Christmas Hope for the Barren (Part 2)

This post first appeared on Precious Adornment in December 2010. 
Read Part 1 HERE.

“There was a priest named Zechariah…And he had a wife
from the daughters of Aaron, and her name
was Elizabeth…But they had no child”

Luke 1:5,6,7

Gifts Are Not a Given

I wonder how many times Zechariah and Elizabeth asked the question “Why?” during their bleak years of childlessness.

Why, God? Why haven’t you given us a child?

Lord, why haven’t we found favor in your eyes?

Why have you blessed them with a son when they don’t even keep your commandments?

Oh, Father, why have you given them another child when they already have
so many?

As years stretched into decades, Zechariah and Elizabeth undoubtedly faced the temptation to grow bitter and resentful as they watched God bless friends, family, and strangers with the gift they desperately desired and perhaps even felt at times they deserved. They were blameless after all. Surely if any two people deserved the blessing of children, Zechariah and Elizabeth would be those people. 

The lesson that Zechariah and Elizabeth had to learn through their suffering is the same one that childless couples must grasp today. Children are not a given; they are a gift. Just as God causes rain to fall on both the just and the unjust, so too, does He bless both the righteous and the unrighteous with the gift of children.

Why? Oftentimes the answer to that question belongs in the category of “secret things” that belong to the Lord and not to us (Deut. 29:29). When the wisdom of God’s plan remains unclear to us, we must cling to the truths He has revealed:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
~Isaiah 55:8-9

Gabriel’s message to Zechariah contained an important command—the baby was not to be given a family name, but one God had chosen for him. “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:13).

The meaning of this name would forever remind Zechariah and Elizabeth of the undeserved gift God had given them in their son: John—“Jehovah has shown grace.” Children are not given because of our goodness, but only because of God’s grace.

The Impossible Made Possible

Psalm 113:9 had probably worn a deep groove in Elizabeth’s heart: “He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!” As a young wife awaiting her first child, that verse surely provided Elizabeth with hope that her barrenness would not last forever. That little glimmer of light grew gradually dimmer with each passing year.

Somewhere along the way for Zechariah and Elizabeth, the chances of having children moved in their minds from being improbable to impossible. Elizabeth’s biological clock had stopped ticking, and the barrenness she’d hoped was only a temporary obstacle became a permanent condition.

At least that’s how the situation appeared until Gabriel arrived with the good news that God doesn’t work according to human timetables. Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayers had been heard. They would have a son, and he would bring them joy and gladness.

The hope of Psalm 113:9 would at last become a living reality. Why? Because nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37).

If you are facing the pain of childlessness this Christmas, let the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth fill your heart with hope in the goodness of God. The entire Christmas account revolves around God’s sovereignty over the womb, His love for His children, and His power over the impossible.

As you follow the Lord in righteousness, you can rest quietly in the knowledge that your prayers are not being ignored, but are being filed away in the faithfulness of God. Like Elizabeth and Zechariah, one day you will see; one day you’ll understand the wisdom behind His plans for your life. Until that time, “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” (Psalm 27:14)

Photo: Mario Alberto Magallanes Trejo

Christmas Hope for the Barren (Part 1)

This post first appeared on Precious Adornment in December 2010.

“There was a priest named Zechariah…And he had a wife
from the daughters of Aaron, and her name
was Elizabeth…But they had no child”

Luke 1:5,6,7

They say Christmas is the happiest season of all, but for many, the joy of this special day remains tainted by a lingering sadness. The celebration of Christmas in our culture emphasizes families, tradition, and togetherness. But for those still awaiting the blessing of children, holiday celebrations often draw attention to the emptiness filling the space where little ones ought to be. While others eagerly anticipate Christmas mornings accompanied by laughter, smiles, and childlike joy, those facing the pain of childlessness often struggle to look forward to the day at all.

I imagine that Zechariah and Elizabeth knew all about the pain of spending special days as a couple instead of as a family. For decades they would have observed holy days and religious ceremonies with children all around them, none of which were their own. Zechariah and Elizabeth had no doubt cried more tears and prayed more prayers together over her barrenness than anyone around them would ever have guessed. Yet year after year, their tears and prayers went seemingly unnoticed…until one day when everything changed, and the Lord transformed years of sorrow into tears of rejoicing.

In the familiar story of Zechariah and Elizabeth in Luke 1, there is fresh hope for those in the midst of childlessness—hope, not only for Christmas, but for every day of the year.

Blameless, yet Barren

The pain of childlessness is often compounded by the pain of being misunderstood by others. Although infertility is one of the most sensitive trials a couple may ever face, complete strangers often feel no qualms about turning the topic into small talk. The absence of children is often wrongly equated with a lack of desire for them and frequently sparks thoughtless comments.

So, how many years have you been married now?

Isn’t it about time you get started on a family?

Planning to try for kids any time soon?

Although people rarely ask questions like these with ill intent, such conversations tear sharply into the already tender wounds of those who simply can’t conceive. Zechariah and Elizabeth were undoubtedly well-acquainted with this pain.

Because barrenness was considered to be a sign of divine disfavor in their culture, gossip and misconceptions regarding the couple’s sinfulness or inferior spirituality would have been commonplace. Even though others may have automatically assumed that Zechariah and Elizabeth stood guilty in God’s sight, the Scriptures actually record them as being righteous before Him. In fact, Luke says that they walked “blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). They were blameless, yet still Elizabeth remained barren.

Childless couples often agonize over the thought that infertility may be evidence of God’s judgment upon their lives. In the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, we find that childlessness was not a curse, but a vital component of God’s divine plan for their good and His glory.

No Unheard Prayer

After praying and asking God to answer the same request over and over again, many believers feel tempted to abandon both prayer and service to the Lord altogether. When prayers seem to go unanswered, a deficient understanding of God’s sovereignty and the purpose of prayer can easily allow a believer’s heart to become infected with sinful doubts about the character and nature of God. Zechariah and Elizabeth, however, continued faithfully trusting the Lord and believing His Word even though they’d never seen evidence that He was listening to their prayers for a child.

