Assisted reproductive technology (ART) offers hope for couples dealing with the pain of infertility. But ART sometimes fails. It does not always work for every couple. Some such technologies are problematic for the Christian because of moral and spiritual problems inherent in them. Infertile couples need a hope that transcends ART and one that will not fail.
Such hope can be found only in the risen Jesus and the promises that find their “yes” in Him. But first it is important to look at what God does not promise. There is nothing in Scripture that declares that having children is a right granted to couples. Children are a gift from God, an “inheritance” (Psalms 127:3). No one has a right to an inheritance. The granting of an inheritance is according to the will and goodness of the giver.
God is the giver of life (Job 12:10). God is the one who opens and closes wombs (Genesis 20:18, 29:31). He does so according to His express purpose. For example, Sarai’s womb was closed to emphasize that Isaac was a child of promise (Galatians 4:27-28). Elizabeth’s womb was closed to show the importance and significance of John the Baptist. Christian couples should never feel that infertility is the result of being punished for some specific sin. That is not how God relates to His people in Christ. He has taken the curse of sin and placed it on His Son (Galatians 3:13). He was punished in our place (Isaiah 53:5). Infertility is the result of sin in general. Our bodies are not the perfect bodies God intended us to have. They are subject to disease and imperfections. Certainly infertility can be the consequence of bad choices, but most often it is due to circumstances over which couples have little control.
Thus, as painful as infertility is, there is no promise that even Christian couples are somehow entitled to conceive and bear their own child. Nor are they free as Christians to pursue reproductive technologies or treatments that are outside the parameters of the one-flesh union of husband and wife or those that involve the inherent destruction of life in order to achieve a pregnancy. Sometimes Christian couples are called upon to accept their infertility, not as chastisement from God, but as an opportunity to strengthen their faith and be a witness to others to trust in the Lord of Life.
This is where the true and unfailing promises of God are so important. The one we turn to frequently is Romans 8:28 (GOD’S WORD): “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God—those whom he has called according to his plan.” Sometimes, however, we fail to see the significance of the last phrase, “according to his plan.” In spite of sin and imperfection, God’s plans are always carried out for His people (Jeremiah 29:11). A plan God has for an infertile couple, for example, might very well be that He has in mind a child for them to parent through adoption.
Another hope-filled promise is found in Proverbs 3:5-6 (GOD’S WORD): “Trust the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths smooth.” Human understanding is not enough when dealing with childlessness. It is hard to understand. Hearts are heavy and the questions are many. Leaning too heavily on our own understanding can either lead to hopelessness or to paths for remedy that may not be God-pleasing. Abram and Sarai, for example, tried to deal with their infertility by having Abram impregnate Sarai’s handmaid, Hagar. This was not the path God had chosen, and it only led to bitterness and constant strife. Real hope is found in trusting that God knows the journey He wants us on and will direct our steps (Proverbs 16:9). I remember a childless couple in my former congregation. The path God laid out for them was that they became “mother and father” and spiritual mentors to hundreds of children as they taught Sunday school for a combined total of 85 years!
A final and foundational promise from 1 John 4:9 (GOD’S WORD): “God has shown us his love by sending his only Son into the world so that we could have life through him.” Infertile Christian couples are going to have all kinds of doubts and fears. But one thing they need not doubt is the love of God. One thing they need not fear is being forsaken by Him. The assurance of God’s love is not determined by the blessings that He gives or withholds. The assurance of God’s love is in the cross where He “purchased and won” us. The assurance of God’s presence is in the empty tomb. A risen Savior is a present Savior. People who are loved by God, people with whom God is constantly present, are never without hope!
This article was adapted from commentary in GOD’S WORD for Life. Find out more on page 15 and order copies for yourself, your pastor, or a favorite teacher or student!