<< This post is part of the blog series The Christian Woman’s Guide to Infertility: Finding Hope and Healing even without a Baby. >>
Infertility Doesn’t Define My Faith
I woke up that morning and felt pressure beating on my heart again. It was my birthday, which meant another year had passed and the child my heart cried for still hadn’t arrived.
Another circle of the sun, another handful of gray hairs, another dozen pointless cycles where everything hurt and my hopes crumbled and my inability to bear a child was written in bloody agony across my life.
Lord, I prayed, I keep following You. I’ve dedicated my life to serving You. I know You’re capable of healing me. Why won’t You allow me to have a baby?
The words feel weighty, like something in me knew they were wrong, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what or why.
Right or wrong, they were the questions that flipped through my mind faster and fiercer every birthday. Why won’t God heal me? What do I have to change to get Him to hear me and give me what I desire?
Who knows how many times I read the passage before the timeline stuck out to me. Ten? Twenty? Fifty?
As a teenager I would determine to read the New Testament every few months and while I often stopped before finishing, the chances are pretty high that I hit Matthew 8 almost every time. I knew the stories well and could count them off to you in a systematic fashion.
- Jesus heals the leper.
- The centurion has more faith than all of Israel.
- Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law.
- Jesus calls people to follow Him.
- Jesus calms the storm.
Although I knew the stories, I didn’t connect the details until the day when I read Matthew 8 again and something changed. Instead of disjointed stories about Jesus, the paragraphs fell together into one story.
Jesus traveled down from a mountain and met a man who knelt before Him, begging to be healed from leprosy. “Lord, if you will you can make me clean,” the man said and Jesus touched him and said, “I am willing.”
Miraculously, beautifully, gloriously, the leper was healed.
Jesus continued on and came to Capernaum where He met a Roman soldier, a centurion. His servant was suffering and he asked Jesus to heal the man. Jesus said He would go to the soldier’s house and the man refused. “I’m not worthy of Your presence in my home, but I understand how authority works. I know You have authority and You can heal my servant from right here.” Jesus is astounded at the understanding and faith of this Gentile and praises him for it. The servant is healed that very moment.
Jesus continues on and comes to Peter’s house where his mother-in-law is sick. Jesus heals her and then proceeds to heal many who come to Him.
When a crowd surrounds Him, Jesus tells His disciples it’s time to go across the lake. One disciple says to Him, “I will follow You wherever you go.” Jesus responds by telling him that even animals have dens and nests—but following the Christ may mean you have no home at all. Another disciple says, “I want to follow You, just let me bury my father.” Jesus tells him that when it’s time to go, there isn’t space for even actions of grief. It’s all or nothing.
Right here the story almost pauses, as we are forced to let the truth of Jesus’ words sink in. They are heavy and thick. Follow Me. Follow without worry of tomorrow’s comforts. Follow without worry of today’s sorrows. Follow Me right now, right here, no matter what.
And then the story continues. The disciples follow Him, you know. They follow Him right onto a boat, right across the water, right to the middle of a lake, right into a hurricane.
Truth slammed into me that day as the story pieced together. The Jesus who was actively healing, actively saving, actively doling out miracles left and right—led His closest followers, the ones who left the comforts of tomorrow and the sorrows of today, right into a life-threatening hurricane.
How is that fair? Shouldn’t they be protected if they followed Him?
What kind of God is this?
While in school I, like most every other American student, studied Greek and Roman mythology. The gods of ancient civilizations are complex and fascinating to study, but I also found them tremendously sad.
Their stories read like soap operas with marriages and cheating spouses and power struggles. It’s pretty clear when you look closely that the “gods” of old are actually wood and stone (and stories) made in the image of sin-infected mankind.
Yet, for centuries people believed that worshipping these man-made images would give them the things they wanted.
Want good crops? Sacrifice to the goddess of the soil. Want power? Pour out your money to the god of war. Want children? Go slaughter a pig at the temple of a fertility goddess.
It was simple. GIVE = GET. Well, maybe. You give enough and the gods might be pleased enough to give you what you want. If you’re lucky. If you’re noticed. If they aren’t too busy fighting with the other deities to pay attention to you. If you’re enough, then maybe.
