‘That strange grief which has no focus for its tears and no object for its love’

Approximately 10% (6.1 million) of women in the U.S. have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant according to the CDC . Beyond clinical infertility we’re also told that about 15-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. It seems inevitable that a married couple will experience some heartache when it comes to childbearing which makes the church’s (relative) silence on the matter even more puzzling [as a pastor, a self-indictment].

The sorrow that accompanies infertility has been described somewhere as “that strange grief which has no focus for its tears and no object for its love.” For the Christian this strange grief carries additional frustration and confusion due to Scripture’s praise of child rearing in marriage. Thus, the couple dealing with infertility (and particularly the woman) is left to wrestle with the notion that God is withholding a blessing (Psa 127) they have been commanded to pursue (Gen 1:28).

Many others have reflected and counseled on infertility far better than I could hope to do so for the sake of sensitivity & encouragement I’ll limit my thoughts to a few key affirmations:

1) Infertility is cause for grief and mourning. Children are a divine blessing we hope to receive (Psa 127:3) but hope deferred makes the heart sick (Prov 13:12).

2) Infertility is not God’s punishment on you–that punishment was already placed on Christ. Those who have been ransomed from sin have no debt left to pay, no account to settle (Col 2:13-14). Infertility is painful but it’s not punishment (Rom 8:28ff).

3) Infertility is rendered impotent when the sovereign Creator commands the barren to bear fruit. Nothing is too difficult for the Lord (Gen 18:14; 25:21; Psa 113:9; Jer 32:27).

4) Infertility is not a broken promise. The Christian has been promised many things but conception is not one of them. We are promised, however, that the Lord is near to the brokenhearted (Psa 34:18), heals the brokenhearted (Psa 147:3), and provides a grace sufficient for our time of need (2Cor 12:9). You can trust Him.

5) Infertility should be a shared grief.
As fellow members of Christ’s body we should weep with those who weep (Rom 12:15).

6) Infertility brings a sorrow which was most acutely felt by our Savior. Christ knows what it means to labor through futility
(Isa 49:4; Heb 4:15-16).

7) Infertility is a pain to be conquered by a greater joy. In the end, the pain & loss of this life should drive us to find better, lasting joy in God’s presence (Psa 16:11; 73).

Author: Jonathan P. Merritt

Happily married father of six. Lead pastor at Edgewood Baptist Church (Columbus, GA). Good-natured contrarian, theological Luddite, and long-suffering Atlanta Falcons fan. A student of one book.

2 thoughts on “‘That strange grief which has no focus for its tears and no object for its love’”

  1. Thank you for writing this – even though my husband and I struggled with infertility for years I still find it difficult to comfort or advise others going through it today. There was not a lot of support for us then and I did my best to just avoid situations that would be painful to me at the time. We did finally came to the place where we accepted the fact that we were where we were and in the childless state that we were to be in, and if that was where God wanted us to be so be it. I realized I may not have children of my own but believed God would give me opportunities to work with children. He blessed me exceeding abundantly more — after 11 years of marriage we were blessed with a child and three years later another (which I lovingly call our ‘bonus point’) and I have been able to work with many children in many situations over the years since as well. Shout for joy, O barren woman!


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