This wasn’t in my plan!
It’s only natural to have hopes and dreams for the future, but will our faith stand when things don’t seem to be working out? Amy Sparkes meets three women who have found God’s strength in difficult times
Faith in God’s perfect plan
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).
For many women, hopes for the future include getting married and having children. But sometimes God reveals he has a different plan. Emma, 29, and her husband Phil, 32, have been trying to start a family for the last three years.
“As a GP, I was fully aware of the different physical problems that could cause infertility, but all our tests came back 'normal'. It was a real roller coaster having our hopes raised, only to be disappointed, month after month.
Most of the time I was able to remain emotionally stable, but only if I thought about it with my 'doctor' head on. However, visits to friends with babies and church services with lots of children present caused deep pangs of longing.”
However, although facing the prospect of infertility was difficult, Emma’s relationship with God began to deepen during this time.
“At one point, I spent a lot of time trying to second-guess God. Maybe if my walk with him was closer, if I prayed more, or if my marriage was better, conditions would be more favourable. After about six months, I gave this up as a fruitless exercise.
“Trusting God became very important. From somewhere grew a firm conviction that God's timing and plan is perfect and that I could fully trust him. This conviction enabled me to be free to live the life that I had to the full, serving God without constantly fretting about the family situation.
“I loved singing songs in church that stated my trust in God, no matter what. My conviction was based on the many verses I had learned by heart as a student, speaking of God's faithfulness (Romans 8:28; 38-39; Jeremaiah 29:11). It is one thing to know things in your head, but another to put your whole trust in them and really believe.”
Emma says she is confident of God’s blessings in her life. “My marriage to Phil is stronger now than ever. I have seen relationships fall apart over such issues, so the fact that we remain one in heart and mind is a real blessing and I am grateful to God for his protection.
“Two more blessings came along during this time in the form of goddaughters. It was a real privilege to become a godparent, to have an extra-special relationship with the children of our friends and the opportunity to dote on two very special girls.”
Emma also feels that over the last few years particularly, God has blessed her by reminding her that she is part of his Church. “Throughout all this time I have felt wonderfully supported by God through his people, my friends and members of our church who have prayed with us, loved us and said what they could to encourage us, even when the right words were hard to find.”
* For help and advice about infertility, contact: The Infertility Network UK, Charter House, 43 St Leonatrds Road, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex TN40 1JA
Tel: 08701 188 088; www.infertilitynetworkuk.com
Faith that God knows our limits
“And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Ruth, 32, has suffered from multiple chronic health problems, which left her virtually bedbound for seven years. But although she was in pain, exhausted and unable to care for herself, God used this suffering to bless her.
“After six months of suffering, I cried out to God, asking to know him more. He brought me great blessing and filled me with his Holy Spirit. I received total assurance from heaven that I was indeed a child of God and I was given a burning love for him, a burden for the lost, and an overwhelming desire to pray and read the Scriptures. I will never forget the preciousness of knowing Christ in such an intimate way during this time.”
By turning to God’s Word for comfort and guidance, Ruth was able to look to God to sustain her rather than feeling overwhelmed by her problems or relying on her own strength.
“The verse which helped me the most was 1 Corinthians 10:13. I learnt that however great the suffering was or however long it continued, God always honoured this promise: he did not allow suffering that was too great to bear to continue indefinitely. Even when the doctors could do nothing, God always did provide some way to lessen the suffering eventually. I learnt not to panic, but to wait upon him for the answer to come.”
Although no longer confined to bed, Ruth still suffers from chronic bone, bladder and digestive disorders. But the lessons God has taught her through ill health have made Ruth confident of his love for her. She says, “I don’t know what the future holds in this life, in terms of health and suffering, but I know that God is faithful and that he is my loving Heavenly Father and desires only that which is best for me.”
Faith that God knows us and will be with us
“Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in – behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me” (Psalm 139:4-5).
Having a miscarriage can be a harrowing experience. It can be hard to explain to others that you are mourning a person who never had the chance to live. But because God knows every thought in our head, he does understand.
Sarah, 29, found this to be true. Sadly, she has lost three babies, all at seven weeks. She says, “I had my first baby without any problems at all. When I got pregnant again, I assumed all would be fine., but unfortunately I miscarried, which was totally unexpected and devastating. We then tried again and miscarried again.
Thankfully the next pregnancy resulted in a healthy baby. “But we had another miscarriage after this, until we finally had our third baby six months ago.
“After having the two consecutive miscarriages, I felt hopeless. I was so consumed with having another baby that I was unable to focus on anything else. And when it looked like this might not happen, I felt desperate – I couldn’t stand to hear people tell us that they were pregnant – I felt so jealous.
“I also felt as though it must be my fault. At first, I just tried not to think about the miscarriages. I buried the feelings deep inside and would not go there. I put on a brave face and told everyone I was fine, but I wasn’t dealing with it at all.”
The experience shook her faith and initially affected her relationship with God. “I was angry with God because I didn’t see why I should have to suffer these losses. However, I saw that there are people suffering far more than me and Luke 6:20-23 helped me to realise that even when we are going through tough times, they are only temporary and one day there will be no more pain or suffering.
“I was blessed by having an amazing God to lean on through this time. I got so much support from our church too and God used these people to show how much he loved me.”
God helped Sarah’s faith to grow in the time following her two miscarriages, and this helped make the third miscarriage a little easier to face. “This time I knew with God’s help I would be able to get through it. I had to make the decision to worship him, even though I didn’t feel like it and he met me where I was and gave me comfort.
“Psalm 139 reminded me how well God knows me and will never leave me. I’ve learnt that whatever we go through, even when we try and push God away, he is unchanging and there for us 100%.”
These three stories show that if we turn towards God in faith, rather than away from him, during our times of suffering, he will bring us through sadness to a place of worship. And it is through this worship, feeling confident of God’s goodness, that his blessing will find us.
* For help and advice after a miscarriage, contact: The Miscarriage Association, c/o Clayton Hospital, Northgate,
Wakefield, West Yorkshire WF1 3JS Tel: 01924 200799’