I stood in our hallway, clutching my friend and sobbing into her shoulder.
“God doesn’t have favourites” she whispered into my ear, soothingly. I’d just
received another second baby pregnancy announcement and this one hit home so
much closer than many of the others that have been trickling in recently. Another good friend had left a message earlier in the day telling me that out of the blue she found herself pregnant again. Our firstborns are both IVF babies and over the years our timelines of miscarriage and childbirth have comfortingly mirrored one another. Until now. Her new pregnancy is wonderful news. It also happens to be my ideal scenario and my deepest longing: an unexpected, natural conception. What could be better after so many years of intentional sex, negative medical diagnoses and interventions than getting pregnant without thought or effort the good old-fashioned way!?
“God doesn’t have favourites”.
Are you sure?
Yet, that’s actually not the statement that troubles my heart the most. I’ve
blogged about this subject before and still find, to my disappointment, that
I’ve not progressed very far in better managing pregnancy announcements and
their accompanying feelings. What they always seem to unsettle within me is
what I can only assume to be my deepest insecurity, my deepest wound: does God really love me?
Why is it so very hard to hold onto the belief that God loves us when other
people around us receive what we’re repeatedly and desperately crying out to
The struggle to conceive and bring forth children when we know God can bring
about anything easily often makes us feel overlooked, forgotten and insignificant. And for me, I think it leaves me feeling that the idea that God knows me better than I know myself cannot be true, because if He did He’d understand just how much certain things matter to me. Loving well leaves us feeling seen, heard and known. Loving well makes us feel that what we value is recognised and championed. Being left without feels like the very opposite of this. I have adored children since I was tiny. I read books to my daughter now, realising that even as a tiny child I loved the stories about babies and looking after them. Children have been my joy to spend time with since I was young. So how can the God who loves me have created me with this passionate mother’s heart, but then deny me the honourable and good desires of the very things he’s planted within?! It doesn’t make any sense.
And when prayers for children go unanswered, it starts to feel as though God
is actively and intentionally withholding them from us because he doesn’t love
us that much. Does that thought (that whispering lie) ring true for you too?
Psalm 127:3 says, “Children are God’s love-gift; they are heaven’s generous
reward”. In the very next Psalm we read, “Your wife will bless your heart
and home. Your children will bring you joy as they gather around your table.
Yes, this is God’s generous reward for those who love him” (Psalm 128:3-4).
These verses leave us in no doubt about how heaven views the blessing of family and
it’s impossible not to consider them a reflection of God’s favour and love
towards us. Or lack of it. We give gifts to the people we love, and we wouldn’t
withhold blessings or gifts from our own children. And so, as we wrestle with
our lack and our waiting, the figure of the good and loving Father is called
into question. How can God truly love us if he doesn’t actually want to bless
us in this way when it matters so much in His own kingdom?
And why does it have to be so hard to feel pleasure for another’s good fortune
when our deepest and preferred wish is that we would be experiencing their
blessing for ourselves? It’s not that we don’t want others to receive good
things. It’s just that we’d rather it didn’t happen at the expense of our own
happiness. I also think it taps into a poverty of mindset, a fear that there
isn’t enough to go around, because if there was, surely we’d be experiencing
all that good stuff for ourselves as well. We fear deeply that we will never
see the fulfilment of that which we long for, but instead we must learn to live
with the torment of everyone around us joyfully expanding their families while
we go without.
And what if we’re making an effort to do all the ‘Christian stuff’ – the
fasting, worshipping and praying, reading our bibles and declaring God’s word,
claiming the promises of healing and fullness of love, sowing into others’
lives and making sacrifices – and still we don’t see what we’re asking for? We
wonder why. Shouldn’t these works be rewarded? Doesn’t it count for anything?
Shouldn’t it move the mountain? “Isn’t that what you say in your word, God?
Or has my thinking gone astray somewhere…..?”
And what about what we hear in church? There are Christian teachings about God’s timing, God’s best for us and our readiness (or not) to receive the blessings God has for us as He works within us. These words can all do more harm than good when thrown at us without compassion, empathy or care. There are many ways that we can be wounded by the very words that are meant to bring us life.
Pregnancy announcements often have nothing to do with the person who is
pregnant and everything to do with the tidal wave of difficult thoughts,
questions and emotions which they provoke within us. And ultimately, I think it
is all rooted in the issue of trust. Do I believe God is who He says He is? Do
I trust in His unfailing love in the face of sorrow, disappointment and lack?
Do I believe that though I’m once again going without compared to those around
me, God can lead me into a life that’s as rich and full whether or not I have
children? Do I believe God wants to bless me and answer my prayers? Do I really
understand what His love looks like?
And as this wrestle played out in my freshly-broken heart that evening in
our dark hallway, unbeknownst to me more pregnancy announcements of second babies would flood in thick and fast over the coming weeks. But also unbeknownst to me, God the Father, the intimate lover of my soul, was setting up an encounter with me which would buckle my knees and blow open a vista so wide that six months later I’m still taking it all in…
“Then the Lord came down in a cloud and
stood there with him; and he called out his own name, Yahweh. The
Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out,
“Yahweh! The Lord!
The God of compassion and mercy!
I am slow to anger
and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.
I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.”
(Exodus 34: 5-7 NLT)
To be continued…