Delayed pregnancy/fertility arises either in form of long periods of infertility or childlessness. Known cases of infertility are demonstrated in the examples enumerated below:
• Abraham & Sarah
• Isaac & Rebecca
• Jacob & Rachael
• Manoah & Wife
• Elkanah & Hannah
• Zechariah & Elizabeth etc
The rate at which delayed pregnancy/fertility throws a lot of women off guard is getting alarming. Many marriages in our land today have been destroyed due to perceived childlessness or infertility. Couples run from one herbalist, spiritualist or hospital to another in search of babies. It can tear families apart and has given rise to polygamous situations. Some even end up in bar beaches where they wait upon the mermaid spirits some sleepless nights. They are ready to do anything in cash or in kind to get their heart desires. As such, they are often swindled, maimed and killed. The questions that arise due to this situation are:
• Should childless couples today simply pray for babies?
• Whose fault is it?
• Is it caused by God or is God aware of this situation?
• Why did God allow Satan to have this happen to us?
• Will we ever conceive?
An attempt to answer these questions will be made towards the last portion of this write up. Some people have also resorted to some medical knowledge such as vitro fertilization that helps some childless couples to conceive. Some people have considered delayed pregnancy or childlessness as God’s penalty for sin.
2.0 UNDERSTANDING THE FACTS ABOUT DELAYED FERTILITY
God may work through many means to call us to faith but it is wrong to interpret childlessness as a curse.
Children are gifts, which come from God if we ask. The answer may come in a child of your own, a child to adopt, a forester child or a group of children in the neighbourhood or at a church. Infertility can present to a couple an urgent crisis of faith. Being unable to bear children raises profound questions about the purpose of a marriage, the worth of marriage partners and their sense of belong in the Christian community.
Why do couples marry? Couples marry to enjoy sex, procreate (bear children) and have life help mates. The purpose of marriage is not only for procreation. So, if there is a problem of childlessness or infertility or delayed pregnancy, the marriage is supposed to be sustained still on the other purposes of the contract. But for most Christians today, the reverse is the case. For them, childlessness may seem to refine their relationship with God since God expects His followers to be Christ-like and this sometimes involves pains. Recognizing our ultimate goal of becoming more like Christ reminds us that marriage and child bearing are not our only purposes in life. Having children is not our only purposes in life. Some atrocities have been and are still being committed by some childless couples of today:
• Sarah took matters into her own hands by offering Hagar to Abraham. She had trouble believing God’s promises and waiting upon the Lord.
Likewise, some of us encourage our husbands to marry second wives (Gen. 16: 1-14) in order to have children at all costs. This topic will be discussed fully in my next submission on DIVORCE AMONG CHRISTIANS in the subsequent editions of this magazine.
In the Old Testament, a childless woman was considered a failure and it was a social embarrassment for the husband. The case is still the same for today’s woman. Children are a very important part of the society’s economic structure, a source of labour for the family because they care for old age parents. Some were forced to give their housemaids to their husbands or to marry other wives.
Husbands were permitted to divorce barren wives. These women are wrecked to shed tears at nights. Things have not really changed since then.
3.0: TYPICAL CASES OF DELAYED FERTILITY
A number of couples in the bible endured long periods of infertility before finally having children:
• Abraham and Sarah stayed seventy-five (75) years after their marriage before having Isaac (Gen. 16: 1-4; 21: 1-7).
• Isaac & Rebecca stayed twenty (20) years before having Esau & Jacob, father of Israel (Gen. 25: 19 – 26).
• Jacob & Rachael waited for eight (8) years before having Joseph who became the ruler of Israel (Gen. 29:31-30: 24).
• Manoah and Wife spent several years before getting Samson who became a judge in Israel (Judges 13).
• Elkanah and Hannah spent several years before giving birth to Samuel who became a prophet in Israel (1. Sam. 1).
• Zechariah and Elizabeth also spent several years before getting John the Baptists, the forerunner of Jesus Christ (Luke.1).
If the case of Zechariah and Elizabeth is taken into proper focus, where both of them were godly people, careful to obey all of God’s laws in spirit as well as in letter, of priestly origin, of temple service corps and old but without children. We can carefully conclude like David that children are gifts and a blessing from God but childlessness is not a curse but God’s inability to yet bestow the gifts on the couples (Psa. 127:3). So many cases such as the ones mentioned above are with us in our various fellowship centers and the longer cases have been replaced with adopted children.