It wasn’t until the couple was “advanced in years” and Zechariah was fulfilling his duty as a priest in the temple that God sent Gabriel with the message they could only dream of receiving, “Your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son…” (Luke 1:13). Although they had long since given up hope that a child’s laughter would ever ring within the walls of their home, Zechariah and Elizabeth discovered that there are no expiration dates on God’s plans.

Their prayers had not been ignored; they had been heard and answered! As commentator Matthew Henry says, “Prayers of faith are filed in heaven, and are not forgotten, though the thing prayed for is not presently given.”

Zechariah had probably wondered time and again about the meaning of his name—“Jehovah has remembered.” Did God really remember him? After hearing Gabriel’s shocking message that day, Zechariah would better understand not only his own name, but also countless other aspects of his life which had never before seemed to make sense. 

God had never forgotten Zechariah and Elizabeth. He was only waiting—waiting to act on their behalf in a way which would clearly illustrate how marvelous and mighty He truly is. And Zechariah and Elizabeth would see, as we all do when we wait faithfully upon the Lord, that His plan was truly worth the wait. 

More to come…

Photo: Mario Alberto Magallanes Trejo

Worshiping with Empty Arms (Pt. 4)

This is the final part of a series on my experience with childlessness which I first shared on Precious Adornment two years ago. You can read Part 1 HERE.

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”

Philippians 4:11

If I would attempt to count my blessings and name them one by one (as the old song instructs), I am confident I’d quickly discover the impossibility of such a task. God has truly showered me with gifts, all of them undeserved, and many of them unexpected. James 1:17 reminds us of the source of such gifts: “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” Many times, I’ve recognized the unexpected gifts God has given for what they are—good and perfect. But there have also been times when, for the life of me, I couldn’t see anything good about what God had provided.

Take my years of singleness, for instance. I was almost 27 by the time I got married. Looking back, those years of waiting don’t seem that long, but at the time, I watched the years pass with a growing dread that I was destined for spinsterhood. Singleness, they said, was a gift, but I often wished I could head to customer service for a quick and convenient exchange. Now as a happily married woman, I can reflect on my single years and thank the Lord for each and every one. I wouldn’t trade the work He did in my heart during that time for any other gift. Sometimes we just need God to adjust our perspective before we can see how perfect His gifts truly are.

Nearly 4 ½ years ago [over 6 years now], God gave me another unexpected gift. Once again, it took me quite some time to recognize the goodness of His choice, but He has brought me to the place where I can honestly thank and praise Him for His wisdom. Childlessness was not the gift I asked for, but God knew it was exactly the gift I needed. In recent posts, I’ve explained how the Lord has used the past few years of childlessness to teach me important lessons on submission and surrender. Today, I want to close out this series with two more lessons I’ve learned in the classroom of childlessness.

Lesson Three: Self Denial—There’s no party in a pity party.

In my last post, I mentioned that trials provide us with new opportunities to see the true contents of our hearts. Although I hate to sully the pristine image of me that you may carry in your mind, I must tell you that when I don’t get what I want, I am capable of departing from my usual saintly behavior. :) That’s putting it mildly, to say the least. Suffering provides a tremendous temptation to turn our attention inward and become entirely self-focused. The “Me Monster” that tends to stay somewhat satisfied during the good times can become a raging beast when it’s deprived of something it really wants.

For a time, my monster would turn nearly every situation into a chance to howl and whine, “Look at me! Look at me!” When a friend would call with the good news that she was expecting a baby, the monster would ignore the Bible’s command to “rejoice with those who rejoice” and focus instead on how I didn’t have a baby. When a counselee at the pregnancy care center where I volunteer would tell me she didn’t want the baby she was carrying, the Me Monster would question God’s wisdom in bestowing fertility upon the ungrateful. And when other people would meddle and unwittingly allow their own Me Monsters to rub salt in the fresh wounds of my grieving heart, the monster would roar inside like an angry she-bear that I had to struggle to keep quiet.

Ah, yes, the years of infertility provided me with ample opportunity to realize how truly wrapped up in myself I had become. I love a good party, and a pity party took place in my heart almost 24/7. The problem with a pity party, as you probably know, is that it isn’t much of a party at all. As comedian Mark Lowry used to say, “There are only two people who come to a pity party—you and Satan.” Yuck. Party with Satan? I’d rather not, thank you.

Throughout this nasty battle with my selfish self, God was overwhelmingly gracious as always, comforting me during times of genuine sorrow and convicting me of sinful behavior. He helped me to go through the process described in Ephesians 4:20-24 of putting off the old self with all of its sinful desires and cravings, being renewed in the spirit of my mind, and putting on the new self in the likeness of God. Basically what that means is that in order to overcome my sinful responses to my God-ordained trials, I had to stop the sinful behavior (self-pity, anger, bitterness, complaining, etc.), learn to think rightly (God accomplished this through prayer and His Word), and start behaving in ways pleasing to Him (showing gratefulness, reaching out to others, being patient, etc.). This process of sanctification took time as God slowly peeled back one layer after another from my stinky, onion-like heart, revealing patterns of sin in my life that I had previously failed to notice or confront. Although the Me Monster still rears her ugly head on occasion, I’m grateful to say that at least in regard to the issue of childlessness, the Lord has worked wonders in taming the angry beast.

Lesson Four: Satisfaction—All He has given is all that I need.

While driving home the other day, I saw a horse that had wiggled its head through an opening in the fence so he could munch on some grass located on the other side. I laughed out loud as I thought how silly it was that he thought the salad bar on the outside of his corral would be superior to the acres of greens available on the inside of his pen. I went on to think about how much we as humans are like that horse. We’re always looking for the next big thing, aren’t we? When we’re teenagers, we can’t wait for college. Once in college, we can’t wait to get out. After graduation, we can’t wait to get married, and once married, we soon set our hearts on starting a family. It’s all too easy to focus so much on what we want next that we fail to enjoy what God has already given.

The Lord has not yet given me the next big thing, but He has given me the best thing—more of Himself.

