When the symptoms of perimenopause began in my mid-40s, I researched the impending change to my body. I pored over articles and blog posts. I listened intently at gatherings of women as friends and coworkers talked of their menopausal experiences.
The information, whether secular or Christian, generally fell into two camps. One group celebrated the end of monthly periods and the sexual freedom that came from no longer having to fear unplanned pregnancy. The other group grieved their perceived loss of femininity and their emptying nests, as menopause hit when their children were entering high school or college and moving on.
In the thousands of words I absorbed, I never once saw a reference to single women.
I am 58 years old, never married, and childless. Information about menopause presumes a woman is sexually active and, if she is a believer, married. But menopause occurs by virtue of biology and gender, not according to marital status.
Menopause Feels Like Death
While single women may experience the same physical symptoms such as mood swings, brain fog, and hot flashes, there’s an emotional and spiritual component unique to us. At menopause, a woman’s fertility ceases. She will never have any more biological children. For women like me, we will never have any children. Since there is no marriage or childbearing in the next life (Matt. 22:30), that never is really never ever. Not for all eternity.
No one really knows what the new heaven and the new earth will look like, though God’s Word gives us hints. To be honest, though, because many of the examples relate to marriage and childbirth, I’m often puzzled and feel left out. Psalm 113:9 says, “He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children”—but I don’t know if I’m barren. I’ve never had opportunity to find out.
In Romans 8:22 Paul describes the deliverance from present trials to coming glory using a childbirth metaphor. Men who’ve witnessed the birth of their children have a better understanding of this verse than I do.
“Heaven is not the absence of longing but its fulfillment,” Randy Alcorn writes. “Heaven is not the absence of itches; it is the satisfying scratch for every itch.” But the Bible explicitly says the very thing I long for—marriage and children—will not exist in heaven. So, I’m confused. Just how will that itch be scratched?
Walking this particular portion of the valley of the shadow of death is a little darker for me. I keep tripping.
Menopause Births Hope
But I’m not the only one mystified by the ways of God. After the death of Lazarus, Martha meets Jesus and tells him that, had he come before Lazarus died, he could have healed him. She also affirms that, despite her brother’s death, she still believes Jesus has God’s ear.
“Your brother will rise again,” Jesus tells her (John 11:23). He’s speaking in definite terms, making a promise. A promise Martha does not doubt. She answers, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (John 11:24).
Martha had knowledge. She had faith. Nonetheless, she was wrong—or maybe her knowledge was just incomplete. Jesus didn’t wait until the last day to reunite her with Lazarus. He raised him from the dead almost immediately. Based on her knowledge and understanding, Martha expected one outcome; Jesus had something different and far better than she could imagine.
I grieve the loss of something I’ve never had, and it is genuine, valid grief. But I don’t grieve as one without hope. In fact, through the grieving process, my hope in the promise of the gospel has been refined and expanded.
As the expectation of marriage has dimmed, the promise of Jesus as my Bridegroom has grown clearer. As the prospect of ever bearing children ceased, his promise—“For the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous than the sons of the married woman” (Isa. 54:1)—rings truer.
Like Martha, I had my own idea of how the desires of my heart would turn out. The God of all goodness had different plans. My longing remains, but because of his faithfulness in the past and present, I know his purposes will be far better than I ever imagined.
As I endured night sweats and mood swings, knowing that my fertility was dying within me, I was renewed in hope. In the next life, I’m confident I’ll see that my empty ring finger and empty womb will not have been for nothing.