This past year has been one of the most difficult I have ever been through. I ran the emotional gauntlet on this issue, ranging from intense sadness and heartache to anger towards God to total peace about what He is doing. God began to show me how He was using my infertility as a ministry. It is my hope to share my testimony with others so that they may either be encouraged as they face their own infertility or educated as they learn what infertility entails. More than that, though, I hope that the things I share point others to God regardless of what they are going through.
When I first began this blog, the entries were kept private. But I have decided to open everything up in order to let people see the raw truth of the struggle. I strive to find the fine line between sharing the truth and sharing too much information. However, it is my desire to share my heart, regardless. And I have learned that there is never "too much information" in the world of infertility.
After being diagnosed with unexplained infertility on November 17, 2008, I was put on a round of 50mg of Clomid to strengthen the quality and quantity of my eggs. I suppose it was how God chose to work because I became pregnant that very cycle.
In order to be sensitive to those who are still going through infertility, I have opened up a new blog about my pregnancy. I am maintaining this one, though, hoping that it serves as a testimony to anyone who may be going through infertility at the time they come across my site. If you want to follow my life's journey, check out my other blogs. And if you would like, please don't hesitate to email me:
Friday, November 21, 2008
Blessed are the Barren???!
Out of the 30-some-odd blogs that I follow, only two have the same title: Blessed are the Barren. It has a nice ring to it. It gives purpose and meaning to the state we are in. It sounds scriptural like, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” In fact, when I heard it, I just accepted it as scriptural truth and moved on. However, yesterday I was reading through one of these aforementioned blogs as she described why she picked the title for her webpage. She was discussing the idea of whether we are blessed in our barrenness presently or are blessed in it in a future tense. And, to further her point, she quoted Luke 23:26-31. An excerpt of it says, “Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.”
Now, I want to say that the blogs that I have read from this particular person are full of faith and conviction. She is an amazing writer with a heart for God, and I have agreed with her on pretty much everything she has written. When I read this verse, though, I was shocked at how misused (I believe) it is. In fact, I realized that so often those two lines are quoted and believed as true when the surrounding verses give a completely different picture. I will explain more later, but I first wanted to discuss what I’ve learned about barrenness.
This verse prompted me to do an extensive word study on the word “barren”. It’s a word that I NEVER use to describe myself. “Infertility” can be temporary, but “barrenness”, to me, connotes an empty and void, desert-like wasteland. It has a forever feeling about it. I refuse to accept that I will be infertile forever. Therefore, I will not refer to myself as such. The purpose of my study, though, was to see what the Bible really says about barrenness, and the Bible does refer to it as a simple state of childlessness. I did not go in with any specific motive to prooftext. I simply looked up the word “barren” and “womb” in 10 different translations, compiled all of the Scriptures that used those words (roughly 75-80), broke down each usage of the words into Greek & Hebrew and studied their meanings and usage, and discovered the context in which they were used. I have more than 18 pages of Scriptures and notes to back up the conclusions that I am about to state to you. This might prove to be a little long, but it helped me to understand things a little better.
So, here is my conclusion about “barrenness”:
I believe that first of all, barrenness is not from God. I believe that it, initially, came as a result of Adam’s sin, since everything before that was good and perfect and innocent. I believe that God spoke each aspect of Creation into being and professed its goodness as each thing reflected God’s own goodness. He formed man in His own image. I do not believe that man was created with any flaws to his physical being. As a result of Adam and Eve’s sin, God cursed creation. This curse brought out hostility, pain, hard work, and destruction. None of these things existed before, but now are a part of our everyday lives. Just as sickness simply exists because we live in a fallen world, so I believe that barrenness also exists. Our bodies no longer function the ways that God created them to. They grow old and deteriorate and hurt and break.
*Genesis 1: All of Creation was deemed as “good” after being fashioned by God.
*Romans 1:19-20- “…since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
*Psalm 19:1- “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
*Genesis 3:14-18: God’s curse on creation because of Adam and Eve
Next, I believe that God is the one who opens and closes the womb. He is the one who forms a child in its mother’s womb. It is a very purposeful thing:
God Closed Wombs:
*Genesis 20:18- “for the Lord had closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.” (She lied about not being his wife, and almost caused Abimelech to sin.)
*Genesis 30:2- “And Jacob’s anger was aroused against Rachel, and he said, ‘Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?’”
*1 Samuel 1:5- “But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the Lord had closed her womb.”
*1 Samuel 1:6- “And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb.”
God Opened Wombs:
*Genesis 29:31- “When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.”
*Genesis 30:22- “Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.” (After she had witnessed her husband father 11 other babies with other women.)
Formed in the Womb by God:
*Psalm 139:13- “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.”
*Isaiah 44:2- “Thus says the Lord who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you.”
*Isaiah 44:24- “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, And He who formed you from the womb: “ I am the Lord, who makes all things, Who stretches out the heavens all alone, Who spreads abroad the earth by Myself;”
*Isaiah 49:5- “And now the Lord says, Who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, To bring Jacob back to Him, So that Israel is gathered to Him (For I shall be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, And My God shall be My strength)”
*Isaiah 66:9- “Shall I bring to the time of birth, and not cause delivery?” says the Lord. “Shall I who cause delivery shut up the womb?” says your God.”
