The Art of Denying One’s Self

The Art of Denying One’s Self

The month of May carries the full beauty of Spring and sets aside a special day to celebrate mothers. Mother’s Day. A day of celebration for those who are mothers and grandparents. The joy that comes from standing up to receive a blessing especially for mothers is honoring and joyful. A day to certainly look forward to each year. But what about for those women who so badly want to be mothers and who cannot because of infertility? The bittersweet joy of celebrating the mothers around you while feeling the sorrow of infertility is a heavy feeling, laden with grief and sadness.

Children are a wonderful blessing from God. There are countless bible passages about the joy and benefits of children. The Psalmist in chapter 128:6 sings out joyfully for the parent who gets to see their grandchildren in heaven. Psalm 127 says that the man who has children is happy. However, when a woman is struggling with infertility, these passages can sting. They are a reminder of what is lost and hope that continuously runs out as the months of barrenness continue. In a world where children abound, this reality is very painful. 

A women struggling with infertility will hear many words of encouragement from those around. “Just keep trying.” “You are young.” “There are great infertility treatments.” “Stop stressing out about it.” Wise words from those who have their own children. Helpful, maybe. But the painful reality cannot be denied. 

As a Catholic and therapist, I have found myself encouraging others to focus on God’s will. I often quote the passage from Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Our knowledge that God’s will is always better than ours is the reason that we should let go of our pain of infertility, right? Well, yes, but how do we do this? What do we do with our pain on Mother’s Day? How can we feel joy about our pain? Why would God’s will include these years and years of sorrow?

There are two songs that stand out to me as how we are to let God’s will be done in our lives, even when that means bearing the constant pain of infertility. The first song is Go My Children with My Blessing. In the fourth stanza, the words “I the Lord will be your Father, Savior, Comforter, and Brother.” When we get to Heaven, our earthly pains and needs will be fulfilled. We will not experience the grief of infertility in Heaven. Why? Because God himself fulfills what are we lacking in this life on earth. When we are united with God in Heaven, our pains and deficits are gone, filled in by the Lord himself in ways that we cannot even imagine.  

But we are still on earth and the feelings of grief that we experience are ever present and ever painful. We can bear the above in mind and we should, but there is more that we can do to focus ourselves on God’s will. Jesus tells us in Matthew 12:50, that “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Jesus is telling us that when we do God’s will we are mothers. Mothers of Jesus himself.  

So how do we embrace that we, even in our infertility, are mothers, not of another human, but mothers of Christ himself? How can this comfort us? How can this give us joy? The second song and one of my favorite hymns that I listen to, to help me focus on God’s will, and the one that fills in what we need here is “The Summons” by John L. Bell and Graham Maule. In the hymn we hear the words “Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?” And “Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name.” We do not know what God’s will is for us other than it will be for our eternal benefit. And when we struggle with infertility we know that God’s will for us is not that we have children. When we “leave ourselves behind” we abandon our pain and grief, take up our cross and follow Jesus. In Jesus’s words from Matthew 16:24, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” This is what Jesus is asking of us. We must recognize our pain, feel it, acknowledge it, and then set it aside. The cross of infertility is painful. But let us allow this pain to draw us closer to our Lord and Savior.

None of this means we should give up praying for children or that we should give up trying to have children. It does mean that when we are stuck in our sorrow and grief that we redirect ourselves to the cross. That we abandon our pain and do God’s will that is in front of us. Abandoning our pain does not mean that we pretend it is not there. Grief is an emotion like any other. Abandoning our grief is an active refocusing from the pain to the cross. If we do this, we will truly go to places that we do not know. Our earthly emotions will not last. Our longings will be fulfilled when we get to Heaven. But while we are on this earth, we are still mothers of Christ through our participation in God’s will. Let us work together to continuously redirect our focus from our earthly pain of infertility to the cross of our Savior. Our cross of infertility can feel so heavy, but when we keep our eyes on the cross of Jesus, we unite our suffering to his and we will rejoice in the places we will go.  

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Written by
Alexandra Bochte