On a Focus on the Family program, I heard Pastor Ken Hutcherson, who has battled cancer for eight years, make this astounding statement, “Every pain that I felt has been a blessing from the Lord.” Referencing Romans 8:28-29, he expressed his belief that “There is no bad circumstance in a Christian’s life.” Although he acknowledged we may experience great pain in our lives, he clarified his point, “If anything is going to mold me like Jesus, how can it be bad?”

Even though I’ve never experienced anything like the suffering that Pastor Hutcherson has endured, I think I understand what he means. If I had the chance to go back 4 ½ years and change my life’s events so that instead of experiencing childlessness I could have started a family on my own timetable, I honestly wouldn’t do it. If life had gone according to my plans, I could have continued to believe I was content in God alone, when in reality, I was only “content” because He had given me all that I wanted.

Through this trial, God has torn down false idols in my heart, molded me to look just a little bit more like Christ, and caused me to love Him more. I’ll admit my story wouldn’t make for a good Christian movie script—I haven’t yet experienced what is often thought of as the “happy ending,” but I am happy and even more. I am content. The gift was unexpected, but it is good, and I praise the Lord for what He has done.

Photo: Kym McLeod

Worshiping with Empty Arms (Pt. 3)

This is the third part of a series on my experience with childlessness which I first shared on Precious Adornment two years ago. You can read Part 1 HERE.

“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good.”

Psalm 107:1

Have you ever loved something so much that you couldn’t imagine living without it? When I was young, the two dearest possessions in the world to me were my cockatiel, Poppy, and my Siberian husky, Brady. Even though they belonged to everyone in the family, I treasured them as though they were mine alone. As a child, I had learned that Christians should surrender everything to the Lord and live with the understanding that all they “owned” actually belonged to Him. Since I loved the Lord, I wanted to give Him everything, but I had some reservations. In my immature thinking, I was afraid that if I gave all I had to the Lord, He would take my beloved pets away from me as some sort of test of my faithfulness to Him, kind of like Abraham and Isaac, I suppose. Although I understood that God was in control, I clearly did not trust His goodness, and as a result, I thought I’d better keep my treasured animals to myself.

Sounds pretty funny, right? The sad part is that over twenty years later I sometimes find my thinking hasn’t changed all that much. Even though I’m all grown up now and have come a long way in my walk with Christ, I still struggle with the same problem that troubled me as a young girl—I know that God is sovereign, but I sometimes doubt He is truly good. And if I fail to trust that God is truly good, then how can I trust Him with my most treasured plans or possessions?

Lesson Two: Surrender—God is good…all the time

Nancy Leigh Demoss says, “Total surrender to Christ as Lord simply means submitting every detail and dimension of our lives to His sovereign, loving rule.” In my struggle with childlessness, submitting to God’s sovereignty wasn’t enough; I also needed to rest in His infinite love and goodness. We simply can’t surrender our lives to the Lord if we aren’t fully convinced of His goodness at all times.

God is good—the words flow easily…as long as He gives me everything I want. Can you relate? God provides a job, heals a relationship, sends good news from the doctor, or saves a family member, and “Isn’t God good?” His goodness seems so obvious that praise is the natural response. But when a child is sick, a husband is cold and distant, the bills pile up, the pregnancy test is negative, friends turn their backs, or pain and loneliness remain constant companions, is God still good? When God gives, it’s so easy to praise His name, but when He takes away, our response rarely sounds like Job’s (Job 1:21).

Although they never feel like it, times of suffering are a gift. They provide us with opportunities to learn more about our heart than we ever would otherwise. If God had protected me from the pain of infertility, I could have gone for years without a clue that I actually doubted His goodness. I had come to equate God’s goodness with His willingness to fulfill my wishes. When He didn’t cause my “good” plans to materialize, it wasn’t my own perspective on life that I questioned—it was His. Surrender became a battle because I didn’t have the faith to believe that God’s plans will always be infinitely better than my expectations.

Like rebellious children, we often fail to trust that God as our loving, Heavenly Father knows what is best for us. Psalm 84:11 says, “The LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” If we’re walking uprightly and the Lord still withholds something we desire, then the Scripture makes it clear that what we are asking for is not the best thing for us at that time. John Newton, the author of “Amazing Grace,” made this insightful comment regarding God’s goodness toward His children, “He chooses for his people better than they could choose for themselves. If they are in heaviness, there is a need-be for it, and he withholds nothing from them but what, upon the whole, it is better they should be without.”

There are many times in life when God’s ways will make no sense to us. In those moments, we can react like spoiled children by doubting His goodness, or we can respond in childlike faith by determining to trust that His ways are far better than our own (Isaiah 55:9). He is a good Father who promises to give good gifts to His children. Our wildest dreams can’t compare to the greatness of the plans God has for us. As we learn to surrender our every dream, desire, and possession into His loving hands, I believe that we, like Isaiah, will one day be able to look back on our lives and respond in wholehearted praise, “You did awesome things which we did not expect” (Isaiah 64:3).

 

Read Part Four HERE.

Worshiping with Empty Arms (Pt. 2)

This is the second part of a series on my experience with childlessness which I first shared on Precious Adornment two years ago. You can read Part 1 HERE.

getty_rm_photo_of_glass_of_water_on_belly

“Many plans are in a man’s heart,
but the counsel of the LORD will stand.”

Proverbs 19:21

A few years back somebody somewhere put something in the water, and my friends started having babies. The trend began slowly; first one friend, then another, then another, until it seemed that everyone was having a baby!

Except for me, that is.

There was never anything in my water. I wanted there to be. I hoped and prayed there would be, but apparently all I had was plain old drinking water. For a girl who had spent the majority of her life planning, reading, and thinking about the kind of mother she would one day become, this was not good news. In fact, as time went on, this delay of motherhood became very bad news indeed. But even though I was slow to catch on, God had a purpose for my struggle with infertility, a grand and glorious purpose to show me more of Himself and to conform me more closely to the image of His Son.

The lessons He taught me are not unique to my situation; they’re lessons every Christian needs to learn. And that is why I write. Perhaps you can’t identify with the pain of infertility, but you can probably identify with the pain of a desire denied, whether it be a desire for marriage, physical healing, the love of another person, peace within your family, success in your job, or any other number of issues. As I share the lessons God has taught me through my four year [six years now] experience with infertility, my hope is that He would use my writing to speak to your heart and encourage you in your own walk
with Christ.

