When Everything Falls Apart | The Struggle and Journey of Infertility
For a hopeful couple, some of the hardest words to hear are “You can’t have a baby.”
In a moment, the future they’d hoped for of raising a family of their own flesh and blood dissolves. The possibility that comes along with not knowing is ripped from their hands.
And it hurts.
This news becomes a loss that must be grieved. And, as with any grieving process, this will look different for each individual and each couple.
I had a chance to ask Renee Umeda, one of the leaders for As We Wait, Mission Hills Church’s infertility support group, about infertility and how we as a whole can come together and support families journeying through infertility.
The first thing we wanted to stress is that infertility does not change a person’s identity in Christ. If you are going through this, you are no less of a woman/wife/man/husband because of infertility. You are not broken. You have not let anyone down. You are a child of God and he is in this journey with you. However, this truth can be difficult to hold on to in the midst of the struggle. I urge you to not believe the lies that say you are anything other than a beautifully and wonderfully made child of God.
If you are going through infertility, it is easy to feel shame and feel isolated. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help or to talk about your pain to safe people. You are not alone.
How can I support my spouse through this?
As you go through this, try to remember your spouse also lost the possibility and is also grieving. Renee said, “One of the best ways to support your spouse is regular communication. Each spouse deals with this struggle differently so it is important to understand where your spouse is coming from in their own process. Try to let go of your expectations of them and give them lots of grace. Allow them time to ‘not be okay’ and not have it all together. [Much] of infertility is unfortunately grieved silently but make sure you grieve alongside your spouse in the best way you can.” She also suggested that it may help to find another couple going through a similar struggle, as it can be helpful to “find someone else that ‘gets it.’ You feel alone in the journey, but there are many people who understand and would love to support you and your spouse.”
How can the church support couples going through infertility?
Acknowledging the difficulty can go a long way in serving couples. Infertility is a struggle and a lot of healing can happen by creating a space where it’s okay to be honest about how hard it is. “Some of the hardest times at church for a couple going through infertility are the Mother’s Day service and baby dedications,” Renee said. It would also be helpful to learn which phrases make the journey more difficult, phrases such as “you are still young,” “just adopt,” “you just need to relax,” or “it will happen once you stop trying.” These phrases can trigger pain for couples. Rather than offering a fix for their struggle, it’s often more helpful to be a listening ear and say something like, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through. I’m here for you and praying.”
As Renee put it, “Infertility is a process and each couple has to come to terms with how and when God is choosing to build their family.” Every journey will be unique. If you haven’t gone through infertility yourself, your attempts to help may not be what the person you’re trying to help needs. The first step of love is listening.
If you’re struggling through infertility, we want to listen to you. Please reach out to us to learn how you can get connected to our support group, As We Wait, led by Renee Umeda and Kelsey Brooks.
National Infertility Awareness Week happens every April and Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month is October. These are national opportunities to help spread awareness and love to those going through infertility, but the work of spreading awareness and love is not only limited to those times.
The story of Joseph is fairly well known. It’s often told as a great success story, of patience and faith and reward. And who could forget the musical version of it, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, or the Veggie Tales retelling, The Ballad of Little Joe?
Joseph’s story is one of incredible success + faith in God
As well as success, however, Joseph went through incredible pain. He grew up weathering the jealousy of eleven older brothers, not because of anything Joseph did, but because his mother was his father’s favorite. That jealousy led his brothers to throw him in a cistern, fake his death, and sell him as a slave.
How would you deal with having your family want you gone so badly that they’ll sell you just to get rid of you? I think it’s safe to say Joseph thought he was at rock bottom. He held on to the only thing he had left, the one thing his brothers and his owners couldn’t take away from him: his faith in God.
God was gracious and rose Joseph into leadership in Potiphar’s house, but with new power comes new struggles. He did will in everything and Potiphar trusted him, as he was right to do. As the story goes, Potiphar’s wife wanted the one thing Joseph had been restricted from, and after he turned her down many times she lied to get rid of him. Potiphar’s trust was broken, and he threw Joseph in prison. At this point, Joseph was probably nearer to rock bottom.
He’d had dreams as a young man that his family would bow down to him, that he would rule over them. His expectation was that he’d be put in power. Prison and ruling are two very different things, and as Joseph grappled with his present reality, he was stuck in the same place he’d been when his brothers sold him: holding onto God as the only thing that couldn’t be taken away from him.
Then there comes a glimmer of hope:
Two of the Pharaoh’s main servants are thrown in prison with Joseph, and he gets to interpret their dreams through God’s power. He interprets them correctly and asks the cupbearer to remember him and tell Pharaoh about him. The cupbearer forgets him for two years.
The Bible doesn’t tell us how long Joseph had been in prison, for something he hadn’t done, when the cupbearer and baker were put under his care. It only says, “Sometime later” (Genesis 40:1).
I don’t know about you, but I get really excited at the prospect of things. Whether that’s buying something on Amazon that I know will be at my door in two days, or the anticipation that comes with planning a vacation, the idea that I may get to do something different or that my life may change, if only for a little bit, can bring hope into whatever situation I’m in.
