“I have more recently come to embrace the biblical idea that children are a blessing from God. Sadly, earlier in my marriage I had surgery to avoid future blessings. Now what am I to do?”
It is a common temptation, when God blesses us with wisdom, for us to foolishly despair that we once lacked that wisdom. Discovering that we had been wrong should be an occasion for joy, rather than sorrow. That said, not every correction in our thinking allows for a corresponding immediate change in our circumstances. Prisons are full of men who have come to repentance, but still have time to do.
Another temptation which is less common in the world, but more common in our circles, is to, in remembering that children are a blessing from the hand of God, conclude that children are the only blessing from God’s hand. Worse still, some of us are prone to making the mirror image mistake that Job’s friends made. That is, just as they assumed Job must have behaved wickedly, since he was suffering so, some of us may think we are God’s special favorites because He gives us children. We may look upon the barren, or those with smaller families as somehow less holy.
Children, according to the Bible are a blessing from God’s hand, a gracious blessing. We do not earn children, but receive them as a gracious gift from our Father who loves us. If, however, He closes the womb, this does not mean that we have fallen under disfavor with our Father. My own family seems to have reached that season in life where a pregnancy is highly unlikely. (Fool that I am I once referred to this condition we are in as barrenness, despite God having already blessed us with six children by birth.)
If we find ourselves in this condition via a surgery we now regret, there are any number of options available. These conditions can be reversed surgically. This is typically an expensive ordeal, but many have gone this route. After this corrective surgery, the odds remain long, though we must remember we are talking about God’s typical patterns here. He, not a surgeon, opens and closes wombs. We have children at Saint Peter church that God sent after reversal surgery.
Another option is adoption. This too is a profound blessing, to the parents, any siblings, and to the child who is adopted. The process is expensive, intrusive, and suffused with bureaucracy, and in the end you receive a blessing from the hand of God. We are terribly grateful for our Reilly, and look hopefully to the future that we might be able one day to adopt again.
A third option is to embrace some of the other blessings that come from God’s hand. Though I believe Paul was dealing with particular circumstances in space and time, during the “present distress” in which he wrote (I Corinthians 7:26) and not providing a general rule, some of the same blessings apply. Paul writes, “He who is unmarried cares for the things that belong to the Lord” (verse 32). We enjoy greater freedom, greater opportunity to serve when we have less on our plate with respect to caring for our own children. While I would never encourage a family to pursue this blessing through using birth control, to enjoy this blessing isn’t to deny that children are a blessing. Ministering the gospel while in prison doesn’t mean one believes it was a godly thing to commit the crime that put one in prison.
Our calling is to flourish where we are planted, even if we were planted where we are through our own sins. The same God who opens and closes the womb likewise opens and closes doors of opportunity. Our calling is to be faithful in all circumstances. As Paul reminds us, “But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that” (verse 7).
It is okay to mourn our sins, for a time. Then we are called to rejoice in His grace. He forgives us all our sins, and blesses us according to His infinite riches and wisdom. Trust that He has forgiven, and that He is about the business of blessing.