How Infertility Affected Women in the Bible: Hannah

“And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her.” 1 Samuel 1:6-7

Hannah’s story pierces to the core of what it means to be faithful to God in the midst of loss.

Hannah’s husband had a 2nd wife, named Peninnah. This lady had children, and would cruelly taunt Hannah over the fact that she could have no children. But the above 2 verses grabbed my attention because their words echo the lies of a much older enemy…

“Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

Does anyone else find it intriguing that Scripture mentions Hannah was provoked as often as she went up to the house of the Lord?

We all have an adversary who would like nothing better than to keep us from running to God in our pain. The devil seeks to destroy our delight in prayer and worshiping God. And sometimes he uses our great loss to try to provoke us when we want to draw near to God.

Can you hear the taunt in Peninnah’s voice? “The Lord has closed your womb, Hannah. Who are you to even bother coming back to the house of the Lord?”

Oh, my heart bleeds as I write this, because this lie- that we should stop running to God because we experience pain or do not yet see the answer to our prayer, is so deadly and contrary to God’s Love and the truth in the Bible. God willingly died to reconcile us back to Himself. Romans 8:31-34Romans 5:8 And in running to Him, we can count ourselves in good company with men and women from the Bible who faithfully trusted God in the midst of the pain they endured- Paul, Daniel, JosephPeter, Ruth, Abigail… the list goes on.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16

But how many of us, holding deep hurt in our hands, think about reading the Bible or worshiping Jesus, and hear that lie- “God didn’t answer your prayer in the past. Why bother going to Him again?

Sisters- can we wake up to realize that this is a lie straight from hell? It is meant to keep us from our only true source of hope and comfort in the midst of pain and loss! May we cry out to God to help us draw a line in the sand and refuse to let our enemy triumph over us in this regard!

A truth I have been using lately to fight this lie comes from Jesus’ prayer for everyone who would believe in Him: I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:26

Jesus says He will continue to help me know the God of the universe, so that the same love that God has for Jesus  (which is the essence and fullness of perfect Love and unity, being the Triune God from eternity past) will be in me. That’s a lot of love, living in us and poured out for us who are God’s children. I can run to God because I know He loves me unfathomably more than I can comprehend.

The Bible says that Hannah was deeply distressed, wept bitterly, and would not eat. The depth of Hannah’s pain is not minimized or dismissed. But after they ate, she got up and went to the house of the Lord to pray. (1 Samuel 1:9She refused to let her adversary keep her from going to God.

So the crux of the question of faith is this- in the midst of our loss, who will we listen to? If we find ourselves disheartened about drawing near to God, perhaps it’s because we are listening too much to the wrong voice.

May we instead listen to Jesus who earnestly and lovingly calls to us- “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:10-11

 

 

Also in this series: Elizabeth- Loving God

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How Infertility Affected Women In the Bible: Elizabeth

“And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.” Luke 1:5-7

My earnest prayer for myself and my friends who walk daily with barrenness or other significant loss is this: that our lives in the midst of deep loss, would reflect the great worth of Jesus Christ through our actions, thoughts, and words.

That’s not a natural response without the power of the Holy Spirit.

And yet, the testimony of Elizabeth’s life after many years of barrenness was that she was righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.

She did not say, “my pain is too great to deal with. How can God expect me to deal with this infertility AND live a holy life?” Nor did she say, “Once God gives me the baby I’ve been praying for, THEN I’ll follow Him.”

Elizabeth instead chose to follow God wholeheartedly even when God chose to not heal her infertility.

Ok, relax- this is not a call for all infertile women to become legalistic. Instead, Elizabeth’s example has challenged me to love God more deeply.

“So be very careful to love the Lord your God.” Joshua 23:11

What’s the difference between simply obeying God and loving God?

My husband and I were playing guitar one afternoon with the worship leader at our church… and while I was fumbling through and ‘obeying’ the music sheet- attempting to hit the right chords at the right time… our worship leader was loving playing his guitar.

It showed in the extra flourishes and notes he added in between the chords simply for the delight of worshiping God with the beauty of music. It showed in the way he was careful to have all the chords written correctly on the music sheet. And it showed in the beautiful quality of tone that came from his guitar and from the years and hours of practice it takes to become skilled in playing any instrument.

