...As God Wills: Understanding God's Plan for Childless CouplesMrs. Mary Schmal, Author, Christ-Light Curriculum
Lutheran Parent Magazine, July/August 1998, Reprinted with permission
Somewhere a young man longs to play for a professional football team. Another just hopes to see a live NFL game. Somewhere a young woman longs to be a star in the theaters of New York. Another just hopes to see a live Broadway show. We all long and hope. Only the extent of our dreams is different.
Family dreams can be more complex. One couple longs for a baby girl after giving birth to four sons. Another couple - infertile - dreams of cradling just one infant they can call their own. If the first couple's hopes are shattered, they are still thrilled to take home a baby boy. But what about the infertile couple's shattered dreams? They have spent time, money, and emotional energy on infertility treatments and adoption pursuits. What if a bolted door that says KEEP OUT is the only thing waiting for them at the end of their quest. For them, watching other families from the sidelines hardly seems like an acceptable alternative. How will they cope?
A rocky road
Infertile couples travel the rocky road of uncertainty. They find themselves asking, "What can we hope for?"
Some couples see infertility as a malady and become consumed with it. Their longing for a child swallows up the joy in their lives. Money and time are no object in their pursuit to adopt or become pregnant. They will do anything, make any sacrifice, to have a child. They may have uncomfortable feelings toward those who are blessed with children. They may find fault with each other or become angry with themselves. They may doubt God's wisdom as it applies to their lives. These are intense feelings. And very real.
Infertile couples often spend many years seeking medical treatment. Sometimes their pursuits are successful, and they eventually conceive. At other times treatments are unsuccessful. It may not be clear even to a physician why a couple cannot conceive.
Coping with infertility isn't easy
The suspicion of infertility and the eventual validation of that suspicion is always traumatic. Disappointment and the prospect of unrealized expectations occur often in life, but never quite to the degree that they do with infertility.
Finding comfort and hope
Infertility is indeed a rocky road, but it is never hopeless. The extent of a Christian's earthly hopes is always, Be it as God wills. God has a plan for all of us, even the infertile. In Ephesians 1:11-12, we read, "In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory."
There is much comfort in those words. They remind us that God has chosen us to be his own in and through the work of Christ Jesus. They remind us that everything is in conformity with God's purpose and will, even infertility. A couple's infertility will somehow serve God's purpose and bring glory to the Savior's name.
Coping requires that kind of comfort. How wonderful to know that our lives are not off track. Within God's plan everything fits together perfectly.
In the meantime . . .
So what do infertile couples do in the meantime -- be happy while everyone else takes their children for picnics in the park? Absolutely! Yes! And may God grant such couples the patience to make their smiles genuine and sincere. He can, and does, help them be happy for those whom God has given children. And they can be happy, knowing that God also has a plan for their lives as well. Satisfaction and contentment with one's station in life is always God-pleasing.
But infertile couples can also be actively pursuing other alternatives. They can prayerfully consider their options, knowing that God will bless every effort they undertake in his name.
One route is adoption. Adoption is just another way in which God can carry out his plan for a Christian couple. Most couples who pursue it eventually take home a child to love and nurture. But it isn't necessarily an easy road. The adoption process may take longer than expected. The ups and downs involved can be stressful. When an adoption is finalized, however, it is real and beautiful as the natural process of birth.
A word to those blessed with children
The heartache connected with being childless is not unique to our culture or age. We can read about the agonizing struggles of childless couples in Scripture: Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Rachel, Elkanah and Hannah, and others. There is an ageless stigma connected to being childless that couples who have been blessed with children need to understand and be sensitive to. Childless couples may feel uncomfortable being with married friends who have children. The subject of children too often dominates conversation. Childless couples cringe at comments such as, "We're going to wait a year before having our next child."
Within God's plan everything fits together perfectly
It is important for those to whom the Lord has given the gift of fertility not to flaunt their gift. Saying, "Relax, something will happen" is a simplistic cure for a complex problem. Childless couples do not need to be asked when they plan to start a family. They may be trying to conceive, but cannot. Sometimes people even assume that a couple enjoys being childless, especially when both spouses have successful careers. In fact, many would gladly give up a successful career to raise a family.
On the other hand, there are childless couples who are happy just as they are. Rather than judge their attitudes or analyze their situations, we must admire their contentment.
A godly response
In at least one way, the problem of being childless can be met head-on by Christian couples in exactly the same way that they might address any other challenge in life. They can call upon God in prayer. Philippians 4:6 encourages, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Prayer can help infertile couples deal with the insensitivity of others. It can help them place their hopes and longings in his hands. It can help them learn to be content with the lives God has given them. Prayer reminds the Christian that God holds all of us in the palm of his hand.
In godly contentment it isn't wrong for a childless couple to long for a child. A childless couple can also cling to Jesus' promise: "Everything is possible for him who believes" (Mark 9:23). And, in faith, they can turn the whole matter of infertility over to God's wise decision: Be it . . . as God wills.
Mary Schmal is an author of the Christ-Light curriculum. She and her husband are blessed with two adopted daughters.
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