Lesson One: Submission—God is God; I am not.

God is in control. It’s a saying we as Christians love to use, but don’t necessarily love to live. Let me explain—we usually love the fact that God is in control right up until the point when He begins orchestrating the events of our lives differently than we would ourselves. Before my experience with infertility began, if you had asked me who was in control of my life, I could have told you without question that God was in control. What I wouldn’t have realized at that time was that my notion of God’s sovereignty was somewhat foggy, and as a result I was not yet living in joyful submission to His control.

After we married, Joseph and I didn’t wait long before deciding we were ready to open our hearts to the blessing of children; it was about nine months. During those first few months of our married life, I lived under the false assumption that I was controlling whether or not conception would take place. So when we decided we were ready to be parents, I was a bit surprised when things didn’t progress in exactly the way I had imagined. Although I knew God was the Author of human life and that life is a gift from His hands, I lived as though I were actually the one in control. My focus was on me, what I wanted, what I was ready for, and how I wanted my life to progress, but thankfully God loved me enough to deliver me from the delusion that I had any real control over the events of my life.

With every passing month, God gently knocked on my thick skull to remind me who was really in charge. It’s sad to say that during that first year, my response to God’s instruction in this area was less than ideal and turned into what I described previously as an adult temper tantrum. Although I was still praying and attempting to respond in obedience to God’s will, a fierce battle took place as the idols of my heart reared their ugly heads. There were months of depression, loneliness, and near hopelessness as I attempted to deal with the life that I had never planned on living. Plan A was to be a mom; I had never even considered coming up with a Plan B.

A few months into this trial, it just so happened (yeah, right!) that I signed up for an in-depth Bible study on the book of Genesis. In the lives of Sarah, Leah, and Rachel, I saw multiple sinful responses to the trial of infertility—anger, doubt, bitterness, manipulation, strife, and hopelessness. Barrenness, it seems, has always brought out the worst in people. As these women resorted to all sorts of trickery and silly schemes to get what they wanted, they failed to realize the truth that God was now graciously teaching me through their lives—He opens and closes the womb, not us. Over and over again I saw this clear statement of God’s sovereignty repeated in the book of Genesis, and slowly, very slowly, God began to tear down the idols that I had allowed to take His place in my heart.

Martin Luther said, “That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God.” During the months or years that I continued my adult temper tantrum, my mouth may have professed God as being all that I needed, but my attitudes and actions revealed a heart that believed I needed more. I had stopped looking to God as my Refuge and Strength and had turned instead to worship lesser gods like children, motherhood, and family life. Although I didn’t know God’s future plans for me, His present plans were clear—He had closed my womb. To continue fighting against this part of God’s will for me was to fight against God Himself.

So, finally, somewhere along the way (I’m not even sure when), God brought me to a place of contented submission to His will, and I praise Him for it. One of my favorite songs by Wayne Watson has a line that says, “The hardest prayer to pray is slow to come—Oh, Lord, not mine, but Your will be done.” He’s right. This prayer is slow to come, and although it’s the hardest, it’s also the best.

 

Read Part Three HERE.

Worshiping with Empty Arms (Pt. 1)

It’s been two years since I first shared the story of how God has used the trial of childlessness as a refining fire in my life. Since many of you have begun reading Precious Adornment in the last few months, I thought I would post the series again in the hopes that God will use it to encourage someone else who may be struggling with the pain of a dream delayed. We must never doubt that He will make everything beautiful in His time.

worship

“I am the LORD your God…
You shall have no other gods before Me.”

Exodus 20:2-3

What is it about Wal-Mart that drives children to insanity? From my experience, it would seem that stomping feet, flailing arms, and shouting voices are nearly as common in Wally World as are the everyday low prices.

I once observed a little squirt no more than 3 years old draw the attention of all he passed with a prolonged combination of wailing, sobbing, and screeching. As his helpless father attempted to soothe his son by saying, “Sssshhhhh…you’re ok,” the child responded between angry sobs, “I-am-not-OK!” On a separate occasion, I couldn’t help but stare in shock as an enraged ankle-biter, maybe 4 years old, shrieked and repeatedly delivered open-handed slaps to the backside of his seemingly unfazed mother.

Temper tantrums. They are not pretty sights to see. These outbursts usually have one thing in common—an unmet desire. After all, it is not actually Wal-Mart that is responsible for the production of temper tantrums. It’s just that this wonderland of toys and sugary snacks provides the ideal environment to awaken the greedy monster residing within the heart of every child. A shopping trip progresses smoothly until a tyke develops a sudden desire for something he believes he must have in order to be happy. When the parent denies the fulfillment of that desire, the monster within roars to life, demanding that his needs be met OR ELSE all around will suffer the consequences.

The unfortunate truth is that children are not the sole proprietors of temper tantrum territory. Adults have them too, but our tantrums usually look quite a bit different than those of a two-year old. I should know—I’ve had some doozies in my day. One of my adult tempter tantrums stands out rather prominently in my mind. It lasted for months…maybe a year…uh…year and a half? I wanted something, even believed that I deserved it, and when God said no, it truly felt as though my world were crumbling around me. Although God reminded me that His grace would be sufficient and assured me He would supply all my needs, I turned a deaf ear to His comforting voice and in my heart raised my own instead: “I am not OK!”

In a sermon on idols in the Christian life, I recently heard Mark Driscoll teach, “An idol is a good thing that becomes a god thing, and that’s a bad thing.” This was true in my case. What I wanted was a good thing; the Bible even says so, “Children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3). It wasn’t what I wanted that was the problem; it was how much I wanted it. My good thing had become a “god thing” in my life, and believe me when I say, that was a very bad thing. In my heart, I echoed the words of barren Rachel in Genesis, “Give me children, or else I die!” (Genesis 30:1)

I hope you don’t mind my being so transparent in this post. It has taken me over a year to bring myself to actually type out the thoughts that God has placed on my heart regarding my struggle with childlessness. I certainly don’t want this blog to function as an arena for airing my dirty laundry, but I truly believe that the Lord might take the testimony of what He has done in my heart and use it to encourage your own. I want to tell you how the Lord has glorified Himself by preventing me from worshiping a false god—the god of motherhood. In my next post, I will share with you how the Lord brought me to a place where I could truly and joyfully worship Him, a place where I worship with empty arms.

