Addressing Infertility

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel said to him, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.’
— Luke 1:18-21

Elizabeth was a woman who lived her entire life wanting and praying for a child. We are introduced to her at a time when having babies wasn’t even possible anymore—she had already entered menopause. But then, beyond explanation, she is promised a son and gets pregnant! A truly miraculous event. It’s an incredible story. One that we should celebrate. But we know for a fact, that while this story will give comfort to all who read it, it also takes some to a place of hurt and confusion.

Because… what about when that doesn’t happen? What about when God doesn’t miraculously provide a child for an infertile couple?*  And we should also ask, What about when 1it hasn’t happened yet? Perhaps there is a couple in that stage of life where pregnancy can happen, but it hasn’t yet? Will it?

Is there something wrong with a man or woman who doesn’t—can’t—have kids? Does anyone else really know what it’s like to feel the high hopes leading up to an ovulation cycle only to see the month end. Still not pregnant…Why God? God, do you see this? Why doesn’t God give every couple the ability to have children?

And to be completely honest with you, We just don’t know.

We don’t have the answer for why some couples can have kids and others can’t. But in the midst of the unknown, right in the very depth of God’s mystery, the Bible tells us again and again:

God is overwhelmingly in control! Therefore, it must also be true that God alone is in control of the womb.

The Bible demonstrates that because God is our Creator, he is also our Sustainer; he is Sovereign. Therefore, he sits enthroned over the universe and nothing happens without his knowledge; nothing happens that is outside his control. The same is true in Luke 1: he takes an old barren woman and gives her a child. Only he could do that. Only he could overcome barrenness and menopause to create a baby in Elizabeth’s womb. So this story shows us that God has control over every woman’s womb.

So amidst struggle, amidst the months, or even years, of hard-fought prayers, know that God rules the world, including your life and dreams. And we can know, beyond doubt, that God hears our prayers, our desperate cries for children. He sees our hurt and even feels our pain. He knows the feeling of that childless pain. It was for three days, in fact, that he suffered the loss of his own Son, Jesus. His Son in the grave: the sense of loss, the sense of utter pain, that deep emotional place of hurt. But even those moments were a part of his cosmic plan. In the same way, the struggles we have in this world, the knock-down, gut-punch, struggles we endure are intricately involved in God’s plan for the world. Though it is so difficult, and frankly, though it’s not even fair, we can know that God is specifically using our difficulties, including infertility, for the sake of his mission. Does he promise me biological children? No. Will he give me kids? I don’t know. Maybe, but maybe not. Should I pray for kids? Of course. God longs for his people to bring their desires, hurt, and hopes to him. I pray for kids, knowing the Creator is listening.

Ultimately, we dwell in the midst of our longings, we look up and we see a God who is at work, a God who is up to something. He is beyond our understanding, he is beyond our human logic. Even still, the Bible tells us to have faith when we pray. So what does that mean? What about when we believe in God and our prayers remain yet unanswered? Well, let me say this: as you’re praying for children and its not happening, that does not necessarily mean that you lack faith and are failing as a Christian. Life is way more complex than that. Sometimes we strive very hard in our prayers, believing in God’s power and yet there is still some sort of silence. And that is extremely difficult. But we’re called to remember that he is in absolute control; he is good; he is compassionate; and, he deeply loves you.

And if that’s true, then we may be able to say this, as difficult as it is to consider:

Our expectations cannot be that God will answer our prayers in the way that we’d imagine or even understand; instead, our expectations should be that God is trustworthy to answer prayers as he sees fit.

At the core of our being, we are called to trust God. We are called to depend on God. And in fact, that may very well be the definition of prayer itself: it is the urgent discipline of depending on God. So even as we experience the difficulty of infertility, or other struggles, we must deeply trust the character of God. Even when we can’t see it, or may never know why, we can know that God uses infertility for his fame in our lives and in the world. And the greatest blessing of it all is that we remain intimately close to our God who hears us. May he remain ever so close to us.

Please know this is an open conversation, and this little note is not coming from a professional theologian, but simply from two pastors who love and care about their flock. May God have grace on us as we imperfectly raise an important reality. Praise be to God.

Yours truly,

Josh Pool

Elder | Redeemer 30A

*We need to keep in mind that infertility is in both men and women. Women are sometimes the only ones who we hear about, but men also occasionally have infertility issues.