Monday, May 07, 2007

Mother's Day Survival and "Is God Punishing Me?"

As we count down this last week before Mother's Day, my heart is keenly aware of what a painful season May and June can be for men and women longing to hold their children. Praying God's comfort for each grieving heart.

On the Hannah's Prayer Community Forums I am posting monthly devotionals based on various chapters of Hannah's Hope. Here's the third in this series.

The following is copyrighted material and has been adapted from "Is God Punishing Me?" chapter three of Hannah's Hope: Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, & Adoption Loss by Jennifer Saake, NavPress, 2005. Please do not duplicate without permission. You may read a portion of this book here.

Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord...
1 Samuel 1:3 (NIV)

Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and other landmarks can be such painful reminders of the ticking of our biological clocks. Day like Mother's Day cause us to question God's plans as we struggle to figure out why God's withholding the desires of our hearts. If God promised that none of his people would miscarry or be barren (Exodus 23:26), is infertility a punishment for our sins?

While some see a simple cause/effect here (you sin, you can't have kids), under Old Testament law, both the promise and the punishment were corporate. God promised the nation of Israel, as a whole, protection, as a whole, when they obeyed His laws. When they, as a nation, turned their backs on Him as they had in Hannah's day, His veil of protection was lifted from their entire nation. Is our nation (with legalized abortion, homosexual marriage...) any more just today???

If sin = infertility, no one would be able to have children ever! A quick look around at children born out of wedlock, into abusive homes and more, is proof that this equation doesn't work. In fact, the Bible is clear that we all sin (Romans 3:23), and yet children are born continually. If you are living under a burden a guilt that your empty arms are a punishment from God, it's time to be free from the burden of false guilt and blame! In the natural course of a fallen, sinful world outside of God's protection, there will always be sad and sorrowful things that happen in this life.

Consider Job: "This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil" (Job 1:1). So God rewarded Job's faithfulness by giving him a life free from suffering, right? Anything but! God allowed Satan to take everything from Job, including the lives of his children, his great wealth, his health, and even the understanding of friends. "In all this, Job did not sin" (2:10). (NIV)

We see another example of grief without blame in the gospel of Luke:
In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.
- Luke 1:5-7, (emphasis added)

"Well, that's nice for Hannah, Job, Beth and Zac," you may think, "but I still know God must be judging me for my sins." But God says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Paul, once a murderer and more, wrote, "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life" (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

No sin is too big. If you have admitted your past to God and repented, He has already offered His forgiveness, and He desires to wash you clean of guilt. Will you accept? If the God of all the universe has forgiven you and yet you will not forgive yourself, is this not insulting our sovereign God? Forgiveness must be accepted to be of any benefit!

Infertility hurts this much because you already have a mother's heart. God knows about grieving for children in a very personal way too. He has gone to greater measures to make you His child than you will ever go in the pursuit of growing your own family. I like to paraphrase John 3:16 this way: "For God so longed to call me His child, that He offered the life of His only biological Child, to pay the price of my adoption."

Thoughts to ponder:
The Law that bound Hannah was established for the purpose of showing us that God's measure of perfect holiness is a standard too high for any human to obtain. Praise God for His grace and the gift of salvation!
Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.
- Galatians 3:23-25 (NIV)

Dear Lord, in this coming week as the world celebrates those who have what we most long for, please make yourself real to us, reminding us that our empty arms are not a curse, and that your loving Father's heart grieves with us. Hold us and comfort us as we grieve and give us grace, strength and peace to sustain us through especially painful days.

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