard, angry, or devastated; we will be tempted to turn away from God in those times possibly blaming Him or wishing to disassociate Him from it. But God…is in everything, He sees you, and He hears the voice of your heart even when you deny the words from your lips.
“At your darkest hour, you can stake your hope on the fact that God knows your pain, and he promises that he will never leave or forsake you.”
For, “…it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” – Deut. 31:6
To read Patterson’s article in its entirety please visit desiringGod.org.
Image courtesy: ©Thinkstock/hemul75
Publication date: April 3, 2017