I want to love God that way.

Not just trying to obey him because I know I should. But loving Him with all my energy, and having that love overflow into worship every minute of my life. I want my love for God to cause me to steal extra hours from my schedule to stay longer in prayer. To make me careful as I study to learn more accurately about God so that I can honor Him well. And to overflow in not only my words, but also my thoughts and emotions behind those words.

“Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” Matthew 22:37-38

God chose Elizabeth to bear the pain of infertility most of her life, and Elizabeth turned around and loved God back. Her love for God showed in the way she followed Him wholeheartedly.

She must have seen how great and personal God’s Love is. We only love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) And Elizabeth was looking forward to the Messiah coming. But we have the greater benefit of being able to look backward in time and see Jesus’ incredible love for us- that He died to rescue us and make us God’s children. (1 John 3:1)

What is your response to the pain God has allowed in your life? Why do you have that response?

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4

 

Also in this series: Hannah- Rejecting Lies

Trust God?! Why Should I?

“When you know and believe who God is and what He says about Himself, you have a rock solid foundation on which to stand when the great sea billows of life crash over you. Knowing Him well is the best and only preparation for whatever life throws at us.” I find myself returning to your blog frequently, Kim- because of the solid Christ-centered truths you share. Thankyou for your example of trusting God, and for encouraging others along the way.

You Can Trust Him

IMG_0149

You are hanging from a rope over a yawning chasm.  Your climbing partner has just plunged into the abyss right before your eyes and has met with a terrifying, horrible death.  And there you are, alone and afraid, twisting in the wind at the end of your rope, stunned at the loss of your friend. 

What happened?  Did my friend’s rope fail?  Will mine?   Will I end up smashed to pieces on the rocks, too?  Was I sold an inferior, defective length of rope?  How stupid we were to trust a skinny bundle of fibers with our lives.  Fear and doubt creep into your mind. 

So you cut the rope that holds you because you no longer trust it.    

In the wake of child loss, it seems many parents, even believing parents, find their trust in God has been severely shaken.  They may become angry at God.  Or…

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What Does Trust Look Like?

I felt like I was in a large room, slowly walking toward 2 doors on the opposite side of the room. I was pregnant for the 2nd time, and while one door led to having a healthy baby, the other door led to the pain of another miscarriage. I didn’t know which door I would leave through.

So in that season I held onto this analogy of the room with 2 doors: trusting God meant I could be confident that no matter which door I walked through, Jesus would meet me right there at that door.

For a while, I had been circling the issue of what it looks like to trust God. I knew that I needed to trust WHO God is and His unchangeable character, rather than basing my hope only on Him answering my prayers the way I wanted. And part of God’s character is that He promises to never leave us nor forsake us.

But when I walked out the door of miscarriage, I became angry at God, and did not feel any tangible sign of His presence or comfort. I spiraled deeper into depression as I simultaneously blamed God for not meeting me in my pain, while also refusing to talk to Him or listen to the truth spoken to me by loved ones.

After over a month of this, I remember one evening I crumpled to the kitchen floor. And in contrast to my usual screaming at the ceiling, I just choked out in a broken whisper through my tears- “You promised, God. You promised to meet me at this door. But I don’t see you.”

That very night I had a dream that felt like a taste of heaven. I was overlooking a beautiful landscape with the early morning sun reflecting golden in the mist. Around me was the song– Over all the earth, you reign on high, every mountain stream, every sunset sky.” After carrying so much bitterness and anger, in my dream I was no longer upset at God. I basked in a contented peace and joy, knowing that God always does what is right, and that I could rest in His love instead of having to fight Him.

I woke up the next morning, and knew God had just answered my cry in a very dramatic way. And that was a turning point for me- both with my depression receding, and God slowly re-aligning my heart toward Him.

Looking back from almost a year later, I realize I my expectations were that I would step through a door, and immediately be in the sunshine on the other side. But instead, that door was actually a tunnel… And I can see now that God not only met me at that door, He also walked with me through that dark tunnel, and when I couldn’t walk any further He carried me the rest of the way out.

