As the third of eight children born in my family, it never crossed my mind that having children would be difficult for me. Since my mother was a ‘fertile-myrtle,’ I assumed the same would be true of me. Oh, how wrong I was. When my husband and I decided to start a family, a month went by. Then two. Then three. Then six, eight, and twelve.
I found myself sitting in a doctor’s waiting room surrounded by pregnant women. We’d scheduled an appointment to talk about the thing I couldn’t say out loud without turning into a puddle of tears—infertility. My husband, Josh, and I were launched into the horrible world of fertility treatment. There were so many medications, so many invasive procedures, so many daily shots that my stomach turned into one big bruise. Each hope-filled month ended with the same devastation and crushed dreams.
In the midst of this season of infertility, God gave me an Ebenezer stone moment. We had been walking the road of infertility and treatments for over two years, and I was weary. I had made an early morning trip to the fertility clinic, and the report wasn’t what I had hoped. As I sat in my car waiting for the light to turn green, tears streamed in rivulets down my face. With thoughts and emotions swirling, I started talking at God. I told Him that these fertility treatments had to work. I yelled that I was over it and that it was time to be done with this mess now.
And as only He can do, the Holy Spirit stopped me in my tracks. The words flashed into my mind like a neon sign lighting up in the dark—“even if he doesn’t.” These words are found in the account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3:16-18. The trio refused to bow down to an idol knowing they’d be thrown into the fiery furnace for their refusal. They believed that God could save them. But “even if he doesn’t,” they said, they would remain faithful to Him. They willingly chose to enter the furnace with full confidence in God’s faithfulness in both life and death. If God chose to deliver them from the furnace, He was faithful. But even if He allowed them to perish in the flames, He would faithfully welcome them into His presence.
This moment became a turning point for me in my thoughts and attitude. The Lord lovingly revealed that I was elevating my desire to have children to a form of idolatry within my heart. I was allowing myself to believe that God is good only when He gives me what I want rather than believing that He is fully good. He asked me to lay this desire at his feet and trust him. Would I believe that He was good and faithful even if I did not give birth to a child? Would I trust that His plan is greater and His ways are higher than mine? Would I lay the weaknesses of my own body at His feet and trust Him to work for my good and for His glory? The process of surrender was slow and agonizing. I kicked and fought against Him. But he continued to faithfully draw me to Himself. Over time I came to see the growth these experiences brought.
Two years later, and all fertility treatments had failed. But before we ever got engaged or tried to have biological children, Josh and I both knew that we wanted to adopt. We knew that the Lord had called us to open our home to children in need. We were accepted through an agency that specializes in foster care and adoption. But in the middle of our licensure process, our worker retired and all of our paperwork expired. Waiting, waiting, waiting. God continually placed circumstances in my life that tested my trust in his timing as the waiting dragged on for what felt like an eternity. Our license finally came through. And then a new waiting game began—waiting for our placement.
Within five months we had been matched with a beautiful eleven-month-old baby girl. We were beyond ecstatic! Here was our waiting fulfilled! We started getting everything ready. Almost overnight, a room in our home went from empty to becoming a stocked nursery. Friends and coworkers threw baby showers, and the gifts came pouring in. But then, so fast that it made our heads spin, we lost her. One judge made a decision, and we went from having a daughter to once more being childless. The room that stood in readiness in our home now mocked me with its emptiness. As my heart split in two and sobs shook my whole body, I fell to my knees in a nursery filled with unopened gifts and gripped the rails of an empty crib. And in that moment, even in the midst of this great pain, I placed it in God’s hands. Those words, “even if he doesn’t,” resounded through my mind again.