But over time, that excitement dwindles. There are only so many days you can wake up and say, “Maybe today will be the day when X happens.”
I don’t know, because the Bible doesn’t say, but I’m willing to guess that Joseph was optimistic for the first few weeks, and as his circumstances continued to stay as they were, by the time the cupbearer was reminded that Joseph had interpreted his dream accurately, Joseph had lost hope that he’d remember at all. This moment was likely rock bottom, the moment when Joseph realized help wasn’t coming, that justice wasn’t going to happen the way he’d hoped it would.
But even though the cupbearer had forgotten Joseph, God hadn’t. As the story goes, Pharaoh had two dreams that puzzled him and his associates. No one could interpret those dreams. At that moment the cupbearer remembered and mentioned Joseph to Pharaoh, and Joseph went on to save Egypt and the surrounding countries during the famine, seven years in the future. Through the famine, he’s restored to his family, and his story has a happy ending.
God remembered Joseph, and Joseph remembered God throughout his life. Joseph’s faith seems to be unshakeable, even when his physical situation was falling apart. In the same way, God remembers us. He doesn’t forget about our circumstances, and he is working “for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”
Depression, whether long term or a short episode, affects a lot of people. It can be triggered by circumstances present or past, or come out of nowhere and hit its victim like a brick thrown out a window.
If you have a friend suffering from depression, they need you now more than ever. But there are also a few things it could be helpful for you to understand about what they’re going through.
1 | Depression is a very real condition, caused by changes in brain chemistry.
What your friend is going through is a physical ailment to the way their brain functions. It isn’t something they can “think themselves out of” or “get over.” Depression is treatable, and your friend should go to a doctor about it.
2 | They will likely say no when you invite them to things. Don’t stop inviting them.
One of the best ways to show them you care for them is to continue inviting them to participate in life, despite the many times they’ll turn your offer down. When they say no, they aren’t saying no to you. They aren’t rejecting you. They’re speaking a truth they feel about their inability to join you in that event. Continue inviting them and engaging with them, and do your best not to take their rejection personally.
3 | They will feel intense, negative emotions.
As your friend deals with depression, they will need a support system. Check in on them. Spend time with them one on one. Let them talk to you. Show your love for them. By being a consistent, caring presence in their life without pressuring them to get better while encouraging them to move toward healing, you can shine a light into the darkness they feel.
So what can you do? What helps? What should you avoid?
Things to avoid:
Getting frustrated or lashing out at them. Their brains are blaming them for a lot of things that aren’t their fault already.
Telling them it’s all in their head and they just need to be more positive.
Ignoring their depression.
Focusing too much on their depression.
Giving up on them.
Things that can help:
Remind them of their value.
Invite them to the things you’re going to.
Open the door for them to talk about what they’re going through.
Offer encouragement, especially through tactile things they can hold on to, such as notes or a small gift that says they’re on your mind.
Help them know that they don’t have to hide their emotions.
Remind them that they don’t have to fight this battle alone.
Pray with them.
Follow them on their ups and downs. Every day will be different. Some days they’ll be better than others. Take your cues from them.
If you have other questions about how you can help someone through depression, please reach out to a doctor or a counselor. You can talk to one of the counselors at Mission Hills by sending us an email or calling 303.794.3564.
Watching someone you love go through depression can be one of the most difficult things to endure, second to fighting depression yourself. There are only a few things you can do to help, and sometimes it feels like an upward battle. You love them, and you want them to be better.
When we can’t do it on our own we need to turn to God.
“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” | Isaiah 40:31
Put your friend in the safety of the Lord’s care. Pray for them and encourage them to turn to God for help. Be there for them, and intercede on their behalf before the Lord, pray for what’s concerning them. Pray with them, and encourage them through God’s word.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” | 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Make sure that you remain in God. Draw his strength into you, be comforted by him so you are full and can comfort your friend. Nurture your relationship with God so that if your friend needs stability, you can be firm ground and can point them back to the God who will always be more stable than you.
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” | Psalm 34:18-19
Remind your friend of how close God is to them. He knows what they’re going through, and he will deliver them from their pain and hopelessness. Commit your friend to God’s care. His love will sustain you and your friend. Take joy in the knowledge that God is near.
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” | Deuteronomy 31:8
When you go to your friend to try to lighten their load, you don’t go alone. God goes with you, and the situation is in his hands. God is working, success is not dependent on you. Especially if you don’t see immediate effects, don’t be discouraged.
“In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye.” | Deuteronomy 32:10
Depression can feel like a desert or a wasteland. As much as you want to care for your friend, God is caring for them ten times over. There is nowhere God can’t reach your friend, even if you can’t reach them. Don’t give up on them.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” | 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Continue to encourage your friend. Build them up. Be joyful, but be real. Your friend doesn’t need fake, happy bubbly. Your friend needs you to bring light and joy, but meet them where they are and take the time to listen and understand what they’re going through.