That is amazing grace, from our God who is faithful, trustworthy, and loves us beyond comprehension.

So what does it look like to trust God? I delighted to find this verse recently:

“They cried out to God during the battle, and He answered their prayer because they trusted in Him.” 1 Chronicles 5:20

Crying out to God when I need help is an act of trust.

I don’t have the perfect words to create a fabulous prayer. But crying? Yep- I can do that. May our crying always be toward the One who hears us. May we turn our tears into an expression of trust.

“But I the Lord will answer them;
    I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
    and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
    and the parched ground into springs.
Isaiah 41:17-18

 

Do Not Despise Prophecy

“Don’t worry. You’re going to have an 8 pound baby girl.” She gave me a hug as she told me these words. I was 6 weeks pregnant last October and had asked her to pray for me because I was afraid of another miscarriage…

… 5 weeks later I miscarried that baby.

What in the world do you do with that?

Not only was my world shattered because I had just lost a baby for the 2nd time, but for some time I also lost part of my relationship with God because I felt like God had lied to me. I wasn’t sure whether I could trust anything the Bible or other people said about God…

I get it that this woman who gave me that prophesy did not hear correctly from God about that baby. And I don’t fault her- none of us hear perfectly from God this side of heaven. But this question stayed buried like a splinter lodging itself deep in my heart.

Thankfully, I circled back around to this question. And listening to this sermon by John Piper brought a tremendous amount of healing and clarity to my heart:

The Authority and Nature of the Gift of Prophecy- by John Piper

He directly addresses how to handle when someone gives you a prophecy that does not come true.

The boiled-down short answer is that we need a category of “fallible, Spirit-prompted prophecy” that is separate from “the inerrant word of God.” In Piper’s words: “Prophecy is prompted and sustained by the Spirit and yet does not carry intrinsic, divine authority.” By “does not carry intrinsic divine authority” he means it is not the same as the Bible that we can always trust as true and to be the direct words of God.

His example that made a lot of sense to me was comparing prophets and teachers: we have teachers who are Spirit sustained and gifted, and yet we recognize that what they say is fallible and not God’s words unless they are directly quoting scripture. (And even then, it can be misapplied.) In the same way, even though prophecy seems more mysterious, as if it should be coming directly from the mouth of God, it is coming through people who are fallible.

So if we receive a prophecy from someone that does not come true, we can conclude  either that the prophet was incorrect, or we need to wait a bit longer for the prophecy to be fulfilled. We should never conclude that God is lying to us.

The Bible tells us to not despise prophecy. That’s hard for me, after my experience. But I need to follow the Bible, because it always proves to be true. We don’t have to say that all prophecy is terrible, just because there are prophets who make mistakes. Just like we don’t throw out listening to all teaching/preaching because there are bad teachers.

Instead, we should carefully pray about prophecies and compare them with scripture. (Which is also what we should do with teaching we receive or anything written on a blog.) 🙂

And for the record, my dad told me these same things shortly after that miscarriage, when I had asked him about the prophecy I was given. But I was too deep in grief to really hear or accept what he said at that time. So a word of encouragement to those who are walking with a friend who is in pain: be there for them, and keep lovingly speaking truth to your friend, even if they don’t seem to get it or accept it.

And my plea to everyone… please, please, please, be extremely careful when prophesying to someone about babies, or marriage, or life/death situations.

Of course, this post is just scratching the surface on the topic of prophecy. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

“19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19-24

Chisel & Stone

Stroke by stroke,
The chisel and hammer knock off more shards of the gem.
Soon, a shape begins to emerge.

Not all at once, mind you.
But in baby steps:
One loss at a time…
One month at a time…
One more doctor visit at a time.

“No, no! This sculpture looks all wrong.
She should have a pregnant belly…
She will be prettier and perfect that way.
This carving is just confusing and full of pain.”

I jump to the conclusion
That the end result of this chiseling
Will be a sculpture that speaks
Of sickness and sadness.

And then I hear my God whisper “No
He sees that the finished carving of this gem
Will be a woman who reflects
The Most Beautiful Person in all creation-

The Man of Sorrows, familiar with suffering.
He let go of more than I can fathom
To step down to be made in human likeness.
Jesus.
I want to be more like Him.

