This month’s theme is “How to Love”. It’s a little different theme in that it’s mainly for those loving on women and couples going through the process and not for those who are our main audience. It’s also going to be more practical in nature than most of our themes.
Guest Post by Caitlin Ratliff
If you are visiting The Carry Camp, perhaps this conversation sounds familiar: your friend, daughter, son, or other loved one shares with you their sorrow that they cannot have children, or have lost a child in the womb. You listen as they tearfully share their struggle, already in the throes of grief, and your heart breaks. When they fall silent you feel the urgent need to respond, to say something that will wipe away their sadness and heal their pain. But what can you say?
It is very difficult to know how to comfort a loved one who is dealing with a painful difficulty like infertility or miscarriage. As someone in the midst of this struggle, I would like to encourage you to make sure that your words of comfort and encouragement are based in truth.
My husband and I have struggled to have children for several years. After opening up to others about this grief, we have received very sweet encouragement from friends and family. We have been showered with love and prayers, and have found friendships we would not have known otherwise.
We have also been offered illusory promises of false hope and fleeting comfort. Well-intentioned loved ones have told us again and again that children will come, parenthood will happen. I’ve been given anecdotal evidence of other women that waited years but eventually had children, so my time will come too. Once we started the adoption process, I received the trite declaration that now we’ll get pregnant. Some of these prophetic statements are even couched in erroneous biblical rationalization. I know in my heart that these dear friends are trying to encourage us, to give us hope for the future. They wish us the best and want to see the end of our pain.
Regardless of intentions, though, it is dangerous to offer promises God does not make. He does not promise that everyone who wants children will have them. If we buy into these empty platitudes, it leads us down a path of flawed thinking about who God is. I myself have struggled to believe how God can be good if He has not fulfilled His “promise” of children, which has lead me to deep anger and bitter resentment. Do not tempt your loved ones down this path.
It is difficult to look at someone you care for and tell them everything may not work out the way they want it to; this may seem to only aggravate the pain. But we must remember that our hope is not in the object of our desire – our hope is in God. Therefore our words of encouragement should not be faulty assurances that the object (children) will be obtained, but, instead, reminders of who God is in the midst of this difficult circumstance:
God is loving, “close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). Though we may feel alone and forgotten at times, God promises He has not forsaken us. He is with us.
God is powerful and “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Though we may feel like our pain will crush and destroy us, God promises to hold us secure. He is greater than all.
God is sovereign and “works all things for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Though we may feel our pain has no purpose or meaning, God promises He will bring good out of it. He is at work.
These are only a few of God’s many holy attributes; we could go on forever extolling His character! And each aspect of who He is provides comfort to us in our struggles.
If you know someone struggling with infertility or miscarriage, don’t give in to the temptation to say whatever will make them feel better. Some words may give hope for the moment, but do greater damage in the long run. Instead, point them to God’s steadfast, holy character as revealed in Scripture – He is our ultimate and abiding comfort.
Caitlin is an avid reader, writer, and Netflix-binger. She will talk your ear off about her current favorite book or movie if you let her. She is married to Ben, a youth minister in the Presbyterian Church in America, and they live with their dog, Colby, in Salisbury, Maryland. She blogs at morningjoy.co about childlessness, storytelling, and living life in light of the Gospel.