*Jeremiah 1:5- “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”
I believe, wholeheartedly, that barrenness/ child-Loss in not a blessing. In fact, it is quite the opposite (often used as a curse, punishment, or burden):
*Hosea’s request for Israel: “No birth, no pregnancy, and no conception! Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts! (Hosea 9:14)
*God’s threat to Jerusalem: “ I will take away the children you hold dear.” (Jeremiah 15:7)
*Threat of God: “Wild animals will attack you and rob you of your children.” (Ezekiel 5:17)
*Israel’s Punishment: “Even if you do have children who grow up, I will take them from you.” (Hosea 9:12)
*Samuel says to Agag, “As your sword has killed the sons of many mothers, now your mother will be childless.” (1 Samuel 15:33)
*A curse against Judah and Jerusalem: “Let their wives become childless widows.” (Jeremiah 18:21)
*Proverbs 30:15-16 says, “There are three things that are never satisfied- no, four that never say, “Enough!”: the grave, the barren womb, the thirsty desert, the blazing fire.”
There were several women (6 that I know of) in the Bible who experienced infertility/barrenness:
*Sarah (Genesis 11:30, Genesis 12:1-3, Genesis 15, Genesis 21:1, Genesis 24:1)
*Rebekah (Genesis 25:21)
*Rachel (Genesis 29:31, Genesis 30:22)
*Samson’s mother (un-named) (Judges 13:2-3, 24)
*Hannah (1 Samuel 1:2, 20)
*Elisabeth (Luke 1:13,18, 57)
God doesn’t say exactly why He allowed each woman to remain barren, but I do know that through it, His glory was shown. I believe that Sarah and Elisabeth were examples of God’s ability to perform miraculously in the “impossible” situations. I don’t know why Rebekah & Hannah had to go through it for so long, but I do know that God chose to work through prayer in both of their situations. I believe that Rachel was allowed to be barren because she had the love of her husband, while God opened Leah’s womb because she was unloved by her husband. I believe that it could be said of all 6 women that God purposed the specific timing of their children in order to further His plan for all of history. Samson, for example, needed to be born at that particular time in history in order to defeat the Philistines.
Never does it say, though, that their barrenness was a gift from God. Instead, in every single one of their cases, God answered their prayers, taking away their barrenness, and bringing them the gifts they were seeking (even if they had long given up on them).
In fact, repeatedly, the Bible says that children are a blessing from Him:
*Genesis 49:25- May the God of your father help you; May the Almighty bless you with the blessings of the heavens above, and blessings of the watery depths below, and blessings of the breasts and womb.
*Psalm 127:3-5- “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them.”
*Genesis 1:22- “Then God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply. Let the fish fill the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.”
Only one place in the entire Bible have I found a verse that says anything remotely close to barrenness being a blessing. This is the very first verse I mentioned and the purpose of this blog. For I believe this is completely taken out of context by those who use it in this way:
Luke 23:26-31 says, “As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!' Then they will say to the mountains, "Fall on us!"and to the hills, "Cover us!" For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?"
I believe that what Jesus was trying to say here is that the women shouldn’t weep for him as He was being crucified, but they should weep for themselves because of the coming destruction of the world. He essentially said, “There will come a time when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren women, those who never had kids,” because things will be so bad! I liken this to Paul saying that it would be better for you to stay unmarried. Paul said this at a time that the Christians were being slaughtered by Emperor Nero. He was crucifying them, feeding them to lions, and burning them at the stakes. I believe that Paul was emphasizing singleness because imagine the added torture you would feel if you had to care for a spouse or kids during a time of persecution. Would you be able to stay strong in your faith if you had to witness your spouse killed before your eyes? Would you be able to do what you need to do if you had to also worry about the safety of your children? Therefore, I believe that Jesus was using this phrase in the same way. He said, “There will come a time when you will say that the barren woman is blessed because she never had kids. For at this time, people will be asking the earth to cave in on them and take their lives. Imagine, if they are doing this to me now when things are good (the grass is green), what will they do when things are bad (it is dry)?”
Having said all of that, though, I do believe that God is a great and merciful God. I serve a God that says that the first shall be last and the last shall be first in the Kingdom of Heaven. He welcomes the downtrodden and broken-hearted. He raises the humble and humbles the proud. He says that we need to lose our life to gain it and holding onto it will only cause us to lose it. He, basically, turns our entire world, our way of thinking, upside-down. I do believe that He blesses us in our suffering. Job, who was inflicted more than anyone you could probably imagine, was still covered by God’s grace when God prohibited Satan from taking Job’s life. And after all of the ailments and heartaches that Job faced, God blessed him in abundance- 10 fold! I believe our trials are a refining fire for us. They get rid of the pieces of our lives that don’t resemble God and strengthen us. Peter told the Christians who were suffering persecution that everything they were going through was a part of God’s grace for them (1 Peter 5:12). I didn’t understand how their suffering was God’s grace until I understood that the true meaning of that phrase was that the grace came in the form of the spiritual place they came to as a result of their suffering. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3-10) I don’t think that Jesus meant the mourning and persecution were blessing in and of themselves. Instead, the blessings were the things that they encountered because they went through those ordeals.
Yes, I do believe that God blesses those who are barren. In the past year, God has taught me so much about Him and His character. I have been blessed in countless ways! And I know that God is using my infertility to strengthen me as a future mom, as a wife, and as a Christian. But, I do not believe that my barrenness itself is a blessing. I do not believe it is in line with the way God intended things to be. And I don’t think people should hold onto a lie just because it sounds nice. Instead, I think we need to hold onto the truth that God is good because of, despite of, and through our circumstances regardless of how awful they are. In His awesomeness, He chooses to pour out mercy on us. And, it is only because of Him, that I am blessed.