The next step I take,
The next doctor’s office I walk into,
The next strike of the chisel,
I’ll remember the ultimate goal of this carving.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

What Do You See?

Lightning was a rescue horse.

She had a stubborn streak that went deep and gave her fortitude to not budge an inch while standing on my toes … despite me pushing and heaving my shoulder into her side to get her to release my boot from under her hoof.

You see, her stubbornness was surpassed by her intelligence. She knew exactly what she was doing by nonchalantly blinking in the sunshine, pretending to ignore the fact that she was crushing my vulnerable feet. She was definitely the one in charge, and training the trainer… this whole ‘training a green horse’ thing was not off to a good start for me.

And then there was her fear, which surpassed all of her other great quality traits. The sight of anything flapping in the wind would cause her to jump and bolt as if being chased by a pack of wolves…

But the fading scars etched into her bony frame gave me pause to not get upset at her for her varying degrees of faults.

I had the joy of getting to know this memorable horse a few summers back, when I worked at a Christian dude ranch in Colorado.

herding horses... really
Yup, that’s me. =)

Needless to say, Lightning wasn’t allowed to have dude guests ride her, thanks to the above-mentioned safety concerns. But I occasionally got to clamber atop this tall and spirited horse, praying for dear life that nothing around me would flap, clank or sneeze!

But as fate would have it, along came a little boy who fell in love with Lightning at first sight. I questioned his choice of horse, considering we had many other fabulous and beautiful steeds, and I thought Lightning was a rather ugly horse. But he saw something in her that I could not.

So one afternoon we arranged for this boy to pet Lightning while she stood at a hitching post eating a bowl full of grain.

hitching posts.jpg
The hitching posts at Wind River Ranch

I watched amazed (and a tad jealous) as this horse that was so rude and careless toward me, turned into a gentle and sweet mare around this boy. She gave quiet nickers of thanks as she carefully nibbled grass from his hands, in between happily gulping down and drooling large mouthfuls of her grain.

And then I got choked up as I heard this boy whisper to Lightning, while gently stroking her scarred nose- “You are such a beautiful horse, Lightning. I love you so much. You’re my favorite horse in all the world.”

I hardly dared to breathe, not wanting to interrupt this pure joy and affection. It was in that moment I felt like I got a glimpse of what God’s love toward us is like.

At every turn, life lies to us that we are ugly because of our failures, or that there is something wrong with us because of the wounds that leave deep scars. And it’s easy for me to respond toward God and other people out of fear or pain or both.

eye of horse

And yet God sees us in all of these things and loves us deeply.  He whispers to His children with so much love in His voice-
“You are altogether beautiful, my love” (Song of Solomon 4:7).
“I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
“I will… transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope” (Hosea
2:15)


And even if you are rejecting God because of your pain, He still says- “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Which voice are we going to listen to today?

Will we let our hurt and loss define us and motivate our actions and responses?

Or will we be defined by God’s healing Love that flows into the deepest part of our pain and promises to never leave us?

“Surely he [Jesus] took up our pain and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:4-6

 

Songs in the Night

I trudged back to my car, thoughts swirling. A good friend of mine had just complained about having to drive home with a car full of exuberantly noisy kids. It was an off-hand comment, and said with a smile because it really wasn’t a big deal…

But as I reached to unlock my car door, the silence around me was deafening. I wish I had a car full of my own exuberantly noisy kids right now, instead of a car ringing with the silence of my thoughts…

By the grace of God, right at that moment, a tune started playing in my head:

 “Count your blessings, name them one by one.
Count your blessings, see what God has done.”

It was perfect timing. I desperately needed a reminder of the antidote to the bitterness that was creeping into my heart.

So I started listing off the things I was thankful for, and recounting the many blessings that God has worked in my life… And not only just “the things that I have,” like my cat and a car, etc. But the things that GOD HAS DONE, the ways I have seen Him working, and the blessings in my life that have come very obviously from His hand.

As I pulled out of that parking lot, the silence around me was no longer heavy with sadness. Instead my mind was filled with thankfulness that overflowed naturally from remembering God’s faithfulness and His involvement in my life. Yes, there is loss and sadness. But there is also much love and so many ways that I see God taking care of me.

