When struggling with infertility, the church can be one of the hardest places to be. Well-meaning Christian woman would often remind me that children are a blessing from God. In my pain, I took that to mean I was not blessed because I could not have children. I cried out to God, but could rarely bring myself to share one whisper of my struggle to my church family. I found myself avoiding church because it was just too painful at times. But the church should be a place of love and healing.
As Christians, we need the fellowship of others and the church is a great place for this fellowship. But church-people are not perfect. People will make stupid comments about infertility and family planning. People will ask personal questions about your sex life and then offer unwanted advice. How do we connect with the church without losing our mind, our privacy and our love for others? Here’s what I learned…
Church leadership must set the example, especially from the pulpit. Parenthood is a blessing, but that does not mean God blesses no others. Not every person is meant to be a parent. It’s also important to remember that motherhood and fatherhood are not titles that come through the biological functions of conception and birth. Mothers and fathers are created through the love and guidance of children. Families come together in many different ways. God creates families through formal and informal adoption, IVF, extended families, step-parenting, etc.
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can be an incredibly painful day in the church if unable to have children. Watching every mother or father stand for special recognition, or giving out gifts to all the parents can be hurtful. Some churches have found it better to leave the celebration outside the service. Other churches use this time to recognize all men or all women. Some churches recognize “spiritual moms/spiritual dads” who have impacted the lives of others whether they have children or not. Even in the children’s department, kids can be encouraged to make a gift for anyone who has been like a mother or father to them.
Small groups are a great way to find a supportive, encouraging collection of people to share life with. Not everyone in the church needs to know all personal struggles or the latest health check-up. But a small group can offer a couple the personal attention and encouragement that helps ease the burden of their journey. Women’s groups are also a great way to find encouragement and connection within a church. Women often connect with those who have struggled with similar challenges. Many women’s Bible studies offer a safe place to share and discuss infertility.
Finally, I remember some painful comments that were made, as well as unwanted advice on how to conceive. Through a great deal of prayer and God’s spirit within me, I learned to love these fellow followers. Ephesians 4:2 states, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love”. This became my prayer and through this I saw God use the church to provide healing and peace to me and my husband.
– Pastor Pam Freeman
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