Each one of us is a learner. God created mankind with the ability to learn behaviors, skills, habits, and life lessons. We learn from past mistakes and successes, from failed attempts and major accomplishments. In my relatively short life I’ve learned many lessons. Some have been easier to stomach than others — some brought tears, some brought laughter, but they each, in their own way, were used by God to bring about change in my life. However, there is perhaps nothing God has used for my sanctification more than my own personal “thorn in the flesh” — my battle with infertility.
My husband and I have struggled with infertility for a total of six years. It took us three years to conceive our first child, and now we are experiencing what’s called secondary infertility, as it’s been just over three years that we’ve struggled to conceive again. (You can read about our journey with infertility here.) I realize that six years is not a long time in comparison to the years of heartache many couples have endured awaiting even one child — I personally know some couples that waited ten years or more. I also realize that giving birth to my one healthy child is an undeserved blessing from the Lord, and in no way do I want to discount the miracle of the precious boy God has given us to raise. Even still, in the midst of a home filled with the gleeful squeals of our three-year-old, infertility lurks in the corner and has brought with it many dark seasons, lonely moments, and questions of God’s goodness. Without doubt, He has used this trial to teach me some invaluable truths about His nature, my life, and growing in godliness. Here are just a few of the many lessons I’ve learned during our journey with infertility:
- God is sovereign over all things — yes, even reproduction. The Bible recounts the stories of several women who endured infertility (Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth are some of the most noted barren women in the Bible). God’s Word is clear that it is only when the Lord heard the prayers of these women and then “remembered” them or “visited” them that they conceived (Genesis 21:1, 25:21, 30:22, 1 Samuel 1:19, Luke 1:5-25). So it is with us today. Even when the timing seems just right and everything appears to be perfectly in place, if God doesn’t form a child in the womb, there will be no child. God alone is the sovereign life-giver. You hear stories all the time of women whose medical diagnoses said they were never supposed to be able to bear children, yet they conceive quickly, while seemingly healthy women struggle for years to get pregnant. That’s because conception is a miracle from God and is completely in His control.
- Infertility is not a curse, but it is a result of the curse. If you’re experiencing infertility, that doesn’t mean you’re being punished for some sin you committed (John 9). Obviously, we can make poor choices in life that will affect our bodies and may impact our ability to conceive, but infertility is not necessarily a curse from God as a penalty for our sin. Infertility occurs because we live in a fallen world. When Adam and Eve sinned the world became tainted by man’s sinful nature; therefore, we all suffer (Romans 5). But thankfully, when we are in Christ, our suffering is used for our good and His glory. James wrote, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). Though we all suffer in different ways, God’s faithfulness in the midst of the storm displays His awesome glory, and when we are in Christ, He uses trials for our sanctification so that we might grow in His grace toward Christlikeness (2 Corinthians 12:7).
- An inability to conceive does not make you less of a woman. Before my first pregnancy, I felt as though I’d never be “whole” as a woman unless I carried a child in my womb. That feeling vanished once I conceived the first time, but it slowly crept up again as the months and years passed and I still wasn’t pregnant with a second child. I felt that it was my job to bear children for my husband. That’s what I was created to do, right? Well, not necessarily. God doesn’t make mistakes, and if He wanted me to have more children He’d give them to me, one way or another. Over the years the Lord has taught me through His Word that I am made whole in and through Jesus Christ whether I bear ten children or zero. My identity is found in Him, and I am a “whole” woman because I’m a woman created in God’s image.
- Contentment is God’s for the making and yours for the taking. A mixture of both joy and grief washed over me as contentment filled my heart, as I finally let go of a dream. I never thought I’d get to this place. I really didn’t. But I can honestly say that God has given me a newfound contentment in Christ and in the work He has for me to do right now. You see, I am persuaded through God’s Word that my husband is my top priority in our home and that my primary job as his wife is to be his helper (Genesis 2:18). By God’s providence, I’ve been able to help my husband in ways I never would have been capable of if we’d had more than one child. Our son takes killer naps, giving me lots of time in the afternoons to assist my husband with numerous tasks and to take on responsibilities to help lighten his very full load. What a blessing it is that I can be that kind of helper for him during this season of life. That doesn’t mean I don’t want another baby or that I’ve lost my desire to adopt a child one day. Of course I would be overjoyed if the Lord ever grows our family, but I have reached a point of being truly thankful for the blessing of being a one-child family at this point in our lives. And looking back I realize that contentment came when I looked at what was rather than what could be. Amazingly, contentment in Christ was always there, dangling in front of my face — I just had to reach out and grab it.
I could go on and on telling you about lessons I’ve learned from infertility: humility, compassion, empathy, patience, and endurance, as well as God’s wonderful goodness, amazing love, and never-ending care for His children. Undoubtedly, God has used this trial in my life to show me that His “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Paul Tripp reminded me in his devotional book, New Morning Mercies, that “weaknesses are tools of [God’s] zealous and amazing grace. They protect you from the arrogance of self-reliance that tempts us all. They keep you from thinking that you’re capable of what you’re not. They remind you that you are needy and were created to be dependent on One greater than you. They cause you to do what all of us in some way resist doing — humbly run to God for the help that only he can give.” Amazingly, that is exactly what my battle with infertility has caused me to do — and for that I am thankful.
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
~2 Corinthians 12:7-10
 Tripp, Paul David. New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional. Wheaton: Crossway, 2014. April 9.