(This article was originally published on a private blog for pastors' wives on February 25, 2019.)
My husband and I celebrated our 4th anniversary in January of this year. Our wedding day was one of the most glorious days in my life. Our dating and engagement months were filled with joyous anticipation as the Lord made a smooth path for our lives to come together. Everything seemed to be working out so beautifully. I felt an incredible sense of God’s favor and blessing and it felt like he was rewarding us with each other after we had each been waiting on him and faithfully serving him as singles for a long time. (I’m turning 40 in June.) My feelings were confirmed by other Christians who reinforced in me the idea that my marriage was a great blessing from God.
Currently, we are in a season of waiting to see how God will provide children for us. My trial with infertility has caused me to question many things, including my thinking about God’s blessings. If I really believe that God works ALL things together for good (Rom. 8:28), then I should believe that even something like infertility is a blessing in disguise. It’s so hard to think like this, though, especially when other Christians around me are frequently comparing God’s blessings to temporal things like marriage and children and material goods. I’ve heard or read that my infertility is a curse, a Satanic attack, a lack of faith, or possibly a result of sin.
Last month, I was on a trip in India. In Hinduism, if you experience something like infertility, you have undoubtedly done something wrong. This idea sometimes carries over into the church and so I learned that couples who are struggling with infertility feel a lot of guilt and shame.
One of the Christian women there assured me that I would be able to conceive because “God takes care of his servants.” She cited some examples of others they had prayed for who were able to conceive. I was feeling very encouraged and hopeful by their prayers and confidence. But then I spoke privately with an older woman who has been a devoted wife to a lay ministry leader for many years. Even though they are seeing fruit in their ministry, they haven’t been able to have any children. Suddenly, the passionate prayers and confident statements of the first woman stood in stark contrast to this other woman’s experience. Through tears, we pondered the ways of the Lord together and tried to make sense of the confusing situation. She questioned listening to some of the confident “words from the Lord” she had been given by others over the years, claiming she would conceive. Now she feels too old to adopt.
Although infertility is a very painful and difficult trial, it doesn’t compare to the kinds of losses and grief that many of my faithful Christian friends have experienced. Most of these don’t come close to comparing with Christians all over the world who are seriously persecuted or killed for their faith. Even though we know that God will reward the righteous and punish the guilty, this is ultimately going to be fulfilled in eternity, not in this life. This life will be filled with trials and testing as God works with each of us to transform us into his image. If our thinking and speaking about God’s blessing is wrong, we can do great damage to one another in the body.
Recently, I have been challenging myself to rethink of God’s blessings in a biblical way. What do the scriptures say about true blessing from God? “Blessed are the poor in spirit…those who mourn…the meek…those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…the merciful…the pure in heart…the peacemakers…those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake…[those who are reviled]…” (Matt. 5: 3-11, ESV). I don’t see anything in this list that compares with the common statements I hear other Christians making to decide whether someone is blessed or not. I often hear assessments of blessing based on how large their house is or how many children they have or how well their ministry seems to be going. All of those things can be blessings from God, but he has so many other blessings as well!
I’ve considered my marriage as an example. I agree that my marriage is a tremendous blessing, but my years of singleness were also a blessing! Though I struggled with loneliness at times, the Lord also opened many doors for me and filled my life with amazing people, strategic opportunities, and unforgettable experiences. I also had a lot more freedom and time to pour into my relationships. In some ways I am more limited now because of my responsibilities as a wife.
On the other hand, I am now able to serve in ways that I wasn’t able to as a single. Both marriage and singleness are good. So far, I haven’t been able to have biological children, but God has given me many spiritual children. As a pastor’s wife serving in a growing church, I have so much more time to invest in ministry during this season. If I continue to be unable to conceive, God may lead us to adopt or foster and what a wonderful blessing those would be if that is God’s plan for us! We need to recognize ALL the blessings of God and not over-emphasize some of his blessings and exclude others. The greatest blessings God has provided are spiritual and eternal. Ephesians 1 includes a good list. I think the greatest blessing of all is simply the peace of being in God’s presence and that is accessible to us anytime, anywhere, as long as we set our hearts on seeking him and not trying to base our happiness on circumstances in this world.