I’m thankful to serve a God who works in our lives to give us the gentle encouragement that we need, even in the small moments.

“But no one says, ‘Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night,” Job 35:10

 

Count Your Blessings
by Johnson Oatman, Jr.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Refrain:
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be disheartened, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

 

Scorched Places?

“And the Lord will guide you continually
    and satisfy your desire in scorched places
    and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
    like a spring of water,
    whose waters do not fail.”  Isaiah 58:11

 

We serve an amazing God.

 

When the Pain Doesn’t Make Sense

In trying to process my 4th miscarriage, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the topic of my first blog post. I’ve copied it here for you…

Have you ever felt like a small shade plant left out in the glaring sun on the hottest day of summer? It dries up. Wilts. Loses its strength and structure as it droops, crying out for any drop of water.

I told a friend once that I felt like I was being dried up and withered by everything going on in my life. The drain of my emotions, and the lies that I listened to in the aftermath of another miscarriage, were sapping my strength. I had no energy left to continue putting one foot in front of the other.

But as soon as the words left my mouth, I remembered the story that Jesus told about the different kinds of seeds and how they represent different experiences that keep us from being fruitful in God. Here is the part of the story that I relate to:

“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. … Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. …

 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message [about the Kingdom] and immediately receive it with joy.  But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.” Matthew 13:4-6, 20-21

This seed has a major problem. It doesn’t have a strong enough root system to outlast the drought or reach through the rock to pull up enough water to survive.

I know God doesn’t promise to make this life free from pain. Instead, He promises to help us in our need. But I still couldn’t understand why He wasn’t stepping in to fix my problems and help me like I expected… (Read: give me babies and I’ll be happy again and this problem will be solved.)

Obviously, my biggest problem is that I want to have babies and instead I keep getting miscarriages… right? Don’t get me wrong, that is a major problem. But what if I have a deeper problem going on? One that God always is helping me with, and not even the deepest pain in my life can stop Him from helping me with it?

What if the deeper problem is that my roots are shallow, and I don’t have a way to find hope in God in the midst of difficulty?

It’s a problem of not being able to get water, refreshment, sustenance in the dry seasons of the soul.  I have plenty of excuses for why I crumple to the ground and want to give up as soon as another struggle or fear comes across my path. But how often do I recognize that it’s because I’m dry and wilted?

The troubles of life absolutely do sap all the water, hope, and energy from us. I’m not minimizing the problems in life that we face. But what if the deeper problem really is that my roots are shallow, and I don’t have a way to find hope in God in the midst of difficulty? Then the question is: Am I being refilled with the life-giving water from Jesus that can heal and nourish my broken spirit?

Since I’d rather not answer that question right now, it’s easier to just blame my emptiness on the rock that’s underneath my roots. No plant should be expected to put down roots through rock this hard, right?IMG_3596.

Actually, I think it depends on the type of plant. Today, I’m going to look for a plant that’s growing through rock. Or cement. And then thank God that He’s given me these analogies in the world.

” Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:7

When I just don’t have the energy or strength to deal emotionally with this next hurdle coming up, that’s when I pray and plead for God to grow my roots deeper into His Love. I don’t know how He does it. And I don’t always see what He’s doing. But I know it involves me being obedient. And then, as God keeps me from the things in this life that I thought would satisfy me, I realize that my refreshment and strength is found in God alone, and not dependent on my circumstances or emotions.

“Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” Ephesians 3:17

Do I still want babies? Of course! But I know that my deeper need is to be satisfied in God so that no matter what earthquakes come my way in life, my hope is rooted in something deeper- that will not fail, die, or be destroyed. (1 Peter 1:4-7)

When the pain doesn’t make sense, I wonder if I’m looking at the wrong problem and the wrong ultimate goal. God is using everything in my life for my good. (Including those things that are not good.) If my ultimate goal is to have children, then it doesn’t make sense why God hasn’t given me a baby yet. But if my ultimate goal is to love God with my whole heart, soul, mind and strength… then even this loss and grief becomes a tool in the hand of my Gardener, to hack away at the rock that’s stopping me from finding my all-sufficient satisfaction in Jesus.