Read Part Two HERE.

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Chances are that if your husband’s relationship with God is not right, you won’t win him back by exhorting or criticizing him. But your character can have a tremendous influence. In fact, your example—what 1 Peter 3 calls “the hidden person of the heart” evidenced by a “gentle and quiet spirit”—will do more to encourage and influence him than anything else.

So our first practical challenge to you is to make sure that you are growing spiritually. You are responsible to grow in your relationship with Christ regardless of your circumstances. A wife must not focus on her husband’s lack of spiritual qualities but on the bigger picture—that God desires to use her in his life to challenge him spiritually. The prayer and hope is that your godly life will challenge your husband and motivate him to grow.

Second, focus on being a godly wife. In Titus 2:4, older women are instructed to train the younger women to “love their husbands.” Initially that’s an easy job, because most of us get married while we’re “in love.” After the feelings fade, though, we have to remember that love is a commitment.

Ephesians 5:22 tells us, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” To submit to your husband’s leadership is to support his leadership. It means being an encouraging, believing wife who allows her husband to be the leader in the family. It doesn’t mean being a doormat. You should share your opinions, your thoughts and feelings, and make decisions together. Obviously, it helps to choose the right time, the right place, and the right tone. Ultimately, though, you support your husband’s decisions.

A few verses later, Ephesians 5:33 says, “The wife must respect her husband.” There are times when that’s a hard job; you may not feel that your husband is worthy of respect. However, you are still commanded to respect him. Even if there are many things that he has done wrong, you can find something to respect. Try to remember what you respected about him when you were dating. Does he work hard to financially support the family? Does he play ball with your son?

He may not be doing all that you wish, but you have to focus positively on the things that he is doing. Verbalize to him your appreciation. When you affirm him and let him know that you value his work, it will be easier for him to continue to lead lovingly.

Third, give this situation over to God and ask Him to work in your husband’s life. As I inferred in the last point, too often the wife of a spiritually-struggling husband will try to take the place of the Holy Spirit in his life. Your husband needs to come to a point of repentance and humility, where he cries out to God for forgiveness and asks Him to change his life. Ultimately, only God can do that. Ask God to do whatever it takes to change your husband’s lifestyle. And then leave it in His capable hands.

~Dennis and Barbara Rainey in “How can I motivate my husband to get right with God and become the spiritual leader of our family?

Photo: OBMonkey

Beauty Supplements

Your daily dose of true beauty advice…

Strong cravings–we all have them. The single who longs for marriage, the wife who longs for a baby, the terminated employee who longs for new work. Many of the things we crave are good things, and therefore our desire for them is also good. But when we focus almost exclusively on our desires and unmet needs, what is good becomes bad. It becomes obsessive. It becomes a craving, and we aren’t content to live without the thing we want or need.

We find ourselves baffled with God. After all, why does he even allow us to experience such intense desire only to leave us unfulfilled? Why would a good God do that? There are many reasons why God does that, all of them for our benefit. Not only does he strengthen us through the process, but he also teaches us to depend solely on him and to enjoy what he provides. He provides for the single woman by giving her friends, fellowship, and meaningful work. He provides for the childless woman by giving her opportunitites to mother in other ways. And he provides, often miraculously, ways for the unemployed woman to meet her expenses. Whatever we long for but lack is an area in which God will reveal himself to be adequate for us.

Since that is true, the source of our misery is not that we lack the thing we long for; our misery comes from wanting that thing so much that we are not open to recognizing any alternative. Contentment comes as we wait on God’s timetable and as we trust that what he provides in the midst of our lack is really all we need until he provides something else.

~Lydia Brownback in Contentment

Photo: OBMonkey

Mother’s Day for the Childless

“[Hannah] was deeply distressed and prayed
to the LORD and wept bitterly.”

1 Samuel 1:10

As a married woman still awaiting the blessing of children, I can speak from past experience when I tell you that Mother’s Day isn’t always the easiest holiday for childless women to endure. At this time in my life, I can honestly say I believe the Lord has brought me past that point in the grieving process, but there are many women who have yet to reach the same place of healing.

For that reason, I was glad to see two articles published this week on a topic that probably rarely crosses the mind of those who already have children–Mother’s Day and infertility. If you or someone you know is currently suffering through the pain of childlessness, these two articles may serve as a much-needed source of encouragement…

In “Remember the Infertile on Mother’s Day,” Dr. Russell Moore speaks to churches on behalf of the childless:

Mother’s Day is a particularly sensitive time in many congregations, and pastors and church leaders often don’t even know it. This is true even in congregations that don’t focus the entire service around the event as if it were a feast day on the church’s liturgical calendar. Infertile women, and often their husbands, are still often grieving in the shadows.

It is good and right to honor mothers. The Bible calls us to do so. Jesus does so with his own mother. We must recognize though that many infertile women find this day almost unbearable. This is not because these women are (necessarily) bitter or covetous or envious. The day is simply a reminder of unfulfilled longings, longings that are good…

Wendy Alsup shares these words of encouragement with infertile women in her article, “For Moms, Former Moms, and Wannabe Moms“: 

Motherhood is not the greatest good for the Christian woman. Whether you are a mom or not, don’t get caught up in sentimentalism that sets it up as some saintly role. The greatest good is being conformed to the image of Christ. Now, motherhood is certainly one of God’s primary tools in his arsenal for this purpose for women. But it is not the end itself. Being a mom doesn’t make you saintly. Believe me. Being a mom exposes all the ways you are a sinner, not a saint. Not being a mom and wanting to be one does too. We may long to get pregnant, looking at motherhood from afar. God sanctifies us through that longing…

It’s easy to get so caught up in our current joys or sorrows that we forget to empathize with those in experiences opposite our own. In these two articles, we as Christians are reminded of the opportunity we have to better love one another by rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep.