The true God does not work the same way as worthless idols. Those idols were created in man’s image—made to please our flesh. God is nothing like them. He is the Creator, not the created.
And our relationship with the Creator is not a GIVE = GET relationship.
He’s not an employer, or a rich benefactor looking for the most diligent beggar to bestow some good thing on. He’s something else entirely.
Jesus walked right into a world where the GIVE = GET mentality was at its finest. And He countered it with something vastly different. It was something He’d been speaking since the beginning, but most of mankind has missed. This great swirling force that is greater than wants and power struggles and broken dreams and centuries’ worth of idol worship.
Jesus was Love.
Pure, unadulterated Love.
Unstoppable, storm-bending Love.
Transforming, earth-changing Love.
He was also the Word, the One who spoke the earth into existence, the One who inscribed the Law, and the One who understood we needed something more than GIVE = GET because sin marked us too deeply to ever give enough—and He chose to fulfill the Law in Himself.
Instead of GIVE = GET, He would GIVE all for us. Period. End of the story.
Jesus is the Word and the Word is Love.
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for everyone who believes, we’re told in Romans 10:4.
Jesus rewrote the GIVE = GET script that we cling to so tightly. He offers us a new one, a new way. I AM LOVE. I GIVE ALL. You don’t need to “get” anything more because I AM. Enough love, enough hope, enough power, enough truth. I AM ENOUGH.
Remember the disciples? In the hurricane? Jesus led them into a storm, but He was enough. It was safe to trust Him, though I’m sure they didn’t feel safe when the waves were crashing. But they were. They really truly were. Probably soaked to the skin, shaking from adrenaline rushes, and left with some repairs to do on the boat—but they weren’t worried about those small things by the time the winds died. They marveled instead, at the One who calmed the storm.
The One who claimed to be Love.
They didn’t make any sacrifices to be saved, they just called on the name of Jesus—and He was enough.
The realization came slowly for me, over days and months, maybe even years? But it came, nonetheless. My prayers made me uncomfortable because there was something wrong with them. My cries of, Lord, I have followed you, why won’t you give me this thing? were cries for Law, for a GIVE = GET relationship. And Jesus wasn’t going to play that game with me.
I was trying to reduce God’s awesome holiness to that of a worthless idol. I was trying to trade the Father’s gift of Love for the broken mess of Law.
“I’ll give You whatever You want,” I begged. “I’ll do whatever work You require, I’ll say whatever prayers will get Your attention—as long as I don’t have to be barren any longer.”
And God’s whisper finally found me in the middle of the storm. I’m not your employer. I’m not an idol. I’m not your benefactor. I’m your Father.
Conviction sliced me open and my prayers began to change. Instead of begging to get what I wanted—I realized that I needed to accept what He was offering and trust that it was enough. Of course, this didn’t mean pretending! It meant being real in a truer sense than I’d ever been real before. It meant praying, Lord, I know who You are. I am empty and I’m hurting and I’m scared. Please, don’t forsake me. I need You.
And it meant sitting there, with barrenness surrounding me on every side, and holding to Jesus, trusting that He would be enough, even when I wasn’t.
We are a bit confused, I think, about the meaning of faith. The traditional meaning is complete trust or confidence in someone or something but our society has used the word differently for so long, it is starting to be defined in another way.
Belief that is not based on proof, is a rising definition in new dictionaries.
Basically, the world says that having “faith” means believing without evidence, and it’s so easy for me to buy right into this line of thought. I think, “Okay, all the evidence here says that God isn’t good to me but I need to just buckle down and believe anyway.” But that’s not faith, that’s willpower.
Willpower that will only last as long as I’m strong enough.
In Scripture, we find faith only used as a reference to the character and nature of God, based on the tangible evidence we can trace through history and through our lives.
If I understand the character and nature of God, then I will trust Him even when everything looks contrary to what I expected. Not because I’m just blindly saying, “I believe!” but because I am choosing to look at a bigger picture than just this current experience.
