Whether we are grieving through infertility or the loss of a precious baby, along with the grief there is another emotion I came to know well during the six years we waited to bring our first children home from the hospital.
This fear is not the fear for our physical safety. It's not the fear for our lives. It's the fear of brokenness. The fear for our hearts.
The fear of what our futures will look like if we are not allowed to write our own story. If we must learn to live in the life God plans for us. A life that doesn't look anything like what we dreamed of. A life without children of our own. A life in which we are only allowed to raise some, or perhaps none, of our children here on earth. A life of any number of other various trials that are sure to come our way.
At our last GracefulWait meeting we began discussing Hannah's Hope. Jennifer Saake introduces the book by talking about fear in the valleys as we, who face infertility and loss, must take the road less traveled; not by our choosing. She leads her introduction with Psalm 23.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."
-Psalm 23: 1-4
I had some time to meditate on this Psalm further, in preparation for our discussion. A counselor from The Crossing gave me an audio recording of a lecture by Douglas Green, PhD from Westminster on Psalm 23 a few years ago when I was personally struggling with fear. I pulled it out and listened again.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters"
Dr. Green, along with the NIV bible commentary notes that at the beginning of the Psalm the Lord is leading beside quiet waters, he makes me rest in green pastures. He knows what I need, and I have all that I need. I pray not to be a frightened sheep but an obedient follower. I pray for the wisdom and courage to follow the one who will lead me in the right direction. His path is the way to peace and happiness. Anytime I try to create my own path I find discontentment, heartache, pain.
"He restores my soul."
"He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake."
The Lord knows what is best for me, what restores my soul. And he does all this because He promised it to us. Because he loves us. All the goodness he bestows upon us is for his Glory. He is a God that cannot and does not lie, therefor he guides us on the path of righteousness to uphold his glorious name. We can have faith in His promises because of his good name.
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,"
As we near the Valley of the shadow of death the Lord draws closer, no longer leading us, but walking through the Valley with us. In times of fear, danger, sadness, and even actual death, God's promise is to be with us. He does not move us around the Valleys, but walks through them with us, as we retrace Jesus' steps before us.
"For you are with me;"
Here is an excerpt from Jennifer's introduction of Hannah's Hope: "God provided green pastures where my aching soul could draw comfort from the recognition that my loving heavenly Father approved the course before allowing me to take my first step... there was one fork in the road that did require my decision: Would I choose bitterness and self-destruction, or growth and renewed hope?"
While Jennifer does not specifically mention fear here, we know that bitterness and self-destruction are just two of the many manifestations of fear in our lives. Emotions we experience in our darkest valleys. How does the fear of an uncertain future manifest itself in your life today? Where ever you might be in your faith, will you contemplate Jennifer's question for yourself?
"Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life," Psalm 23:8
If we trust in God's promises, including that He gives us everything we need to restore our souls and that he is with us during our fearful trials. If we can become more confident that goodness and love will follow us in life because of our trust in the Lord, in spite of infertility and loss. How does that encourage you in your present circumstances?
I know this trust is hard and it doesn't come overnight. I will share more about my personal struggle with fear & trust during infertility in Part 2 of this post.