While I’ve enjoyed celebrating my loving and devoted mom over the years, I can recall Mother’s Day celebrations that were sad and disappointing. In God’s kindness and according to His divine schedule, my husband, Rob, and I now have three biological children. But prior to having kids, as a married woman with a desire for children, there was a season where Mother’s Day served as an unwelcome reminder of my infertility.
Even though millions of women around the world suffer with infertility, I often felt alone in what I viewed as the failure of my body to get pregnant. I questioned myself. What is wrong with me? Would I not be a good enough mom? I questioned God. Did I do something wrong and that’s why I’m not getting pregnant?
For any woman reading this who is struggling with infertility, who is perhaps questioning herself or God, I want to encourage you today. It’s my prayer that you will be blessed and filled with hope as I share about some of my experiences and through taking a look into God’s Word.
For some who are walking through infertility today, God will give you biological children. For others, He may make you the spiritual mother of many children or give you children through the gift of adoption. No matter what God has planned for your family, you can trust in His faithfulness and that His plans are ultimately for your welfare (Lam. 3:23; Jer. 29:11).
Infertility in the Bible
There are quite a few remarkable women in the Bible who walked through seasons of infertility. We read about Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth who had difficulty getting pregnant—and to whom God eventually gave children. We also read about women like Michal, David’s wife, who remained barren. While each of these women of the Bible are worth studying, the stories of Elizabeth and Hannah have become especially dear to me.
You may recall that Elizabeth and Zechariah had no offspring until they were both very old. In fact, Luke 1:6–7 says,
And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
While both Elizabeth and Zechariah were “righteous before God” and walked “blamelessly” in not just some but all of the “commandments and statutes of the Lord,” they struggled with infertility. While it’s possible Elizabeth may have questioned God or herself, she didn’t turn her back on God. She continued to walk righteously with Him and lived according to His ways.
This couple lived in the midst of an honor-versus-shame society where barrenness was disgraceful and thought to be a “sign of divine punishment.” However, we see from these verses that they were not being punished. Looking back at Elizabeth’s story, we can see God kept Elizabeth barren so that her son, John the Baptist, was born according to His perfect timing, as the forerunner of Jesus Christ.
While waiting for God to answer my prayers for a baby, I often felt like Elizabeth, in that I was becoming “advanced in years” and reminded God of that fact often (as if it was news to Him!). As I look in the rearview mirror at our story, what made our seasons of infertility so challenging was that each pregnancy was preceded by years of waiting. In total, we waited almost ten years for our children, as it took us almost three years to get pregnant with Ellyana, three years for Serena, and four years for Samuel.
I recently heard Christian author Lysa TerKeurst say something I found very comforting. She said, “God loves me too much to answer my prayers at any other time than the right time and in any other way than the right way.” If God has not answered your prayers for a baby, it could be that He is waiting for just the right time to grant your request. While we may not always understand God’s timing, we can trust that our loving Father sees us and knows what is best for us (Prov. 3:5–6; Eccl. 3:1).
If you’ve asked God “how long?” with regard to your infertility, I know how you feel. I’m willing to guess that our sister Elizabeth knows, too. I want to encourage you to trust His timing and His ways above our own. No matter what we might be waiting for today, may our attitude be the same as David who said in Psalm 27:13–14, “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!”
In 1 Samuel 1, we read that God had closed Hannah’s womb (v. 5). As a result of being provoked and irritated by her rival, Peninnah, Hannah “was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly” (v. 10). She was “troubled in spirit” and had “great anxiety and vexation” (vv. 15–16). Biblical scholars describe her condition as “troubled, downhearted, or distressed.”
One day, while Hannah was praying at the entrance to the temple, she met Eli, who was a priest. Eli encouraged her by saying, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him” (v. 17). As a result, Hannah was no longer sad and rose to worship the Lord. “The LORD remembered her.And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, ‘I have asked for him from the LORD’” (1 Sam 1:19–20).
During my most recent season of infertility, I could relate to Hannah in a few ways. I prayed fervently as Hannah did. In addition, I didn’t just weep bitterly but my heart became bitter. While I don’t like to admit it, I was harboring feelings of anger and bitterness toward God and others in my life.
As the Holy Spirit gently revealed the bitter roots that had sprouted up in my heart, I confessed them to God. I admitted that I thought His timing seemed very late in my estimation. I told Him I was having trouble understating why we had to struggle for so long.
With regard to my bitterness toward others, I prayed God would remove it and that He would replace my negative emotions with His love. I asked Him to help me love others as He has loved me and to give me eyes to see each person as He sees them. Not as an annoyance or source of aggravation but as a fellow image-bearer of God who was worthy of my love and attention.
Being honest with God, confessing my bitterness, and choosing to let go of my anger was liberating. As a result, I began to see more evidence of His grace at work in my heart and I felt less anxious and more filled with His peace. It was and is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that any of us can be kind, tender, and forgiving, just “as God in Christ forgave” us (Eph. 4:32).
My Encouragement to You
If you’re feeling alone, depressed, unseen, or disappointed by the fact that another Mother’s Day has passed without having a child, I know how you feel. I am sorry for your pain and suffering. Here are a few practical suggestions that may help you or that you can use to encourage others with who are walking this path.
Keep praying. Jesus encouraged us to always pray and to “not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). Keep asking, seeking, and knocking (Matt. 7:7). If the desire of your heart is for a baby, keep praying for one until you hear otherwise. I don’t know if God will give you biological children, but I do know that He is sovereign, He can be trusted, He loves you, and His ways are always best.
I would also suggest that you recruit a prayer team. This is something I did with our last round of infertility, and I wish I had done it sooner. Having a handful of trusted women who will pray with and for you will strengthen your faith when it is weak and will encourage you when hope seems lost. If you would like for me to be on your fertility prayer team, please send me a message (email@example.com; Instagram: nicolesfurno). I would love to join you in prayer!
Keep praising. The truth is no matter what God gives or takes away, He is worthy to be praised because of who He is (Job 1:21). For me, it can be tempting to focus on unanswered prayers, but I think it’s important to recall and praise God for all of the ways He has already provided in our lives. Has He already made you a spiritual mother to younger women at your church or in your community? Praise Him. Has He made you an aunt or mentor to younger children? Praise Him. What has He already given to you? Let that be your focus and praise Him.
Keep it honest. You can be honest with God about your feelings toward Him and others. Psalm 139:23 says, “Search me, God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” Ask God to search your heart so you can release any anxieties, anger, bitterness, or hopelessness to Him. You may be just as surprised as I was about how much emotional baggage affects us physically. As we let go of these feelings, like Hannah, may we be filled with His peace and arise to worship the Lord.
This Mother’s Day, I am praising God for my mom … who is amazing and reads every one of my blog posts. But I’m also praying for those who are going through infertility. On this difficult day, please remember that God sees you, loves you, and He still hears and answers prayer. And if you know someone who wants a child but does not have one, reach out to them today. Infertility can seem like a long and lonely road. Come alongside them in their struggle and remind them of God’s extravagant love and tender care.
 Embudo, “Women Vis-À-Vis Prophecy in Luke–Acts,” 119.
 Willem VanGemeren, ed., New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997), 1156–1157.