As I knelt there, I felt a kinship to Abraham who was asked to place Isaac on the altar and trust that God was faithful to provide (Genesis 22:1-19). I felt a kinship to Hannah who stood in the presence of the Lord with a heart so broken that she could not speak verbal words (1 Samuel 1:12-20). I felt a kinship to the apostle Paul who lamented that he felt afflicted utterly beyond his strength, yet placed his trust unswervingly in the power of God who strengthens and upholds (2 Corinthians 1:8-11). Through the pain and longing, I was able to surrender to God knowing that He was still working for my good and His glory. He had something better in store, if not in this life then in the New Jerusalem to come.
One month later, our daughter moved in. The Lord blessed us with a beautiful, blonde-haired, big-eyed almost three-year-old. The waiting lasted for five full years before the Lord saw fit to bring me children and make me a mother. And those difficult years of waiting helped prepare me for the difficult years of attachment disorders, PTSD, trauma, special needs, and the process of becoming a family. Six months after our daughter moved in, we received another call from our social worker. Our daughter had a brother who was living in another foster home and needed a permanent placement. They asked us to consider welcoming him into our home and allowing him and his sister to grow up together. We didn’t hesitate for a moment but joyfully welcomed him into our home and called him our son.
In God’s goodness and kindness, He called me to wait. He called me to lay down my plans on the altar of His sovereign will and purposes. He called me to five long, hard years of waiting to teach me to yearn for His will and ways over and above my own. Though my faithfulness to Him often wavered during those years, His faithfulness toward me remained steadfast (2 Timothy 2:13). Though my heart struggled and wrestled with His timing, He was indeed working all things together for good (Romans 8:28). His plans and purposes were beyond what I could ever think or imagine. I was begging and beseeching the Lord to bring me one child. In His kindness, He gave me two.
I think often of this passage of Scripture:
“And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:2-3).
Though time in the wilderness is long, it is not without purpose. God does not abandon us in the wilderness. Oh, no! He walks with us through it. He stands beside us and prepares the way ahead of us. The wilderness reveals much about our hearts and reveals the idols that have subtly crept in. These wilderness times wrest the idols out of our hearts as we are taught what we would not otherwise see.
God is not unfaithful to us in the wilderness. He uses the wilderness to reveal to us how unfaithful we are and to lead us into greater obedience. The wilderness strips away what we think we need and who we think we are and reveals our greatest need—Christ Himself.
The hunger of the wilderness drives us to the Bread of Life, the Word made flesh, the very image of God incarnate—Jesus. The hunger of the wilderness drives us to the Word where we find an abundance of food for our souls. The hunger of the wilderness drives us to taste and see that the Lord is good and to eat the Words of this book with rejoicing hearts (Psalm 34:8; Jeremiah 15:16).
And when we think about it, our whole lives are spent in the wilderness. We are pilgrims and strangers on this earth, sojourners who are looking forward to the better country that is yet to come (Hebrews 11:13-16). Our entire lives are lived in the wilderness of waiting as we groan under the oppression of sin and long for the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:22-25). Though the kingdom is advancing now through the work of Christ’s bride, we long for the day when the skies will split and His kingdom will fully come. We long for the day when Jesus will descend in power and in glory. We long for the day when He will make the earth anew. We long for the new city, the Holy Jerusalem, where we will dwell in the radiant presence of our Triune God for all eternity (Revelation 21).
But until that day, we wait. We walk through the wilderness knowing that God the Father has made us His own, the power of the Holy Spirit indwells us, and Christ walks before and with us. We wait in confidence and hope, knowing that a day is coming when all waiting will be over and all longings will be ultimately fulfilled. As we are called to lay down our plans and desires in surrender to the One who is worthy of all worship, our hearts should be drawn toward that day.
So take courage in your waiting today, sweet friend, whatever that waiting might be. The lyrics of one of my favorite songs go like this: “You are working in our waiting, sanctifying us; when beyond our understanding, you’re teaching us to trust” (Aaron Keyes, Sovereign Over Us). He is working in your waiting. He is working all things together for your good and for His glory. Don’t lose heart. Press on with hope knowing that the best is yet to come.
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