Since I began writing The River Series in March 2016, I’ve felt a pull on my heart to accomplish one goal with it- to show people that God is complexly and creatively good.
But there was a time when I didn’t think God was good.
Back in July 2008, we began “trying”. That is, I got off birth control and we started brainstorming baby names.
Fast forward a year and a half and we still didn’t have a kid. I had never been angry at God before (honestly, I’d never contemplated about God enough to have a reason to get mad at Him). But, boy, I was mad at him now.
I’d recently been learning about God as our king. I could just picture Him sitting up there on His throne, fat and happy and entertained by jesters. He could have whatever He wanted- and He would take it, too, even if it meant we humans had to suffer. And we were suffering. Outside His shut-off palace, droves of humans were slaving away, toiling to survive in a destitute land that offered us no comforts or kindness. But God didn’t care. He had shut himself off from us- in a literal sense, He was in heaven and we were all in hell on earth. We were defenseless, unprotected, and unloved.
But then I got in this Bible study. It’s one of those blow-your-mind-away Beth Moore theses, and the topic was the fruits of the Spirit. I’d never thought much about the Holy Spirit- read this earlier post to see why. But, now, I was loving it, soaking in every word. Yes, His Spirit fills us with love. Yes, joy. Peace, oh yes. Patience? Yes, abundantly. Overflowing kindness.
Then, the lesson on goodness arrived, and something both terrible and soothing struck me, like putting your freezing cold feet into a bath of hot water.
“If goodness is a fruit of the Spirit, then God must be good.”
Of course, we said, “God is good- all the time,” every time the believers met for Sunday morning church. I had even learned to say it in Spanish just for good measure. But, now, I realized this statement angered me. Infuriated me to my core.
“How dare God say He’s good when He hasn’t given me children! If He were good, He’d either give me kids or He wouldn’t have given me a desire for something I couldn’t have!”
I filled in all the blanks on that lesson on goodness, but I didn’t believe it to be true. Surely, Paul had made a mistake when he included goodness in the list. God wasn’t good. He was a heartless tyrant who let His people suffer. God gave me a desire to have children, but He didn’t give my husband and me the physical capability of producing them together. That wasn’t goodness- it was cruelty.
Only, here was Beth Moore- and Paul- and countless other Bible scholars and teachers and believers- and they all agreed God is good. All the time. I struggled to make sense of this. How could I fit this into what I was feeling about God?
I suppose the thing which began to turn my heart was stories I’d read my whole life.
Joseph. His brothers sold him into slavery. Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him of a horrific crime. The cupbearer forgot about him. But God didn’t. He raised Joseph up to become the second most powerful person in all of Egypt. And amidst the devastation of a famine, He used Joseph to preserve thousands- perhaps, millions- of people, including God’s own beloved ones.
And there were the three saved in the fiery furnace and the one in the lion’s den. Amidst evil, God’s goodness prevailed. And there were a number of times God saved the Israelites from their oppressors and enemies. God was working in those circumstances. He put the smack down on Satan. Who could question His goodness?
But my situation was different. I wasn’t oppressed by sin or threatened by evil people. I was just a lady who couldn’t get pregnant.
And then I remembered Sarah. Elizabeth. Hannah. Even my namesake, Rachel. They all suffered from infertility, just like me. And why? So that, through them, God could do good. Sarah’s Isaiah became the father of Israel (literally). Elizabeth’s John prepared the way for the Messiah. Hannah’s Samuel helped God establish the first kings of Israel. Rachel’s Joseph- well, you already know what he did.
Through these stories of other women like myself, I could see purpose. God made a plan for good- and these ladies were a part of it. Only, they didn’t realize the part they were playing- they were just women who wanted to be mothers. Sarah wanted it so badly she gave her servant to her husband to produce a child in her stead (who is purportedly the father of the Islamic faith). At the risk of being patronized, Hannah publicly begged God for a son and promised to give him to God (although noble, this promise stole from her the pleasure of raising her the boy). Rachel’s obsession over getting pregnant went to alarming heights- she fought bitterly with her own sister and, out of that pyrrhic feud, they each tripled their own competition by forcing two more wives upon their husband. (And, ironically, Rachel died while giving birth to her second son, Benjamin.)
As I studied these women’s stories, I took warning for myself: The desire for motherhood can make a woman do crazy, if not sinful, things which, in turn, mess up their lives and screw with God’s perfect plan.
So, all this contemplating was changing my thinking. Maybe God was good. Maybe He even had a good plan for my life and my infertility was, somehow, part of it. And maybe, if I had patience, I wouldn’t screw His plan up too much. From then on, when I felt myself obsessing over becoming a mother, I reminded myself what I had learned about my predecessors (i.e. infertile Biblical chicks). Be patient. God has a good plan. He will work in His own time.
I slowly began to feel blessed in my circumstances. After all, lots of women are out there, birthing babies every day of the week. But few, like me, are infertile. And, if the infertile women of the Bible were used especially by God to be a part of His story, maybe He’s going to use me, too.
Well, fast forward again and, in February 2013, we got a call. There were three kids who needed a mom and dad. Would we take them? Yes! Yes, we would!
After getting those three kids, I began to see the flipside of God’s plan, the part that I hadn’t been privy to before. I’d always wanted two boys and two girls- now I had two boys and one girl (3/4s of the way there and in the same birth order). My oldest son was born in July 2008 (the month and year we started “trying”). The entire time I’d wanted a child, there was already one waiting for me. And with him came two others, all of whom desperately needed someone to care for them, nurture and protect them, teach them about God’s love, advocate for their needs. My heart had been waiting- it was more revved up then ever before- and I was ready to do these things, hard as they often were.
And God hadn’t just been preparing my heart- He, in His goodness, had been working on my husband’s, too. Kent wasn’t really ready for kids in July 2008. But he went along with me because I said that’s what we were doing. But as our infertility carried on and Kent saw how greatly embittered and depressed I was, a desire grew in his heart to alleviate my pain until he genuinely wanted to have children. By the time we got that fateful phone call, Kent was more than ready– he was ecstatic and excited, tearful and prayerful.
But every war has casualties. While Kent and I were fighting a battle with patience, our kids were fighting for their own survival. It’s not fair. It’s not the way God wanted things to be when He made His perfect design. But my kids were not forgotten. From before their birth, God was working on their escape plan, preparing to take them out of the struggle to survive and into a home where they can thrive.
“No battle has a picture-perfect ending… except they all do.”
On earth, we will struggle. We will fight until our fingertips bleed. We will release breaths of frustrations and desperation. We will cry out and wait for vindication, suffering in the interim between abuse and justice, being forgotten and remembered, between lost and found.
But, take heart, fair warrior. God has not forgotten you. He is on the other side of that battle where you can’t see Him. He’s moving, steadily and mightily, and if you could see all He was doing, it would overwhelm you into paralysis. But in the end, when all the fighting is over, every bit of it crushed and swept into a bottomless sea, He will show you the glorious tranquility He’s been preparing for you, that great place of serenity that cannot be tainted by anything but.
Take heart, fair warrior. The battle is not the end. Our Good King is good… complexly and creatively good. And He fights for you today- and always.