Photo: Glenda Otero

When the Cradle Remains Empty

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:9

In this video from the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation, Julie Lowe addresses an issue that is frequently mentioned within the pages of Scripture–childlessness. When the tests come back negative, the cradle remains empty, and prayers seem to go unanswered, what comfort is there for believers?

Julie offers some helpful thoughts…

You can find more biblical hope related to this issue by reading “The Bible and the Pain of Infertility” by Kimberly Monroe.

Photo: levigruber

Escaping Cubic Zirconia Faith

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

James 1:2-3

There are times in my life when the suffering of childlessness seems overwhelming and unending. Thankfully, those moments are fewer and farther in between for me now than they once were, but last night was one of those nights when I couldn’t help but wonder, “How long, O Lord?”

I tried to force myself to think spiritual thoughts about my situation [I’m always encouraging others to do it, so I thought I should try it myself!], and James 1:2-3 came to mind. Only a few minutes later, I looked up from my computer and noticed a commentary on James that Joseph and I recently brought home from John MacArthur’s conference in Charleston. I opened it to Dr. MacArthur’s comments on the verses I’d just remembered and felt a great measure of comfort in reading these words…

To test the genuineness of a diamond, jewelers often place it in clear water, which causes a real diamond to sparkle with special brilliance. An imitation stone, on the other hand, will have almost no sparkle at all. When the two are placed side by side, even an untrained eye can easily tell the difference.

In a similar way, even the world can often notice the marked differences between genuine Christians and those who merely profess faith especially when people are undergoing difficult times. Many people have great confidence in their faith until it is severely tested by hardships and disappointments. How a person handles trouble will reveal whether his faith is living or dead, genuine or imitation, saving or nonsaving.

In the parable of the sower, Jesus explained that “those [seeds that fell] on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation [testing] fall away,” and that “the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance” (Luke 8:13, 15)…

James’s major emphasis in this present text, and in the entire letter, is that if a person’s faith is genuine, it will prove itself during times of trouble, whatever the nature or source of the trouble may be. For that reason, this epistle is valuable for unbelievers as well as believers. That is especially true for unbelievers who consider themselves to be Christians and need to recognize that faith that is reliable only when things are going well is not saving faith and is worth nothing. It is, in fact, worth less than nothing, because it deceives those who trust in it. Not only will it fail them when they need help the most but, immeasurably worse, it will lead them to think they are headed for heaven when, in reality, they are headed for hell.

James shows that when faith is but an empty profession or mere sentiment not based on firm and intelligent convictions of divine truth, the fire of trouble will burn it up. But where there is true faith, affliction naturally leads to deeper thought on one’s true condition than under other circumstances and thereby frees the heart from deception and self-righteousness. The source of weakness leads to earnest wrestling with God in prayer; and the experience of the sustaining grace thus obtained strengthens and exhilarates hope.

[The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: James, pp. 15-17]

Photo: Kia Abell

Christmas Hope for the Barren (Part 2)

“There was a priest named Zechariah…And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth…But they had no child”

Luke 1:5,6,7

Read Part 1 HERE.

Gifts Are Not a Given

I wonder how many times Zechariah and Elizabeth asked the question “Why?” during their bleak years of childlessness.

  • Why, God? Why haven’t you given us a child?
  • Lord, why haven’t we found favor in your eyes?
  • Why have you blessed them with a son when they don’t even keep your commandments?
  • Oh, Father, why have you given them another child when they already have so many?

As the years stretched into decades, Zechariah and Elizabeth undoubtedly faced the temptation of growing bitter or resentful as they watched God bless friends, family, and strangers with the gift they desperately desired and perhaps even felt at times they deserved. They were blameless after all. Surely if any two people deserved the blessing of children, Zechariah and Elizabeth would be those people. 

Through all of their difficulties, the lesson that Zechariah and Elizabeth had to learn is the same one that childless couples must grasp today. Children are not a given; they are a gift. Just as God causes rain to fall on both the just and the unjust, so too, does He bless both the righteous and the unrighteous with the gift of children. Why? Oftentimes the answer to that question belongs in the category of “secret things” that belong to the Lord and not to us (Deut. 29:29). When the wisdom of God’s plan remains unclear to us, we must cling to the truths He has revealed:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
~Isaiah 55:8-9

Gabriel’s message to Zechariah contained a very important instruction—the baby was not to be given a family name, but one God had chosen for him. “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:13). The meaning of this name would forever remind Zechariah and Elizabeth of the undeserved gift God had given them in their son: John—“Jehovah has shown grace.” Children are not given because of our goodness, but only because of God’s grace.

The Impossible Made Possible

Psalm 113:9 had probably worn a deep groove in Elizabeth’s heart, “He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!” As a young wife awaiting her first child, that verse would have given Elizabeth hope that her barrenness would not last forever, yet that little glimmer of light grew gradually dimmer with each passing year. Somewhere along the way for Zechariah and Elizabeth, the chances of having children moved in their minds from being improbable to impossible. Elizabeth’s biological clock had stopped ticking, and the barrenness she’d hoped was only a temporary obstacle became a permanent condition.

At least that’s how the situation appeared until Gabriel arrived with the good news that God doesn’t work according to human timetables. Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayers had been heard, they would have a son, and he would bring them joy and gladness. Psalm 113:9 was to become Elizabeth’s living reality. Why? Because nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37).

For those who are childless this Christmas, let the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth fill your heart with hope in the goodness of God. The entire Christmas account revolves around God’s sovereignty over the womb, His love for His children, and His power over the impossible. As you follow the Lord in righteousness, you can rest quietly in the knowledge that your prayers are not being ignored, but are being filed away in the faithfulness of God. Like Elizabeth and Zechariah, one day you will see; one day you’ll understand. Until that time, “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” (Psalm 27:14)

Photo: Mario Alberto Magallanes Trejo

Christmas Hope for the Barren (Part 1)

“There was a priest named Zechariah…And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth…But they had no child”

Luke 1:5,6,7

They say Christmas is the happiest season of all, but for many, the joy of this special day remains tainted by a lingering sadness. As it is often celebrated in our culture, Christmas emphasizes families, tradition, and togetherness. For those still awaiting the blessing of children, holiday celebrations often emphasize the emptiness filling the space where little ones ought to be. While others eagerly anticipate Christmas mornings accompanied by laughter, smiles, and childlike joy, those facing the pain of childlessness often struggle to look forward to the day at all.

