In all the years that I’ve mourned the children lost to me, in all the years I struggled and fought away depression, in all the years I spent on my knees searching for God in the middle of my pain—there was one thing I didn’t face until recently.
Infertility carries many names. It carries pain, heartbreak, weight gain, loss, fear, sleeplessness, suffering… and, I have now learned, it carries shame.
The letter wasn’t really about me, but it came any way, and I struggled to swallow as the words seemed to mock me.
You shared that you wonder why some people get children and you don’t. Do you really think you know better than God? Do you think you’re smarter than Him?
Staggering, heart-cracking, shame.
And I know that it’s not truth. I know it was said from bitterness. I know that the statement does not equal the question. Struggling with infertility does not equal misplacing God.
Yet, the shame bites at me. After all, I had opened my mouth and shared my agony– my own confusion and struggles– and now it was there as evidence against me.
And, oh, how I wanted to bite back. Because isn’t that what you do when something jumps at you and slices you wide open? You turn and retaliate? Tears blind you and that same bitterness that spurred the attack leaks into the open wounds and you rush blindly forward and you spit fire and…
And it is all powered by shame.
Because, you know what—I have. I have cried over bloody handfuls of tissue and I have begged God to tell me why my child couldn’t live since it seems like everyone around me can sustain life inside them. I have stumbled away from baby showers for girls who are barely women themselves and I have knelt in graveyards and begged God to forgive my selfish heart that just wants one of my babies to grow to full term in my womb. I have closed my eyes tight when other moms are complaining about their children and I’ve forced my hands to hold still when all I wanted to do was shake them silly.
And you know what? I’ve screamed at God. I have. I’ve pounded the earth and groaned out tears and anger and fears that build and tower and threaten to consume me.
And in all that time, it never occurred to me to be ashamed of it. Oh, I felt guilt when I crossed over lines. I knelt and confessed when I pushed too hard or too far. But I never felt shame for struggling until that day.
Sometimes the enemy takes words and turns them into arrows of hate. But he knows that hate can’t just show up suddenly, so he dips the arrows in shame first.
And here is the sorrow: we accept it easier that way.
When that letter came and I read those words, I acted calm. I set it down. I dealt with issue at hand. I offered grace. And then night after night the horrible words preyed at my mind, laced with shame. I felt shame for my struggle and it nearly devoured me. I accepted it right in.
Along with the shame came bitterness. And slowly, little bit by little bit, the shame fell off and all that was left was anger. How dare he! How dare anyone look at my struggles and judge me! How dare…
It’s not just infertility, is it? Shame knows no boundaries. It pushes from every direction.
Your children aren’t following the Lord because you didn’t discipline them correctly/love them the right way. Your friends didn’t call because they are sick of your struggles and whining. Your marriage is falling apart because no one could be expected to stay with you and your issues. Your son is struggling with his reading because you didn’t work enough with him when he was younger. Your finances are suffering because you should have gone to college/not gone to college. You’re not married because you’re overweight/too independent/not friendly enough/ too friendly.
I sometimes wonder if every dart from the enemy is dipped liberally in shame.
We need to start labeling shame as what it is: the enemy’s dirty trick used to leak bitterness into our hearts.
Shame is different than guilt. With guilt, you recognize what you’ve done– and you can seek forgiveness and be freed. Guilt is a feeling meant to open our eyes to the chains that bind us. God uses our guilty conscience to speak truth, to turn our eyes inward to the sinful patterns of our thoughts and actions, and ultimately to set us free.
Shame, on the other hand, is a poison. Once it hits, no amount of self-evaluation will bring healing. No matter how many times I rolled those few sentences over in my mind, I couldn’t make them go away. Nor could I seek forgiveness because it wasn’t something I had done.
I needed an antidote.
I needed the Word. New sentences to fill up my mind. Greater good to fight off the lies that had leaked in.
I needed Romans 8:1 that says, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” and I needed 8:6 that says, “The mind of sinful man is death but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” and I needed 8:9 that says, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.”
And, oh, how desperately, I needed 8:15,
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
Do you know what all these verses are saying? They are my Father whispering,
Daughter, you are safe with Me.
Shame has no room to do its work when we are filling our minds with truth. God is not standing there condemning me, so if I feel condemnation I can know the source. It’s my enemy.
Something amazing happens when we label the enemy’s work, turn our faces away, and cling to the Word of Truth. The shame leaves. It does. And the hate goes right with it. All the how dare she and who are you to judge me’s just fade right away in the light of God’s glory and grace.
Shame has no place in the heart of a Believer. We have someone who speaks louder than any enemy, who shines brighter than any lie, who is greater than any shame-dipped arrow. We have Jesus.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers— (neither infertility nor children, neither glory nor shame)– neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (8:38-39)
No matter what lie the enemy feeds you about your heart, your worth, your mistakes, your struggles– THIS is truth: There is nothing that can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.
And in Him? There is no condemnation. You are safe. Protected. He hears your cries, catches your tears, and sorrows with you. Never does He shame you.