Infertility feels like a curse when you’re going through it.
It is painful and secretive, and so many (women and men) bear the pain without saying a word. At least, that’s how I felt.
I watched friends, acquaintances, and family have children with seemingly no trouble, while my infertility just stretched on for years, eating away at me like a disease. It was all I could think about, and I wondered what was wrong with me.
I was bitter, angry, sad—and I felt guilty for feeling all those things. I believe in God, so I’m supposed to be filled with joy at all times, right? Aren’t I supposed to go through my life happy as a little clam, knowing God has it all in control?
Instead, I wrestled with my faith. If God loves me, why didn’t he give me the baby I so desperately wanted? Wasn’t I a good person? Wouldn’t I be a good mother? Had I done something wrong? Was God punishing me? You may not believe in God, but maybe you’ve had some of the same questions.
I struggled mightily with my grief. God felt distant to me, and so I did what I usually do when I’m struggling to feel God in my life. I prayed and started searching the Bible for answers.
Infertility is actually a common theme in the Bible, and the stories are crazy. One of the stories is about a woman named Sarah, who eventually becomes the mother of the entire Jewish nation at 90 years old. Rebecca, daughter-in-law of Sarah who prayed for a child for 20 years, and Rachel, whose eventual son is Joseph (of technicolor coat fame). And that’s just the first few women of the Bible we learn about. This tells us a couple of things: even in biblical times, infertility was a problem, and even important people of faith struggled.
One of the stories I read was about a woman named Hannah. Interestingly, Hannah’s story follows the story of Ruth, another strong woman in the Bible. We learn that Hannah is married to a man named Elkanah. Elk has another wife, who has lots of children—and this lady is RUDE. She likes to rub it in Hannah’s face that she has no children, even though she desperately wants them.
Every year, this blended family travels to the temple to thank God for his blessings—And every year, Hannah mourns that her blessings do not include the children she desperately wants. There’s a line in one of the translations that I just love. It says that Hannah “…was in bitterness of soul.”
I knew exactly how she was feeling. How many times did I feel bitter of soul when yet another friend announced they were expecting? How many times did I see a negative pregnancy test and feel the sting?
But here’s the thing about Hannah—as sad as she was, she still went to God and prayed. She wept so intensely that the priest, Eli, thought she was drunk. (Crying so hard you look like a drunk? Also, same.) She poured out her heart to God AND to the priest. Then the priest tells her that God has heard her prayers.
Then they worship and go home—and guess what? Hannah gets pregnant, and she has a son. She names him Samuel and dedicates him to God in gratitude. Samuel ends up being so important to God’s story that he ends up with books in the Bible named after him.
Here’s what I take from Hannah’s story and those other Bible ladies:
1. Infertility is common. It is not a curse (though it sure feels that way). Infertility is not a punishment for something you did or proof that you shouldn’t have children. The women in the Bible are never at fault for their infertility. They are loved by their husbands and by God and shown as heroes even without children. They were faithful.
2. Seeking God about it is good. Every one of the women in the Bible who struggled with infertility did something about it. They prayed, they talked to priests, they told people. While not all of them ended up with children, God used them. Many of them did have babies and their children were incredibly important to God’s story. Many of them are literally of the same line that eventually brought Jesus to the world later on. (Check out the fancy genealogies before the Christmas story that people skip over). Asking for and desiring children is GOOD.
3. God listened to their prayers and sorrow. I wish I could promise you that if you pray for God to bless you, the children you desperately want will appear. But I can promise that God listens. And I can tell you that God cares.
4. God is not upset by your grief. No one tells Hannah to just be happy or relax. No one criticizes her for her deep sorrow. She is allowed to process through her pain, and to ask for it to be changed. What’s unique, however, is that Hannah also finds a way to praise God in the midst of her weeping. She isn’t afraid to talk to Him and ask for the things she wants.
I wish I had all the answers for you, just as I wish I’d had them for myself. Infertility is ugly and awful, and there’s just nothing that anyone can say or do to change that. But I hope you take comfort, like I did, in the fact that you are not alone and that you’re allowed to do something about it. Infertility is not a curse to be silently carried. Let God into this suffering with you. He will listen.