It was a rare Saturday morning when my best friend Casey and I were spending time together catching up, with no agenda and no events or gatherings to dash off to later. Those days bring much needed rest to my soul. On this particular day though, God provided those sweet moments of rest and reconnecting with my close friend almost as a preparation for a moment just minutes away, when God would give me another opportunity to use grief to draw near to Him.
That’s when I got the news. Casey paused, unsure of how I would respond, and hesitantly told me: she and her husband were pregnant—again.
Casey and I had dreamed about the fun of being pregnant at the same time, entering the season of motherhood together, and having our kids grow up the same age. After all, we were born a day apart and have shared our birthday parties with each other for the past 20+ years, our husbands are best friends, and we vacation together. How perfect would this be?
Fast forward three years, and we would arrive at this moment: my best friend was expecting her second, and I was still longing for my first.
The years of longing have included many isolated moments, whether hosting others’ baby showers while wishing for my own, or going to dinners with friends as they talked to each other about their child’s current milestone and having nothing to contribute. My friends were sharing playdates with their toddlers and infants while I sat answering emails in my cubicle.
Infertility—this is my story. Did you know that one in eight couples will experience infertility? Infertility is defined as the inability to get pregnant or stay pregnant after trying for 12 months.1
It can feel unjust that God has given children to others but not to me. Wouldn’t I be as good a parent as others? And then there are those who don’t even want to get pregnant and do. How is that fair?
Wrestling with these difficult questions and emotions has taught me many beautiful things—namely, how to celebrate others well when my own desires, especially for those same things, go unfulfilled.
Whether you’ve walked the road of infertility or not, I’m sure you can relate to the feelings of comparison, jealousy, and difficulty in celebrating others. Maybe your coworker got a promotion you thought you deserved, or you haven’t found a spouse yet when others are planning their dream weddings. There are a million ways that life can seem unfair.
In my own circumstance with infertility, I realized the root of what kept me from celebrating with others was my own selfishness. If I can’t have my own joy, then I don’t want others to have the joy that I lack.
In our culture that praises individuality as supreme, I am afraid we’ve become more mindful of ourselves and our own desires than we are of the desires others. The Christian life calls us to be in community with one another in the church (Acts 2:42). Paul also challenges us in Philippians 2:3 to “consider others as more important than yourselves.”
While living in community, we are called to “rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). In an effort to process through my own grief and come out on the other side ready to celebrate others, here are three things I’ve learned:
- Negative Emotions: Recognize that it’s okay to have negative emotions surrounding your circumstances and find a safe and healthy way to express those emotions to a trusted friend who can listen and empathize. This will help you to move toward healing.
- Personal Responsibility: Take responsibility for your actions. We will never respond perfectly in each scenario; we are human after all. But we can learn to be slow to speak, quick to listen, and consider others in how we react out of our own pain. Emotions are not facts. Lean into Christ, and seek in all things to bring glory to Him in how you respond.
- Give Grace: When living in community with one another, we all need grace at times. For the hurting person—give grace to others when they say things that seem insensitive. Give the benefit of the doubt; they likely didn’t mean to be hurtful. Similarly, for those walking alongside a friend who is hurting, give grace and know that grief hits at odd times. Sometimes certain days are just worse than others.
Don’t get stuck in your sadness. Move toward gratitude for what you do have and for what God has given others. If we don’t invest in our own healing to the point that we can celebrate with others, we miss out on beautiful moments of joy in community, and we cause pain to others in the process.
We have a Savior who experienced pain and sadness. Jesus did not reserve for Himself a life of pleasure but a Roman cross. We do not have to live in fear that our suffering is meaningless or that our suffering is a setback for the life we were meant to experience. We can have brave confidence in our worship of a Savior who suffered like us, because our hope is not for everlasting joy in this life, but only in the life to come.