I don’t pretend to get this. Nancy and I never suffered the trial of infertility. We have known and know even now dear brothers and sisters humbling themselves under the mighty hand in this journey (1 Peter 5:6-7). We see the hurt. We feel the pain. We ache with the longings that go unfulfilled. Still, without walking a mile in those shoes, it makes it tough to identify as well as one might wish.
Jeff Cavanaugh has written a helpful blog post on this subject for the Gospel Coalition. He speaks from his own agonizing experience. It opened my eyes as to how the church can powerfully comfort but also unwittingly afflict folks bearing up under their inability to conceive. He explains:
I’m painting a bleak picture of infertility here, I know. There is no way to ignore how painful it is. It’s certainly the biggest trial my wife and I have ever faced, individually or together. But God has used this trial to grow us spiritually and demonstrate his love for us in ways we couldn’t have anticipated. And the church—that network of loving, supportive, prayerful relationships we have in Christ’s body—has been used by God to comfort and sustain us and others like us.
That’s not to say relationships in the church are easy when you’re struggling with infertility. Those aforementioned feelings of isolation and alienation are real. Friends in the church have seemed thoughtless at times, not considering how things they say might be hurtful; at other times they’ve been awkward, aware of our struggles but at a loss for what to say. Often the strain has been entirely our own fault—we’ve promised in our church covenant to “rejoice at each other’s happiness and endeavor with tenderness and sympathy to bear each other’s burdens and sorrows,” but sometimes jealousy and bitterness sap our motivation to do any rejoicing or accept any comfort.
Naturally I long for my church and all gospel-grounded ministries to act like the comforting network described in paragraph one. However, I realize too readily how easily we can miss the boat messing up as in paragraph two.
I encourage an entire reading of “How the Church Makes the Trial of Infertility Better (Or Worse).”
May Jesus and His gospel enlarge our hearts to enter the struggles of saints battling this hard providence as well as a host of others as we have opportunity.