The world acts like this is a crazy response to suffering, but in truth—we live this out regularly when we are in good relationship with others.
Someone could tell me a terrible story about my husband and I would easily be able to decipher if there was any possibility for the story to be true based on my knowledge of his character. No one would think I was crazy for saying, “Based on what I know about my husband, I simply don’t believe what you’re saying. There has to be more to the story.”
Now, am I surprised sometimes because a family member or friend does something out of character? Absolutely. But this wouldn’t be true of God. He never acts out of character, so I don’t have to fear being surprised by, “Oh, yeah, God did make a bad choice this time,” like I could with a person.
The bottom line is that having faith in God as we go through suffering doesn’t mean we are believing without proof. It means because of the overwhelming amount of proof throughout history the reasonable belief in this situation is that God is still good even though it appears different in this moment.
Faith gets its roots, its strength, its endurance—by looking backward.
And when we look backward through the pages of Scripture, we find that God is faithful to keep His word. Every time. No matter what man does, no matter how many times He is rejected, no matter what nations rise or fall—God remains the same.
If you search through the Bible there is story after story after story of God keeping His word, no matter what.
One of my favorites is the story of Job. Do you grasp what is happening at the beginning of the book? The satan is answering to God about where he has been and God points out Job as the finest man on earth.
This enemy of God basically says, “Sure, Job thinks You’re good because You’ve put such high protection around him, it’s never even looked like You’re not good. If You let me get close to him, he’d blame You for his pain like everyone else.”
So God allows the enemy to destroy Job’s wealth and calamity to take Job’s children.
And Job passes the test! He still praises God and believes in his heart that God is good.
The story continues with Job losing his health and being left in serious physical pain—and basically, to put it in a nutshell, he eventually fails the test. He ends up claiming that God has wronged him.
This is the point where the enemy should be ecstatic, right? He just proved that Job could be enticed into blaming God for his sorrow if God doesn’t actively protect him from the forces of evil and death on earth.
But it turns out, the jokes on the enemy, because Job’s faith was never based on what he understood or believed about God—it was always based on God’s faithfulness.
The implied storyline is that if the enemy could get Job to blame God—then Job would join the hosts of those who were enemies of God.
The actual storyline is that when the enemy enticed Job into blaming God—all it took was God reminding Job of His character and nature, and Job repented and was saved from his own lack of belief. Not because he was blameless or good, but because God is Love.
Faith, it turns out, isn’t easy. It’s a battle to keep our minds focused on the true things we know about God. A full blown war between our redeemed-hearts and our broken-flesh. Our faith will collide with our human flesh—over and over again.
Sometimes we’ll stand in the face of this battle and proclaim praises to God.
Sometimes we’ll stumble and blame God.
But in the end—what storyline will win out in our lives? Will we give up and say, “Hey, my faith isn’t strong enough for this—clearly God is against me or else He doesn’t exist at all.”?
Or will we repent when we come to the realization that we’ve believed the wrong things about the character of God?
May we always look deeper, searching for the character of God, believing what the true evidence says, not just what appears at first glance.
May faith always win because we’re in a true relationship with God.
Not as slaves, or employees, or beggars.
As sons and daughters of God.
From our position as children, we’re not ruled by the law, by our desires, by our sinfulness, by our pain. We’re ruled by Love. We’re ruled by this glorious Father—the One who says, Follow Me, then leads us out into the hurricanes of life; but also the One who whispers, I AM here and I AM greater than this storm, as He holds us close.
My faith, it turns out, isn’t defined by infertility.
It’s defined, instead, by the One I have faith in.
It’s defined by who I am in relation to who He is.
It’s defined by Truth.
The truth is, I’m not an employee or a beggar. I’m a daughter.
And my Father is good.
Thought to ponder:
Do you trust God to be enough or are you continually attempting to return to “give = get” interactions with Him?
Are you basing your faith on your own willpower or on the character and nature of God?
These are pretty rough questions, aren’t they? But the good news is that no matter what your answer, God is Love. Repentance from wrong thinking is available, and our hearts can be transformed because that’s what God does.