I recently wrote the last page of a journal that I keep for my devotional times. That particular journal began by documenting my struggles to put jealousy to death before the baby shower of a close friend. That friend is now expecting her second child. That journal's last entry recorded my sadness on getting the negative results from our second and most recent IVF. One small notebook, full of all the heartache of infertility and one woman's fight for faith in the midst of deferred hope...
I began a new journal by reading and meditating on a passage that has meant much to me over the past couple of years - Lamentations 3. There are some very familiar words of hope in that passage, words of new mercies, unceasing love, great faithfulness. But the wonder of those words, and what many Christians miss, is the context from which they emerge. These affirmations of God's love arise out of anguished accusations that God has afflicted the writer to the point of desolation.
"I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light. ... He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has made my chains heavy; though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer; he has blocked my ways with blocks of stones; he has made my paths crooked. ...my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, 'My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.' Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me."
Those despondent cries set off an echo deep in my soul. I believe that God is absolutely sovereign, that nothing happens apart from what he specifically orchestrates. I have seen affliction, and as far as I can tell I will go on seeing affliction for a while yet - and that affliction is directly from the hand of the Lord. He has driven me into the darkness of infertility, and he has removed immediate (though not ultimate) hope from my circumstances. For now, he has shut off every means of escape from barrenness. He has blocked off the option of natural conception, he has dead-ended the road of IUIs, and he has turned aside the path of IVF. He has locked me up with childless chains that weigh heavy indeed. I have called and called for help, but he has not sent a rescue from this heartbreaking situation.
"Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?"
Infertility comes from God's hand just as surely as pregnancy and children do. Strange as it may seem, I find comfort in God's sovereignty over my suffering. If infertility falls on me as a matter of chance, or from a force of evil that God cannot bend, what hope do I have? But if this ill wind blows directly from the Lord, then it can do me no eternal harm. At times I may feel forgotten by God, and I may wonder if he remembers how I hurt, but I have a lasting assurance that the one who saved me from my sin will deliver me from evil.
"For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men."
God has caused this pain in my life, but he afflicts me with a Fatherly tenderness. In his perfect wisdom and love, he knows that this suffering is the only way to accomplish his good purposes. My deepest heartache is under the sovereign sway of a good God, a God who gave his only Son up for me. The Lord may end my infertility in a few months or a few years; he may not end my infertility until my deathbed. Either way, infertility is only temporary. God's steadfast love, secured to me by the cross, is forever. He bestows it on me abundantly now - when I sometimes only reach out for it blindly - and eternally - when I will see his love with utmost clarity.
"But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."
Even as I record laments over my unfulfilled desire for children, I anticipate filling up the pages of a new journal with deeper understanding of God's fresh mercies and steadfast love. Great is his faithfulness, indeed.