How Do We Find Peace in the Pain of Infertility?
By Whitney Akin
Hear Him Louder Essay Series: Whitney's Story
My first experience with real suffering was when I was 23.
The years leading up to this point were unusually idyllic – I had a lovely childhood, good parents, big dreams. I assumed this pleasant trajectory would continue as my high-school-sweetheart-turned-husband and I decided to start a family. But I was wrong.
Like a storm cloud brewing over a white picket fence, my life soon became shadowed in sorrow. After nine months of hoping for a positive pregnancy test, I knew something was wrong. After 12 months, I had an official diagnosis: I was infertile. Barren. Empty.
I knew what I wanted. I wanted sweet, little outfits and soft blankets, first day of school pictures and Halloween costumes, field trips, school plays, birthdays, and Christmas mornings. Whatever it took, that’s what we’d do. The road was long, unsure, and painful. There would need to be hormone treatments and routine medications, tests and specialists, surgery and charting each detail of a body I never paid that much attention to.
My prayers began to hinge on Hannah’s prayer from 1 Samuel; I adopted it as my own. Every day, I desperately whispered her words in a thousand little prayers: “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him,” (1 Samuel 1:27, ESV).
I expected God would bless me as He did Hannah. I thought, if I asked Him enough, fervently enough, this prayer would be granted.
But God didn’t answer my prayer with a baby. Instead He gave me a question.
As real as an audible voice, this string of words entered my thoughts: What if I don’t?
When I tried to reject it, he repeated it: What if I don’t?
At first, I was angry. Why would God answer me with a question? Why would He answer me with that question? As it continued to echo in my mind and challenge my prayers, my heart softened. I considered the reality, the weight of the words.
Would life have purpose? How would I mark the passing of time, the seasons, the years, without someone to celebrate? Was there fulfillment apart from my longing for a child? I knew there should be. But in the quiet moments when my eyes poured tears and my soul felt numb, I wasn’t sure if there could be.
But I am a Christian. I knew that Jesus was enough. Why wasn’t He enough for my infertility?
I began to add in another prayer, one spoken in desperation by David in Psalm 51: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation,” (Psalm 51:12, ESV).
As I prayed this prayer over weeks, then months, things began to change in me. I started to experience a growth in my heart, even as my womb lay empty.
I felt peace, truly indescribable peace, even in my grief. I don’t know how to write what I experienced except to say it held me up from the darkness that threatened to overwhelm me. I felt comfort so tangible I could breathe, feeling as if the Father’s arms wrapped around me as I curled into the fetal position, too sad to get out of bed. I felt faith, a supernatural strength to dare to believe that the road ahead of me could still have hope. I began to feel fulfilled in the middle of my greatest suffering.
The only explanation I had was Jesus.
As a question begs for an answer, I knew I must give one to His words repeating in my mind when He asked, What if I don’t?
My answer came as a moment of surrender, one that rippled through the rest of my life, one that understood, finally, that in His sovereignty, sorrow and joy aren’t opposites but complements. I told God, “If you never give me children, You are still good.”
To type these letters here makes it seem so small, so easy.
But surrendering my greatest dream to God was the most difficult thing I had ever done. He grew me in ways I didn’t know I needed, all because he whispered a question to my hurting heart.
This story is about God meeting me in my pain. It's a story about seeing His heart and experiencing His comfort. It's a story about hearing Him in a raw, unexpected moment with an even more unexpected question. This story is about how God changed my heart to find fulfillment in a place I never wanted to be. This story is about surrending to His sovereignty in the middle of my suffering.
It's the story of a miracle I didn't know I was praying for.
If you look at my Instagram page today, you’ll quickly see that our infertility story shifted to the miraculous conception of our child. In His crazy grace, I got pregnant with my daughter not long after I finally, truly surrendered to Him. Her conception and birth was another miracle, one I am forever grateful for.
There is a joy and a sadness that mingle when you have a child after infertility. A joy that you have your baby, and a sadness over knowing the heartbreak of so many that still don't. I don’t know why God chose to unfold our story one way, while so many others unfold in different ways. I don't believe my daughter is a result of my surrender – God doesn't make us earn our miracles. And the truth is, we can't, even if we try.
But I do believe God let my suffering draw me closer to His heart. He used my surrender to reveal the satisfaction of His love. He moved my heart to a place in our childless family that I knew without a doubt, even in that, He is still good. Friend, I pray that He meets you and speaks questions to your heart that move you to His peace, too.
Photo credit: Allef Vinicius.
The Hear Him Louder Essay Series is a guest writer series where God's daughters share their stories of hearing God’s whispers in their every day. It’s meant to serve as an encouragement for the times when God feels far and seems quiet. When we read each other’s stories of how He meets us, it reminds and reassures us that He is near. May this series be an invitation for us to listen for His voice together.
Don't miss any posts in this series! Subscribe to receive notifications for each new essay, posted every other Thursday. When you subscribe, you'll receive a link to a FREE five-day devotional (45 beautiful pages!) called, “Closer: Five Days to Hearing God Louder.” Each day features teaching on one posture and a guided journaling section to help us practice taking steps toward hearing God louder in our every day.
Learn more about each of these five postures:
1 | Seek: If I Seek God, Will I Really Find Him?
2 | Know: Will God Speak, Even to Me?
3 | Expect: Can I Expect to Hear God?
4 | Listen: How Do I Listen for God?
5 | Connect: Is God Really Right Here?
New to this series? Check out the rest of the series!
Interested in contributing to the Hear Him Louder Essay Series? The call for submissions opens in January and June. To submit an essay outside of those windows, contact me.
Whitney Akin is a writer, speaker, wife, and mom. Her heart is to help women who feel overlooked live seen by the God who loves them. Although she is a shy introvert, God continues to humble Whitney by using her weaknesses to draw people to himself, whether she’s on a stage, posting on social media, or simply caring for her family.
Whitney is passionate about using her writing and speaking to teach the truth of God’s word and encourage women to draw closer to Jesus. You can find Whitney on Instagram (@whitneyakin), on Facebook and at www.whitneyakin.com.