Find Hope When Your Arms are Empty
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2006 29 Mar
The desire to be a parent is a natural, God-given longing that can be profoundly strong. So when you discover that you can’t have children when you expected to, grief can overwhelm you. Whether you’ve experienced infertility, a miscarriage, or a failed adoption attempt, God sees your empty arms and aching heart. Since you are God’s child, He cares, and He’ll give you hope if you place your trust in Him.
Here’s how you can find hope in the midst of infertility, miscarriage, and adoption loss:
Shift your focus. Look beyond your own struggles in this fallen world toward God, whose power is far greater than any of your circumstances. Don’t wallow in self-pity. Instead, decide every day to place your trust in God to guide you.
Embrace your true identity. Don’t define yourself by your challenges in your quest to have a child. Realize that, while parenthood is valuable, there is so much more that’s also important in life. Understand that God loves you deeply and unconditionally. Know that you’re just as valuable to Him when you’re not a parent as you would be if you had a child. Remember that your true identity is based on who you are in Christ – not parenthood.
Remember that you and your spouse are already a family. Realize that you don’t need to validate your marriage by having children before you can be considered a family. Understand that God already considers you and your spouse a family of two.
Expect a miracle – even if it’s not in the form of a child. Recognize that there’s no guarantee that God will choose to give you a child, but there is a promise you can count on no matter what: God will heal your heart if you ask Him. Acknowledge that God doesn’t owe you anything. Understand that God’s perspective is much greater than yours, and that He has good purposes behind everything He allows and doesn’t allow. Realize that, although you can’t predict the future, you can depend on God to do what’s best for you, in wisdom and love.
Be honest. Go ahead and pour out your thoughts and feelings to God in prayer. Rest assured that He won’t be shocked or offended by anything you say. Know that He wants you to open up to Him and establish a close relationship marked by honest communication.
Deal with envy and bitterness. Don’t try to pretend that you’re not envious of people who achieve parenthood easily. Admit how you feel, and pray about it. Realize that God’s decision to give someone a child isn’t based on whether or not that person deserves to be a parent, but on His particular plan for the child He is creating. Don’t let envy take root in your heart and grow bitterness. Ask God to constantly pull the weeds of envy and bitterness out of your heart.
Realize that God isn’t punishing you. Understand that, although past sins do have natural consequences, your inability to have a child isn’t a direct punishment from God. For instance, if you once had an abortion and now are infertile, know that God grieves along with you. Know that God stands ready to forgive any sin if you confess it and repent of it. Accept God’s forgiveness and ask Him to wash away your guilt with His grace. Invite Him to show you whatever He wants you to learn from your struggles so you can grow.
Guard your marriage. Beware of how the challenges you’re facing place stress on your marriage. Realize that neither you nor your spouse is immune to temptation that can lead to infidelity. Talk with one another frequently, sharing your thoughts and feelings openly. Pray often for your marriage to remain strong. Assure each other that, no matter whose body is the cause of your infertility, you’re both in this together. Place your spouse’s needs above your own and treat each other with kindness, actively serving one another. Keep your sex life as free of stress as possible; although you may need to time sex and deal with performance pressures, make sure you also take time for relaxed romance apart from your fertility goals.
Deal with insensitive comments wisely. Understand that people who make insensitive comments about your situation often mean well but simply don’t know any better. Ask God to help you view the situation from their perspective. Take into account that someone’s unkindness can have more to do with his or her own struggles than with your circumstances. Whenever you find yourself in an uncomfortable conversation, ask God to give you the grace to survive the moment. Be willing to forgive others when they unintentionally hurt you. Prayerfully consider who among your family and friends you can entrust your story to, how much to share, and when. As God leads, gently help people understand your needs so they’ll be less likely to hurt you in the future.
Be kind to yourself. Take it easy on days that trigger more grief than others, such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, the due date for a baby you lost, etc. Give yourself permission to politely decline baby shower invitations, or even to skip church or attend another service when a baby dedication is scheduled. Don’t worry about pleasing other people; do what will help you manage your feelings best.
Take advantage of resources to help you heal. Talk with your pastor or a professional counselor. Consider joining a local support group for people experiencing similar challenges.
Decide how far you’ll go for a baby. Set clear moral boundaries before you face emotionally charged situations that demand decisions about infertility treatment or adoption. Talk and pray with your spouse, and agree about specific moral boundaries you’ll set (such as not destroying embryos). When considering the ethics of a given scenario, ask yourself questions such as: "Do we know the Bible well enough to make choices in line with scriptural principles?", "Am I treating my body in a God-honoring manner?", "Am I honoring God’s view of children and upholding the sanctity of life?", "Will this course of action hurt my testimony or become a stumbling block to others?", "Are we honoring our marriage vows and God’s desire for a mutually submissive, loving partnership?", "Are we being good stewards of our time and money?", "Am I waiting on God’s perfect timing?", "If this path ultimately leads to parenthood, can I explain to my child, without shame or secrecy, exactly how she joined our family?", "Is it both acceptable and beneficial in God’s sight?" and "Am I trying to force God’s hand?". Don’t proceed with any course of action about which your spouse is not comfortable. Wait until you achieve unity before taking action.
Take one day at a time. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you fresh strength every day. Write down ways God is working in your life and record answers to prayer, then read what you’ve written in a few weeks or months to encourage you as you continue along your journey.
Place your faith in the right place. Seek God – not a child – first, making Him your top priority. Don’t hang your hope on what you want God to do for you. Instead, truly seek to get to know God Himself, and His best plan for your life. Make sure that your faith is solidly grounded in God, no matter what. Check your motives to determine if you’re asking for a child for selfish gain or for God’s glory. Pray for God’s will to be done above your own.
If your church doesn’t support you, don’t give up on God. Don’t allow the failure of any people at your church to reach out to you cause you to abandon your faith. Rest assured that God is always with you – and He cares deeply about your situation. Feel free to take your concerns directly to Him in prayer at any time. Don’t feel as if you need to cave into pressure to do something in church that triggers pain for you, such as volunteering in the nursery or joining a women’s Bible study that feels like a club for moms.
Pray for the children you’ve lost. Although you won’t know what your miscarried baby’s life would have been like or how the life of the child you’d hoped to adopt will turn out with another family, realize that you can always pray for them. Take advantage of this powerful opportunity to bless them and yourself.
Worship while you wait. As you wait for your dreams to possibly come true someday, focus on knowing, loving, and trusting God. Recognize that all your time is valuable for worshiping God. Ask God to help you delight yourself in Him and be content while you wait.
Invest in your spiritual children. Take heart that, even if you’re not a biological or adoptive parent of a child, you can always be a spiritual parent to people who need to be touched with God’s love. Ask God to show you who you can express His love to in tangible ways through kindness and service. Build lasting friendships with people you help, and take heart that God will bless you as you bless them.
Adapted from Hannah’s Hope: Seeking God’s Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Adoption Loss, copyright 2005 by Jennifer Saake. Published by NavPress, Colorado Springs, Co., 1-800-366-7788,www.navpress.com.
Jennifer Saake and her husband, Rick, are the founders of Hannah’s Prayer Ministries (www.hannah.org), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help women who are infertile or have suffered miscarriage or adoption loss. Since their infertility battle began in 1992, the Saakes have lost 10 children via miscarriages or failed adoption attempts and have been blessed with two living miracles.