Over the years, I have encountered countless individuals who have struggled in their biblical identity in Jesus Christ. Perhaps due to a parent’s abandonment, neglect or abuse, people sometimes blur the true nature of God’s love and grace through the lens of their earthly parents. When enduring through hardships, these individuals can be tempted to blame God or to become hardened to their core as they wrongly ascribe to their heavenly Father an association to the flaws of their upbringing. It is my earnest desire to petition the reader to take the risk of faith to trust the God of the Scriptures and embrace the truth of our Father’s Word over and above the very real emotions and assumptions one may feel during the anguish of the moment. It is an appeal to believe in the certainty of God’s love exceedingly beyond the circumstances of one’s challenges.
On a more personal note, my own journey through the malaise of the pain-quotient was launched through watching the slow death of my mother as she battled breast and lung cancer. As a young adolescent, her demise sent me reeling with many doubts and questions about God’s existence. After my mom’s passing, it was my older sister and best friend who took on the primary role as my surrogate mom. However, three years after my mother’s death, my sister was killed in a car accident. The feelings of loneliness, anxiety, insecurity, and fear surfaced as my familiar companions. It was within this sudden family tragedy that I was set upon the two potential paths of bitter or better. Fortunately, within God’s grace, I was led onto a course of faith wherein a deep compassion grew in my heart to be present for people in times of their duress. John 3:16
...how we respond to our circumstances pose many options in the development of who we become as a consequence of our pain.
Most painful situations are choiceless, in that we often have no part in the initiation of our crisis events. Conversely, how we respond to our circumstances pose many options in the development of who we become as a consequence of our pain. As a result of my family loss, there was birthed within me a yearning to one day have a large family. In fact, I would assume that it was this deep fatherly conviction that led me to pursue graduate studies in the field of marriage and family.
With this as a backdrop, it is no mystery that I grew in love with my then future wife, Karen, as I observed her teaching the children in our church’s family ministry. Once married, we anticipated a large family together, but eventually we received medical guidance that my wife might not be able to have children. In consultation with her doctor, Karen began a series of medications seeking to initiate ovulation. Eventually we got pregnant, but early on, she was rushed into surgery with a tubal pregnancy where her left fallopian tube was removed. With our pregnancy chances reduced in half, Karen still managed to get pregnant three more times, but unfortunately, had two miscarriages and another tubal pregnancy (that did not require surgery). We couldn’t help but to identify with the plights of Sarah, Hannah, and Elizabeth in the Scriptures. It was natural to question our circumstances; were we being punished for past sins? Why was God holding back His blessing? Our dreams and hopes for family were dissolving; disappointment was pervasive. There were many tears and emotional flare-ups throughout our seasons of loss.
Our physician even advised us that most likely, we would not be able to have children and that we should consider adoption. At the time, I was a youth and family pastor and within God’s providence, we were open to this new direction. However, to our surprise, Karen got pregnant again and this time, she went full-term with the birth of our daughter, Shiloh. Two years later, my wife gave birth to our twins, Michael and Julia (named after my sister). Two years after that, we had our youngest daughter, Madalene (named after my mother). At this point, with four children under the age of five, I brought my wife back in to see her doctor and begged him to make her the way she was before.
Psalm 127:1 teaches that, “Children are a gift from God; they are His reward. Children born to a young man are like sharp arrows to defend him. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.” Our quiver was now quivering. Through the ups and downs and sideways twists and turns of life, we have grown in our appreciation of the foresight of God’s grace, forever transforming us to hold fast to His very real presence and promises. We had grown to realize that our hope wasn’t centered in having children, but rather in being His children.