Monday, September 30, 2013

God and (Secondary) Infertility


Not again. Please, not again.

These were my thoughts last month when my wife informed me her cycle had started, again.

Normal, At First (and Two Qualifications)
January 28, 2010, was one of the happiest days of my life. After 40-plus hours of labor (and an impromptu cesarean section), my wife and I met our daughter. What an incredible experience.

At that point, everything seemed normal. I found out my wife was pregnant with our first child as we prepared to leave for a short first-year-of-marriage anniversary trip. In fact, it still felt normal after we began trying for a second pregnancy. It’s not an anomaly for couples to try for several months before conception. However, after about 30 months with no success the questions begin:

What now?

Where’s God in this?

Is he in this?

Is God good despite our “suffering?”

Before moving forward, it’s important to qualify two points: our first child and suffering. My wife and I are blessed beyond measure with our first child – she is a delightful gift from God. Still, some might read this and feel frustrated that I’m “complaining” about not being able to conceive a second child while you are still struggling with initial conception. Maybe you’re thinking that I’m greedy or unappreciative. At times, you might be right. Even so, although our stories are different, it is my desire to empathize as best I can with anyone struggling with fertility (my story just happens to be about secondary infertility). Some might also be frustrated with my use of the term “suffering.” In our current contexts, we often consider “suffering” as those starving for food, in desperate need of clean water, living in war-torn countries, or losing their lives for the cause of Christ. However, if suffering means the bearing of pain or distress, then this term also works for my situation. My wife and I have borne the pain and distress of secondary infertility. It’s not equivalent to the former examples, but it is still “suffering.”

Early Groundwork
I sat across the table from a spiritual mentor of sorts about eight years ago after experiencing the tragic death of someone close to me. My hope was that this person’s death would cause a “ripple effect” for the Kingdom. In fact, I insisted that it must. With great patience and wisdom, this mentor pointedly asked, “If there are no professions of faith that are a direct effect from this death, is God still good?”

This question knocked me to the floor both emotionally and spiritually. My hope (and insistence) for the last few months was that God would surely bring people to faith through this story. Over the next few months I wrestled with this question, eventually coming to the conclusion that God is still good even if no professions of faith are made as a direct effect of this death. But now the question needs to be reformatted: Is God still good if he doesn’t allow my wife to get pregnant again?

Where Are You?!
My wife and I have asked many questions over the last 30 months. Our theology becomes practical in these moments. What do we actually believe about God? Are we able to extricate our theology from the coffee shop to the real world?

It hasn’t been easy.

Romans 8:28 has become somewhat of a stumbling block for us. And yet, if the Bible is true in all it affirms, then it must also be true here; namely, our secondary infertility is being worked out for our good. If the goodness of God is his kindness and benevolence, his holy pleasure in the happiness of his people, then embracing this truth is rejoicing in that goodness, rather than sulking in suffering. This is accomplished by basking in the glory of God’s ubiquitous sovereignty. He is sovereign over the tiniest atom and the largest supernova (1 Sam 2:6-7; Ps 103:19; 135:6-7; Matt 5:45; 6:25-30; Rom 8:28; Gal 1:15-16; Eph 1:11). All is his; all is under his control (1 Chr 29:11).

Including conception.

So where is God? To be sure, he’s in the smallest detail of our lack of conception. He’s in our pain; King over our questions; Lord over our frustrations.

Now What?
Despite our inability to understand what God is doing with us through secondary infertility, we must trust him, for he is good.

Even if we never conceive again.

Perhaps the way forward for my wife and I is to focus on the daily mercies God bestows upon us (Ps 100:5; 145:9). Each time my lungs fill with air; each beat of my heart; each moment I don’t drop dead is a demonstration of the goodness and mercy of God.

“[T]hough he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love…Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?”

Rest in this truth (Lam 3:32, 38).