I was very encouraged by last Sunday's teaching on Philippians 4:4-7, so I took some time this morning to read through my notes and think more specifically about application.
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
This passage gives us two absolute, no exceptions allowed, commands: rejoice always and do not be anxious about anything. In the middle of a trial, these commands seem impossible. But because of the gospel, they are not. I can have joy and peace in the midst of my struggles with infertility.
The gospel calls us to joy. As Tab pointed out, we often overlook three words in verse 4: "in the Lord." It is possible to rejoice always, because our joy is in the Lord, in His gospel and its benefits to us. (As an aside, I always thought the idea of sustaining any spiritual mindset - joy, prayer, etc. - "always" was hyperbole; I now realize that I am very capable of thinking about infertility "always," so with the Spirit's help, I should also be able to be Godward-focused "always!") My circumstances will fluctuate; infertility is harder some days than others, and Lord willing I will someday have children and will face new temptations. But God has always and will always love me, He has called me to be His own, Christ has sacrificed himself for me, the Spirit always dwells in me, I am eternally justified and freed from the power of sin - these unchanging truths are ample reason to rejoice! If I am looking to the end of the trial of infertility to give me joy, my joy will be fleeting. If I am looking to pregnancy and motherhood to give me joy, my joy will be fleeting. But if I am satisfied in the steadfast love of the Lord, I will rejoice and be glad all my days (Ps. 90:14).
The gospel calls us to peace. I am not meant to be anxious about anything, and that includes infertility. It seems so acceptable to worry, to have stress, but God does not find anxiety acceptable because it denies who He is. When I worry about whether we will conceive or not, when I fear how long this trial will endure (will my friends have thier babies before I even conceive? will they have their second babies before I conceive? will we have to move from Clomid to more intensive treatments?) - when I think this way, I am denying God's character and abilities. When I give into anxiety, I become a functional atheist. Instead, I need to acknowledge God's sovereignty by praying to Him. Even though the answer to my prayer for children continues to be, "Not yet," I need to keep asking like the persistent widow, because the God who created the universe is the only one capable of creating new life in my womb. I also need to acknowledge God's goodness with thanksgiving. In the middle of infertility, it often doesn't feel like God is good. But He has proved His goodness on the cross, and He promises that He is working good for me even when my experience says otherwise. And apart from infertility, there are many other things in my life to be thankful for - my husband, my church, my home, etc. I need to tell myself the truth of God's goodness over and over and over again. And as I trust Him, He will protect my heart with peace.
Peace and joy don't deny that my infertility is real and incredibly difficult. But peace and joy say that the Lord is at hand, near to me when I am broken-hearted, and a very present help in my time of trouble. The gospel makes joy and peace possible even in a dark valley.