I imagine that Zechariah and Elizabeth knew all about the pain of spending special days as a couple instead of as a family. For decades they would have participated in holy days and religious ceremonies while surrounded with the presence of children; none of which were their own. During their marriage to one another, Zechariah and Elizabeth had no doubt cried more tears and prayed more prayers over her barrenness than anyone around them would ever have guessed. Yet year after year, their tears and prayers went seemingly unnoticed…until one day when everything changed, and the Lord turned their years of sorrow into tears of rejoicing.

In the familiar story of Zechariah and Elizabeth in Luke 1, there is fresh hope for those in the midst of childlessness–hope, not only for Christmas, but for every day of the year.

Blameless, yet Barren

The pain of childlessness is often compounded by the pain of misunderstanding and misconceptions. Although it is one of the most sensitive subjects a couple may ever face, complete strangers often feel no qualms about turning the subject of fertility into small talk. The absence of children is often wrongly assumed to indicate a lack of desire for them and frequently sparks thoughtless comments like “So, how many years have you been married now?” “Isn’t it about time you get started on a family?” “Planning to try for kids any time soon?”  These questions are rarely crafted with ill intent, yet for those unable to conceive, such conversations tear sharply into already tender wounds. 

Things were no different for Zechariah and Elizabeth. Because barrenness was considered a sign of divine disfavor in their culture, gossip and misconceptions regarding the couple’s sinfulness or inferior spirituality would have been commonplace. Yet even though other people may have automatically assumed Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s guilt before God, the Scriptures record them as being righteous before Him. In fact, they walked “blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). They were blameless, yet still Elizabeth remained barren.

Childless couples often agonize over the thought that infertility may be evidence of the judgment of God upon their life, yet in the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, we find that childlessness was not the result of a curse, but a vital component of God’s divine plan for their good and His glory.

No Unheard Prayer

After praying and asking God to answer the same request over and over again, many believers face the temptation to abandon both prayer and service to the Lord altogether. “Surely if God loved me,” or “Surely if He were real, He would have answered my prayer by now”—is the kind of thinking that infects the hearts of those with a shallow understanding both of prayer and the sovereignty of God. Zechariah and Elizabeth, in contrast, continued on believing God’s Word and serving the Lord although they had never seen evidence that He was listening to their prayers for a child.

It wasn’t until this couple was “advanced in years” and Zechariah was busy fulfilling his duty as a priest in the temple of the Lord that God sent Gabriel with the message they had long dreamed of receiving, “Your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son…” (Luke 1:13). Although this aging couple had probably long ago given up hope that the walls of their home would ever echo with the laughter of a child, they soon discovered that there are no expiration dates on God’s plans. Their prayers had not been ignored; they had been heard! As commentator Matthew Henry says, “Prayers of faith are filed in heaven, and are not forgotten, though the thing prayed for is not presently given.”

Zechariah had probably wondered time and again about the meaning of his own name—“Jehovah has remembered.” After hearing Gabriel’s shocking message that day, Zechariah would better understand not only his own name, but also countless other aspects of his life which had never before seemed to make sense. Zechariah and Elizabeth had not been forgotten, and their prayers had not been ignored. Jehovah had remembered them all along, but He was waiting, waiting to act on their behalf in a way that would clearly illustrate what a marvelous and mighty God they served. And Zechariah and Elizabeth would see, as does each of us when we wait faithfully upon the Lord, that God’s plan was truly worth the wait.

More to come…

Photo: Mario Alberto Magallanes Trejo

He Works in the Wait

“But for you, O LORD, do I wait;
   it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.”

Psalm 38:15

 
Isn’t waiting the worst? Whether the issue is something big, like marriage, or something small, like getting through a line to reach the checkout, the experience of a desire delayed certainly tests one’s character. On several occasions of late, the Lord has employed slow-moving traffic to reveal that my heart and holiness are not quite such close companions as I might prefer to believe. Trapped behind drivers apparently free of both deadlines and desirable destinations recently, I began fantasizing about having a huge ramp on the road ahead, which when crossed at high speed would send me skyrocketing through the air over the motorized obstacles blocking my pathway. It was then I detected a bit of sin that needed to be addressed.

Perhaps you don’t struggle with my inclination for road rage, but you probably do know what it’s like to dream of a ramp that could launch you right past the unpleasantries of waiting and into the life for which you’ve been longing. In her book, Keep a Quiet Heart, Elisabeth Elliot addresses the universal temptation to spiral downward into impatience, bitterness, or despair when an object of desire remains out of reach. She describes two letters she received–one from a single woman desperate for marriage and one from a couple longing for a child. Mrs. Elliot says:

Will the young woman find a mate? Will the couple have a child? Maybe this year will be the year of desire fulfilled. Perhaps, on the other hand, it will be the year of desire radically transformed, the year of finding, as we have perhaps not yet truly found, Christ to be the All-Sufficient One, Christ the “deep, sweet well of Love.”

Why won’t God let someone into my life? I feel left out, abandoned. When will it be my turn?” The petulant letter [from the single woman] goes on. “I feel deprived! Will He deny me the one small desire of my heart? Is it too big a treasure to ask? I sit in torture and dismay.”

Life is likely to continue to hold many forms of torture and dismay for that unhappy person and for all who refuse to receive with thanksgiving instead of complaint the place in life God has chosen for them. The torture is self-inflicted, for God has not rejected their prayers. He knows better than any of us do what furthers our salvation. Our true happiness is to be realized precisely through his refusals, which are always mercies. His choice is flawlessly contrived to give the deepest kind of joy as soon as it is embraced…

Here is the opportunity offered. Be patient. Wait on the lord for whatever He appoints, wait quietly, wait trustingly. He holds every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year in His hands. Thank Him in advance for what the future holds, for He is already there.

(pp. 49-51)

Although our waiting is never easy, it is a comfort to know that with God it will always be worthwhile.