4.0: SOME ANSWERED QUESTIONS
The need to answer some of the questions asked by childless couples arises and some answers are provided here as additional views:
a. Should childless couples today simply pray for babies?
Yes. Just pray believing God to answer your prayers. Children are a gift from God and it is only God who can bestow that gift on whoever he decides to and at His on will (Rom. 9: 15-16; Exo. 33:19). Those before us only prayed with faith and got their gifts (Gen. 15: 7-8).
b. Whose fault is it?
It is nobody’s fault especially if the relationship between you and your God is cordial and that between true friends. Then, the fault may be that of the enemy and if the childless couples understand this, their duty will be to wrestle from Satan their gifts under his control (Matt. 11:12).
c. Is it caused by God or is God aware of this situation?
God is aware of the situation and has allowed it to happen so that the couple’s faith can be tested. After all, Abraham was tested and Zechariah and Elizabeth were tested equally. So, why not you? (Luke 1:25).
d. Why did God allow Satan to have this happen to us?
As mentioned in the body of write up, there was no case of a barren, infertile or childless woman in the Bible except David’s wife – Michal, Saul’s daughter who was cursed by the husband for scorning or mocking the husband while he was praising and dancing to God (2 Sam. 6: 16-23).
e. Will we ever conceive?
Yes. The childless couple must conceive since others before them conceived. God’s word is ever new in our midst. There will never be a barren or infertile woman among us (Deut. 7: 14; Gen. 18:14).
The writer was a victim of fertility for seven (7) good years and when it was God’s time/decision to give us the free gift, we had a bouncing baby boy (a complete and well-designed gift that made us to forget the past years of locust infestation, a perfect gift without any blemish). Throughout the long period of infertility, we resigned to God trusting in His supremacy and promise to give us that gift. But, we never relented in praying and fasting to arrest and reduce the power of the Stan and his demons used as agents of torment to deny us God’s blessings and create unhappiness in our marriage. After all these, and when it was God’s time, we had a baby boy like Sarah
We must realize that delayed pregnancy/fertility is not the same as infertility or barrenness, but a lot of couples out of ignorance or lack of patience rebaptize it as infertility or childlessness. Recall that all the women mentioned in the Bible namely Hannah, Sarah, Rachael, Elizabeth, Rebecca and Manoah’s wife, had their own children after all. Except for David’s wife (Michal/Saul’s daughter) whose case was a curse, there was no case of an infertile woman in the bible.
When a situation such as delayed pregnancy arises in our families, we usually ask “whose fault is it?” and “why did God allow this to happen to me?”. But, Paul had a similar case in 2 Cor. 12:7-9 and God who was aware of the situation replied him “My grace is sufficient for you”. From then, Paul never talked about the problem again. In such situations, the first thing to understand is that God has allowed it but not caused it. If we do not encounter theses and if those before us encountered them, how do we tell of the goodness of God to those around us?. Remember that if there is no test, there will not be any testimony in our lives.
Any person who wants to become Christ-like must be ready to undergo pains. If we recognize our ultimate pains of becoming like Christ, we will remember that marriage and child bearing are not our real purpose of creation. Having children will not allow us to make Heaven or even attain maturity in Christ. Therefore, our pursuit of children at all costs should not be with such emphasis as displayed by those who are of the world.
Once childlessness or delayed pregnancy is accepted as part of a couple’s life struggle, the grief of childlessness must have run its course and as such the couple begins to meet the needs around them, which they have hitherto unnoticed. They can turn their sense of longing for children over to God. They can help in churches and fellowship centers as church teachers, counselors, youth workers, friends and confidants.
Finally, the childless couples need to resign to faith and trust God entirely. Also, the need to be always joyful in all situations must be re-emphasized here (Phil. 4: 4-6) as obstacles are overcome by only those who are joyous in the Lord. Let us resolve to carry God’s cross the way it is providenced for us and also receive his troubles the way we received His gifts on us (Matt 16:24; Mark 10: 28-30).
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