This guest post is part of the Good Ways blog series, a collection of stories and practices for finding God in hardship.
We all grow up envisioning what our lives will look like in the years to come. We fantasize and create expectations of what life will be like. But what happens when our plan is not God’s plan? What happens when the deepest desires of our hearts are not met?
Four years ago, my husband, Seth, and I decided to set out on the journey to grow our family. We eagerly anticipated decorating a nursery, cuddling with our baby, and creating traditions with our kids. These were all things we hoped and anticipated God had in store for us, but we could not have predicted the adventure he would take us on. After over a year of trying it was clear that this journey would not be as easy as we had hoped. The darkness began to set in. Questions began to fill our hearts. Simply facing the facts and scheduling an appointment with a fertility specialist was an act of surrender. But as we began testing and met with the doctor, a new hope began to sprout. It didn’t last long.
As each cycle of treatment failed, the darkness settled and began to choke out any hope. We confided in family and a few close friends, which slightly eased the pain, at least for a time. But the disappointment at the end of each cycle sank deeper with every passing month. Baby announcements and baby showers turned into monthly photo updates, which turned into yearly photo updates—each one marking the time in which we were still waiting. Mother’s days passed, each year yet another reminder that I was still not a mother. We began to feel isolated. While we had friends who had similar experiences, no one we knew had endured it so long, and all had come out on the other side with a baby in their arms.
And yet, I knew that God would be faithful. He has been faithful through all generations, why would he stop now? It was in those darkest moments I had to combat the lies of the enemy with the truths of my Father.
“You’re all alone.”
“I will never leave you or forsake you, when you pass through the waters, I will be with you, when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.”
“You’re not strong enough for this.”
“I am the strength of your life, you are more than a conqueror through my son.”
“Your life won’t be fulfilling unless you have a child.”
“I am more than enough for you.”
“All of this is in vain.”
“I work all things for the good of those who love me.”
It was in working through these truths that I found my way in the dark. Jesus came before and was walking with me still. I wasn’t strong enough for it, but God was. I am not defined by my lack of children; I am enough, just as I am. I didn’t have to wait until it was over, God would begin redeeming it right then. It was the perspective that by going through this, I now had something to offer others who are or will be hurting in the same way. This was the light that began to guide me out of the dark.
I started a journal. I wrote the details of our journey, emotions, prayers, and questions. But all too often, I couldn’t find the right words. In those moments I turned to the words of others. I opened the scriptures. I listened to lyrics. In the words of other believers who have gone before me, I found the cry of my heart. So I made their words mine, writing and illustrating the words and feelings I was experiencing. It relieved the pressure to come up with the right words. It allowed me the freedom to simply be in that moment.
But the journal wasn’t for me. It was meant to be shared, to allow other young women going through infertility to know they are not alone in the feelings and questions they have. To share the poems, scripture, and lyrics that brought peace and hope. While I haven’t had the opportunity to share the whole thing with someone yet, I have shared pages or excerpts from it. Even that has proven to be rewarding. Although this journal was certainly an extension of myself and the grief I felt, it took the focus off me. It gave my pain purpose. It gave me hope. If through this I could ease the pain of other women walking the same path, it was worth going through.
Too often when going through trials we become completely self-focused. But when we can’t see beyond our situation, we miss out on where God is working in the midst of it. So don’t ignore the pain, but embrace it, and move forward through it. As of today, we still don’t have a baby in our arms. Your circumstances may never change, but your heart will. His story is far better than whatever we have imagined for ourselves. Allow the story God is writing for your life to transform you and extend the offer of transformation to others. It will be worth it.
So when you find yourself lost in the dark, consider journaling for those who will come after you. Someday, another will be walking the path you are, in search of the right words. Your journal may be just what they need. You might even find that in writing it, it is exactly what you need.
What do you include in the journal?
- Thoughts and emotions
- Anything that has brought you hope
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
[2 Corinthians 1:3-4]
Nicole Dunham lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband Seth. She works with the Women’s Ministry at Church at Charlotte and as an athletic trainer for Novant Health. She spends her time keeping their two huskies out of trouble and volunteering with the high school ministry. A recent transplant from Colorado, she is still trying to find the mountains people are talking about but loves camping and exploring the Appalachian Hills.