fearfully and wonderfully barren

For a long time, I didn’t believe God loved all of me. I knew He loved me because He had sent Jesus to die for me, but I thought He couldn’t love the part of me that was still broken, the part of me that was marred by sin. I pictured Him looking down from heaven, watching me go about my day, and every once in awhile, a disappointed look would cross His face. He would turn away, thinking, I wish Anna could have kids.

I was utterly convinced that my infertility disappointed God. After all, I wasn’t able to do the primary thing He had designed women to do: bear children. Here are some verses that informed this conclusion:

“God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.’” Genesis 1:28

“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.” Psalm 127:3

“Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.” Proverbs 31:28

So God had made it pretty clear: He created women to have kids. I thought it was safe for me to assume that since I could not have children, I had failed God. And this wasn’t the kind of failure that comes with sinning, you know, the kind you can repent from and eventually, maybe not do again. This was the kind of failure I was stuck with.

Suffering is strange, because it exists because of sin, but many times not because of your own sin. So it’s just there, reminding you that you are broken and God is perfect, and if He doesn’t choose to heal you, you’ll be a walking disappointment for the rest of your life. This was a pretty awful place to be in.

At one point while wrestling through all of this, I came across Psalm 139:13-16.

“For you formed my inward parts;
   you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
   my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
   intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
   the days that were formed for me,
   when as yet there was none of them.”

You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. This was the phrase that changed everything for me. It meant God was not surprised when my puberty stopped at 14. Or when I went through menopausal symptoms at 27. Or when I could not get pregnant. God was not surprised because He was the one who had put only a handful of eggs in my womb. God was the one behind the whole thing. When God was knitting me together in my mother’s womb, He was knitting a barren womb for me.

I can picture it. God knitting me together inside my mom, cell by cell, DNA strand by DNA strand, making decisions about my hair and eye color, my height and weight, my IQ and personality, and my ability to bear children. As He was doing so, He was working with the stuff of this planet, with molecules marred by sin, with matter tainted by the fall. But as He was doing it, I am convinced He was thinking, “She will be barren, and I will delight in her. These two things will go hand in hand.”

Some might read this and think, “How can you say God planned your barrenness? Doesn’t that make God evil? It’s better to believe God didn’t know this would happen to you than to believe He had something to do with.” But how can we reconcile that with the Scriptures?

““For you formed my inward parts;
   you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” (v.13)

“My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
   intricately woven in the depths of the earth.” (v. 15)

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
   the days that were formed for me.” (v. 16)

God is not surprised by the terrible thing that is my barrenness. As we read more of Scripture, we repeatedly see that nothing exists outside of God’s control, not even evil. (Isaiah 45:7, Lam. 3:38) And if nothing can exist outside of God’s control, then my infertility must exist inside of God’s control. To have even the terrible exist within God’s scope – now that is a comforting thought!

So what Psalm 139 shows me is that God could have stopped my infertility, but He didn’t. More than that, God established a purpose in my infertility, and because God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5), that purpose must be a good one (Romans 8:28).

For many years I thought God wanted nothing to do with my infertility as an adult, because I believed He had nothing to do with it from the beginning. I was wrong. God was part of my infertility before I was born, and He certainly is part of it now. There is no part of me that God does not love. He loves the suffering parts and the sinful parts, and He never turns His back on me.

After all, God already turned His gaze away from His Son Jesus, thousands of years ago, once and for all. (Matthew 27:46) This means as I go about my day God is not looking down at me disappointed. Instead, He walks with me, delights in me, and sees me as somehow both barren and beautiful, as somehow both broken and whole.

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