Photo: miamiamia

 
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Worshipping with Empty Arms (Part 4)

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”

Philippians 4:11 

Christmas is the ideal time to reflect on the gifts God has given. If I would attempt to count my blessings and name them one by one (as the old song instructs), I’m confident that I would quickly discover the impossibility of such a task. God has truly showered me with gifts, all of them undeserved, and many of them unexpected. James 1:17 reminds us of the source of every good gift in life: “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” Many times, I’ve recognized the unexpected gifts God has given for what they are—good and perfect. But there have also been times when, for the life of me, I couldn’t see anything good about what God had provided.

Take my years of singleness, for instance. I was almost 27 by the time I got married. Looking back, those years of waiting don’t seem that long, but at the time, I watched the years pass me by with a growing dread that I was destined for spinsterhood. Singleness, they said, was a gift, but I often wished I could head to customer service to make a quick and convenient exchange. Now, as a very happily married woman, I can reflect on my single years and thank the Lord for each and every one. I wouldn’t trade the work He did in my heart during that time for any other gift. Sometimes we just need God to adjust our perspective before we can see how perfect His gifts truly are. 

Nearly 4 ½ years ago, God gave me another unexpected gift. Once again, it took me quite some time to recognize the goodness of God’s choice, but He has brought me to the place where I can honestly thank and praise Him for His wisdom. Childlessness was not the gift I asked for, but God knew it was exactly the gift that I needed. In recent posts, I’ve explained how the Lord has used the past few years of childlessness to teach me important lessons on submission and surrender. Today, I want to close out this series with two more lessons I’ve learned in the classroom of childlessness. 

Lesson Three: Self Denial—There’s no party in a pity party

In my last post, I mentioned that trials provide us with new opportunities to see the true contents of our hearts. Although I hate to sully the pristine image of me that you may carry in your mind, I must tell you that when I don’t get what I want, I am capable of departing from my usual saintly behavior. ;) That’s putting it mildly, to say the least. Suffering provides a tremendous temptation to turn our attention inward and become entirely self-focused. The “Me Monster” that tends to stay somewhat satisfied during the good times, can become a raging beast when it’s deprived of something it really wants.

For a time, my monster would turn nearly every situation into a chance to howl and whine, “Look at me! Look at me!” When a friend would call with the good news that she was expecting a baby, the monster would ignore the Bible’s command to “rejoice with those who rejoice” and focus instead on how I didn’t have a baby. When a counselee at the pregnancy care center where I volunteer would tell me she didn’t want the baby she was carrying, the Me Monster would question God’s wisdom in bestowing fertility upon the ungrateful. And when other people would meddle and unwittingly allow their own Me Monsters to rub salt in the fresh wounds of my grieving heart, the monster would roar inside like an angry she-bear, and I had to fight to prevent my lips from vocalizing my thoughts. 

Ah, yes, the years of infertility provided me with ample opportunity to realize how truly wrapped up in myself I had become. I love a good party, and a pity party took place in my heart almost 24/7. The problem with a pity party, as you probably know, is that it isn’t much of a party at all. As comedian Mark Lowry used to say, “There are only two people who come to a pity party—you and Satan.” Yuck. Party with Satan? I’d rather not, thank you.

Throughout this nasty battle with my selfish self, God was overwhelmingly gracious, as always, comforting me during times of genuine sorrow and convicting me of frequent occurrences of sin. He helped me to go through the process described in Ephesians 4:20-24 of putting off the old self with all of its sinful desires and cravings, being renewed in the spirit of my mind, and putting on the new self in the likeness of God. Basically what that means is that in order to overcome my sinful responses to my God-ordained trials, I had to stop the sinful behavior (self-pity, anger, bitterness, complaining, etc.), learn to think rightly (God accomplished this through prayer and His Word), and start behaving in ways pleasing to Him (showing gratefulness, reaching out to others, being patient, etc.). This process of sanctification took time as God slowly peeled back one layer after another from my stinky, onion-like heart, revealing more patterns of sin in my life that I had previously failed to notice or confront. Although the Me Monster still rears his ugly head on occasion, I am grateful to say that at least in regard to the issue of childlessness, the Lord has worked wonders in taming the angry beast.

Lesson Four: Satisfaction—All He has given is all that I need

While driving home the other day, I saw a horse that had wiggled its head through an opening in the fence so he could munch on some grass located on the other side. I laughed out loud as I thought how silly it was that he thought the salad bar on the outside of his corral would be superior to the acres of greens available on the inside of his pen. I went on to think about how much we as humans are like that horse. We’re always looking for the next big thing, aren’t we? When we’re teenagers, we can’t wait for college. Once in college, we can’t wait to get out. After graduation, we can’t wait to get married, and once married, we soon set our hearts on starting a family. It’s all too easy to focus so much on what we want next that we fail to enjoy what God has already given.

The Lord has not yet given me the next big thing, but He has given me the best thing—more of Himself. Last week on Focus on the Family, I heard a pastor named Ken Hutcherson, who has battled cancer for eight years, make this astounding statement, “Every pain that I felt has been a blessing from the Lord.” Referencing Romans 8:28-29, he expressed his belief that “There is no bad circumstance in a Christian’s life.” Although he acknowledged that we may go through terrible situations that cause us great pain, he went on to explain, “If anything is going to mold me like Jesus, how can it be bad?”

Even though I have never experienced anything like the suffering that Pastor Hutcherson has endured, I think I understand what he means. If I had the chance to go back 4 ½ years and change my life’s events so that instead of experiencing childlessness I could have started a family on my own timetable, I wouldn’t do it. If life had gone according to my plans, I could have continued to believe that I was content in God alone, when in reality, I was only “content” because God had given me all that I wanted. Through this trial, He has caused me to love Him more, He’s torn down false idols in my heart, He’s molded me to look just a little bit more like Christ, and He has turned me into a more effective worshipper. I’ll admit that my story wouldn’t make for a good Christian movie script—I haven’t experienced what is often thought of as the “happy ending,” but I am happy and even more. I am content. The gift was unexpected, but it is good, and I praise the Lord for what He has done. 

What unexpected gifts has God used in your own life?