Infertility and Miscarriage: Helping Others Trust God in Every Season (Jeremy Pray)
Nobody wants their faith tested through infertility and miscarriage, yet God, in His infinite wisdom, has ordained that some do. That certainly was the case for my wife and me. The hurt is deep, and the details involve very personal matters. Therefore, how do we offer hope and help to those who struggle in this area? What do we say?
Consider the Ways They Are Suffering
I suggest that we start considering the various ways in which they might be suffering, which can be done even prior to speaking with them. This is an important step even if you have experienced these trials yourself, because no two trials are the same, and no two responses to the trials are the same.
For example, consider the ways in which wives might suffer differently than husbands. If medical doctors are involved, then it’s usually on her to make the appointments, allowing the husband to mentally set it aside and focus on work. Women don’t have that luxury, especially regarding miscarriage, where the struggle is happening within her body.
Consider, too, how their walk with the Lord might be struggling. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself, If I couldn’t have children, where would I be most vulnerable? Would I be prone to worry? Would I be jealous of other couples? Would I be consumed by what others think of me instead of what God thinks of me? Would I question God and His goodness?
To be clear, the goal is not to nail down “the five areas where they may be struggling,” but instead just the opposite. You will realize that their response could go in any number of ways! When we do this, we will cultivate a spirit of compassion before we even open our mouth, allowing us to enter the conversation with a legitimate desire to understand, not to be understood.
Then, if the Lord provides an opportunity for a private conversation with them, start by asking good questions. And by this I don’t mean interrogate them! Some people ask so many questions back-to-back that it makes the person will start to feel like you think they are a problem to be solved, not a person to be loved, and so they shut down. Therefore, especially with these types of trials, give them plenty of time to respond and elaborate. Not every silent moment needs to be filled with words. They will be much more likely to be honest about their struggle if they know you seek to understand, not be understood.
After having allowed or ample time for them to share their struggle, the question remains: what do we say? Let me offer three recommendations that I think ought to be on your mental agenda when seeing to help others who are struggling with infertility and miscarriage.
First, resist the temptation to tell your story, or the story of someone you know who has walked through a similar trial. They may want to hear it, and it may be appropriate to share, but I strongly believe that our focus must be on making a bee line to the comfort and security that are found in God alone, for He alone is their refuge and strength (Ps 46).
Second, help them lament. Help them bring their honest cries to God now, before they have “pulled themselves together.” My wife and I still look back on the times we read, cried, and prayed through Psalm 13 during our struggle with infertility as some of the most memorable and pivotal phases of our trial. After we poured out our hearts to God, we were able to gather our thoughts and emotions, and come to the place where we could sing with David, “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.” To help them do this, come prepared with some good psalms in mind that will usher their raw feelings into the presence of God through prayer (i.e. Psalm 24, 77, 86).
Third, fix their hope on Jesus Christ, the author and perfector of their faith (Heb 12:2). There are many ways to do this but let me offer just a few. Remind them of John 10, where Jesus talks about how He cares for His sheep (John 10), or how God is always at work even if He seems idle (Eph 1:11; 2 Co 4:17–18). Remind them that God will never leave nor forsake them (Heb 12:2; 13:5). Remind them that God promises to work everything for good in the lives of believers, to make them more like Christ (Rm 8:28–29; Phil 1:6). Whether it is one of these passages or another that you know well, anchor them to God, through His Word – not in circumstances.
Let me close with a brief word of caution. Strongly resist the temptation to blurt out false hope. Regardless of the statistics, we can never promise that they will have a child someday, that their trial is almost over, or that the pain will soon be gone. Placing one’s hope in anything but Jesus Christ will only lead to disappointment.
*Today’s article is written by Jeremy Pray and is excerpted from his practical booklet: Infertility and Miscarriage: Helping Others Trust God in Every Season.