My favourite Bible teacher, Beth Moore, believes that God gave women 4 girlish dreams: 1) to be a bride; 2) to be beautiful; 3) to be fruitful; and, 4) to live happily ever after. I also believe that God does not give us dreams that He is unprepared to fulfill or replace with a grander dream of His own. He doesn’t always fulfil our dreams as we expect or ask. Today I’m going to focus on #3, to be fruitful – for now, let’s view “fruitful” as having children. But what if, for some reason, you couldn’t have a baby, you’re infertile?
Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive within 12 months. It is estimated that 1 in 6 couples will experience infertility. Some people say that in our culture, children are no longer a prerequisite to a full life, there aren’t the same expectations or pressure to have offspring. But when your biological clock is ticking…and it’s LOUD… and you want a baby SO badly that it’s all you can think, all you can see around you, all you could dream about at night, all rationalization goes out the window! The heart takes over. It’s not something we talk about openly. Deep down, an infertile woman struggles with shame, guilt and an overwhelming sense of “failure”. Satan can sow shame in virtually any soil; infertility is fertile soil.
In 2003, my husband and I decided to have a baby. We had been married 7 years and there were many times over those 7 years that I wondered if we would ever both be at that place. Before trying to conceive, I asked God “to close my womb” if it was not the right thing for us, or not the right time for us. I wanted God’s will to be done in my life. I don’t know what prompted me to pray this way…but God answered, and as the months passed, the disappointment, the obsession, the sense of failure, and all the questions grew. It seemed there were pregnant women every where I looked. I dreamed about babies. I remember having a dream so vivid, that when I woke up I could still feel a baby in my arms. And it seemed at that time that other areas in my life started to fall apart as well. To put it bluntly, I felt like I was in a dark hole with no escape, I was drowning and there didn’t seem to be anyone close by, not even God. I begged, I raged, I bargained, I tried to ignore God; sometimes I simply sat with Him because I had no more words. I still wanted His will, I knew that even in my current anguish (for lack of a better word), He could be sparing more suffering if He answered my prayer, but it was not His best for me.
In 1 Timothy 1:19 Paul wrote to Timothy “I give you this instruction…so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.” I had a choice – keep swimming by looking to God and living faithfully, or let my faith be shipwrecked. If I let my faith be shipwrecked, where else would I go?
Eventually we were referred to a fertility specialist who ran some tests. I already knew there was no physical reason we couldn’t have a baby. We elected to try the least invasive treatment, but if it didn’t help in 3 months, it wasn’t going to work. During that second month, I re-read Hannah. And that Friday morning, I prayed and I sobbed (as I had done before more times that I can count), but when I finished, I felt for the first time in a long time, that I could breathe. God was rescuing me – I wasn’t going to drown, I had hope and peace, and joy. God had another plan for me, a better plan for me. I could truly say that I had surrendered to Him. I thought I had surrendered before, but this was different. I was free.
The next day, I told my husband that I was willing to stop trying for a baby if nothing happened after this treatment. And I asked him to be patient with me, because I would need time to grieve the loss of this dream. 5 days after that conversation, I found out I was pregnant. God blessed me in 2 ways. Yes, he gave me Little Guy. But more importantly He gave me Himself. Yes, my circumstances changed, but more importantly God changed me in a profound way.
When I thought about being fruitful, babies used to be what came to mind. But God has shown me that that dream can represent a deeper desire to live fruitful lives, to invest ourselves in something that matters. God does not allow surrendered hearts to continue to long for things He will not ultimately grant in one way or another. Hearts surrendered to God can be trusted. Until we have surrendered our hopes and dreams, we have little way of knowing what would fulfill us. Most of us bank on circumstantial contentment, but we end up bankrupt. If-onlys (like the what-ifs) cling to us and drag us down…if only I was married, if only I had children, if only I had a bigger house, better car, perfect body…Unhappy women are not made happy by these things. An unhappy woman usually needs a change of heart than a change of circumstances.
I had a hard time getting pregnant after Little Guy, and when I did, I had a miscarriage. I was devastated by that loss and the loss of that dream. There are many women who I know that have never had biological children but God has blessed them with many children through Sunday school or children and youth programs. But you know what, all women become barren as we age, but it doesn’t have to mean that we’re done being fruitful! There are still opportunities to bear spiritual offspring. Moms and children in our families, in our church and in our community, who are desperately in need of someone to love them, to encourage them, and to point them to Jesus. Isn’t that what Moms and Grandmas do? We just sponsored another child through World Vision, and I cried. It sounds ridiculous, but in a way, the kids we sponsor are my kids. I pray for them, I encourage them and I point them to Jesus, and in turn, they are fulfilling a need in me. And now I’m asking God to show me others who I can be a “ Spiritual Mom” to – I can still have a fruitful life! God thinks outside the box!
Hannah surrendered her heart to God. Her circumstances may not have changed, but she did. God remembered her faithfulness and blessed her. God calls us to be faithful regardless of our circumstances, to be surrendered to whatever He chooses for us and where ever He calls us. When we are, He will change us. He will bless us with His presence. He will bless us in ways we cannot imagine. God created every life to be fruitful and to grow in grace!
References: “12 Extraordinary Women” by John MacArthur and “Breaking Free” by Beth Moore