I hope this is encouraging to you in your walk with the people in your life facing depression. What they’re going through is very real, very hard. Your patience and presence in their life is one of the most helpful things you can give them. So “encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
“The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.'” | 1 Kings 19:7
In this moment in Elijah’s life, he was coming off of the coattails of what looks from the outside like amazing success. In 1 Kings 18 he faced off with the prophets of Baal in a competition to see whose God could send fire from heaven and burn up a sacrifice. To sum this story up, after days of dancing, self-harm, and intense pleading, the prophets of Baal had gotten nowhere. Elijah had so much water poured over the alter he’d built that there was a moat around it, and after praying once, God sent fire down that “burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench” (1 Kings 18:38). Elijah proceeded to slay the prophets of Baal, and then prayed for rain and ended a famine and drought that had been plaguing the land.
If I were Elijah, I’d be feeling pretty invincible. But it doesn’t look like he was feeling invincible, because in 1 Kings 19:3, after Queen Jezebel threatened him, the Bible says “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.”
Ouch. Things had been going so well, too. For the first time in a long time, there was hope in Israel. Elijah had asked God to display his power so Israel would know who the true God was, and God won that contest easily. Despite that, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been there. Maybe not exactly. I haven’t had a queen threaten to kill me, and I haven’t called on God to prove his power to the world through a seemingly-impossible-to-burn burnt offering, but I have seen how God has worked in my own life and still been afraid and felt like giving up. Elijah was in such a dark place that he begged God to take his life while sitting in the desert under a broom tree (1 Kings 19:4). He was giving up and giving in to hopelessness.
“All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.” | 1 Kings 19:5-8
When we feel hopeless, one of the best things we can do is to get up and eat. By taking care of our bodies, we make it possible for us to keep going. Elijah was so strengthened by the food that he was able to travel forty days and forty nights. I don’t know about you, but I want what he’s having. At the same time, however, God didn’t ask him to move until the journey wasn’t going to be too much for him. When we feel hopeless like Elijah did, we can still trust that God is going to make sure our needs are met. We can take hope in Isaiah 41:10:
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
This material was modified from a staff chapel led by Jerry Jones.
So often we’re called to trust in God, to have faith that his plan is better than ours will ever be. We’re told to trust in someone we often haven’t seen ourselves or don’t fully believe can and will accomplish what we long for.
This distrust causes us to say we trust, to give lip service to the God of the universe and then end up acting outside of God’s instruction because of our anxiety.
This situation is shown clearly in Abraham and Sarah’s story.
Genesis 16:1-2 says, “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, ‘The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.’”
In that time, this was common practice. If a wife couldn’t have a child, they could select one of their maidservants to stand in for them as a surrogate. Legally, the child would belong to the wife, and he could be the heir to the father. We see this again with Jacob, Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah (Genesis 30). According to the world’s customs, this was an okay way to carry on the family line. However, Sarah’s choice to give Hagar to Abraham was not made out of a desire for more children, but rather a distrust in God’s promise to grant her a son.
As we read on it becomes clear that Sarah regretted that decision. Even before she herself is pregnant, she abuses Hagar to the point that Hagar flees into the desert (Genesis 16). On and on this cycle goes, so far that Hagar returns to the desert after being sent away in Genesis 21. Sarah took matters into her own hands because she was anxious to have children. In the process, she gave herself a world of trouble, because she wasn’t patient for God’s timing, and didn’t trust that it could happen. We see her distrust again when angels come to warn Abraham of God’s plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. As they remind Abraham of God’s promise to give him a son through Sarah, Sarah laughs.
In the end, the Lord is faithful to his promise and Sarah bears Isaac. In our 20/20 hindsight, we see that she should have trusted God.
None of this makes it any easier to trust, however. So how can we start trusting in our Creator, in the God who has a wonderful plan for our lives?
1 | Look at what God has done in the past.
It’s easier to believe that someone will do what they say they will when you can see that they’ve done what they said they would in the past. We have the benefit of reading how God has been faithful to his people over and over and over again. Psalm 105 gives an overview of Genesis and Exodus, showcasing how God took care of his people. We can take comfort in knowing we are part of “his people” now, because of Jesus, and his promises apply to us as well.
2 | Release your anxiety to him.
Pray and be honest with God. Tell him what’s on your mind. What scares you, what you want to do to speed up his process. And listen. Bring him into the discussion room where you make decisions, and let his voice have a stronger say in your dilemma than your own. One of the first steps to trusting is to let God know what’s keeping you from trusting. The process of admitting your fears to him and letting him love you even in your fear can bridge the gap of your distrust.
3 | Make a conscious effort to wait for the Lord.
Put your desires on hold, and trust the answer you received when you told God what you wanted to do. If he says no, then you need to make the conscious effort to hold yourself back and not do what he told you not to do. This is one of the hardest parts of trust, but in the same way that you can look back and see how God has been faithful to you, your trust will be proven in your actions.
This isn’t an overnight change, and it won’t be an easy adjustment to make. But it can be done, and we’d love to support you as you move toward trust. We encourage you to reach out if you’d like to talk to one of our pastors or biblical counselors. You can send us an email here.