Newton: A final farewell not only tolerable, but pleasant

Alterations and separations are graciously appointed of the Lord, to remind us that this is not our rest, and to prepare our thoughts for that approaching change which shall fix us forever in an unchangeable state. Oh, madam! what shall we poor worms render to him who has brought life and immortality to light by the gospel, taken away the sting of death, revealed a glorious prospect beyond the grave, and given us eyes to see it?

Now the reflection that we must ere long take a final farewell of what is most capable of pleasing us upon earth is not only tolerable, but pleasant. For we know we cannot fully possess our best friend, our chief treasure, till we have done with all below; nay, we cannot till then properly see each other. We are cased up in vehicles of clay, and converse together as if we were in different coaches, with the blinds close drawn round. We see the carriage, and the voice tells us we have a friend within; but we shall know each other better, when death shall open the coach doors, and hand out the company successively, and lead them into the glorious apartments which the Lord has appointed to be the common residence of them that love him. What an assembly will there be! What a constellation of glory, when each individual shall shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father! No sins, sorrows, temptations; no veils, clouds, or prejudices, shall interrupt us then. All names of idle distinction (the fruits of present remaining darkness, the channels of bigotry, and the stumbling-block of the world) will be at an end.

— John Newton, “Letter to Mrs. Place,” August 1775; Letters of John Newton, 235-6.

‘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).