Sitting in the pews of every church are men and women struggling with the excruciating pain of childlessness. For some, it might be infertility, trying month after month to get pregnant with no success. For others, it might be miscarriage, the death of an anticipated little one that’s left them heartbroken.
Regardless of the particular circumstances, childlessness can be one of the most difficult and devastating trials that somebody can experience.
Living in the nightmare of infertility cuts to the core of the way humanity was designed. One of the first charges the Lord gave Adam and Eve was to be fruitful and multiply. When a couple struggles to bear babies, they can quickly feel guilt and shame over their inability to fulfill that most basic command.
I’m all too familiar with the ache to be a mother, but natural motherhood won’t come. With a tear-stained face, I’ve entered into the greatest wrestling match of my life with the Lord. God, I don’t understand! Why have you placed this longing on my heart, only to leave me with an unfulfilled desire? Over the years, I’ve shared the cries of my heart with close friends and trusted companions in my church, and they’ve helped me walk through my sorrow.
The church should be the safest place on earth for those struggling with infertility.
The church should be the safest place on earth for those struggling with infertility. A place where people feel cared for, heard, understood, and loved. Below are four suggestions for pastors, elders, and church members to ensure that your church is that kind of place for the childless.
1. Remind People that Grief Can Be Godly
Those grieving childlessness are grieving a dream deferred. As Proverbs 13:12 says, a hope deferred makes the heart sick.
So come alongside the childless and grieve with them. Remind them it’s okay to feel the hurt, pain, and loss. They don’t have to quickly “get over” their sorrow, for they have a Savior who’s well acquainted with grief and is himself a man of sorrows (Isa. 53:3). Encourage them to press their grief into the arms of the Beloved, who knows their pain.
2. Preach Sermons on the Bible’s Childless Characters
Pastors, make it a point to regularly incorporate the childless into sermons. The Bible you’re called to preach is full of women who struggled with the longing to be a mother (e.g., Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth).
So dive into these passages and proclaim gospel-centered sermons that will encourage weary souls going through those same experiences.
3. Pray for—and with—the Childless
David was bold in his prayers. He knew where to take his questions, grief, pain, and longings—straight to the heart of his Father. Prayer should be the first thing Christians do with and for the childless, and we should pray like David. He wasn’t afraid of sharing exactly what was on his mind and heart. In Psalm 13, he bluntly asks God how long he’ll have to suffer. David felt forgotten, and he bent the ear of heaven in his sorrow and frustration:
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? (Ps. 13:1–2)
Hannah, a woman who intimately knew the pain of infertility, wasn’t shy to bring her tears before the Lord either. Scripture says she was “deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly.” Hannah’s prayers were so fervent, in fact, that Eli the priest thought she was drunk.
May we take seriously the charge to weep with those who weep, and may we come alongside the suffering with bold, honest prayers to the Lord. Never underestimate the power of prayer.
4. Point Their Eyes to the Lord
The most important thing a congregation can do is redirect the gaze of the childless to Christ, but Christians can unintentionally do this in a callous way. Don’t point them to the Lord to make yourself feel more comfortable. Don’t swoop in and slap Bible verses on their suffering. Yes, the Word of God is inerrant and sufficient, but it shouldn’t be wielded as a quick fix.
Don’t swoop in and slap Bible verses on suffering. Yes, the Word of God is inerrant and sufficient, but it shouldn’t be wielded as a quick fix.
Instead, give them room to grieve the loss of their dream or the loss of their baby. Learn to sit with someone in their grief and gently point their eyes to the Lord in the midst of their trial. One of the most comforting verses in the Bible is Revelation 21:4, where the Lord promises to wipe away every tear from our eyes. Until that day, remember that he is present as each tear falls. Suffering is inevitable while we live in a fallen world, but may we strive so that no one suffers alone.