IT’S AP-PARENT SERMON SERIES
HEAVY WAIT – DEALING WITH INFERTILITY AND ADOPTION
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 2, 1995
Well, I know what some of you are thinking even before I begin today’s message. You are saying to yourself, “Ed, come on let’s get real, to steal a line from Troy Aikman, a whole message on infertility and adoption? Infertility and adoption? I know this is a large church, Ed, you are having four services now on the weekend but this seems a little bit irrelevant, like it might not apply to a lot of people. You mean we have individuals in this church who are going through infertility and possibly they are seeking adoption?” Listen to the following statistics. One out of every three couples experience infertility. In the United States of America there is over 2 million children below the age of 18 who are adopted. Granted, you might not have to deal with this situation in your own life, but chances are you will have to deal with it in the lives of a family member, a co-worker or a friend. What do you say to someone who is going through infertility and adoption? How do you deal with it? That is the question we are answering today. How do we deal with these two subjects?
I think we have to turn to the pages of scripture because I Samuel chapter one and chapter two parallel what many of you are going through. Because in this situation we are going to meet a group of people, up close and personal, and see how they struggled with these two topics. This past week as I was preparing this message, I said, “Lord, how in the world can I find a story, an account, in the Bible that deals with both infertility and adoption.” And right after I prayed that prayer, it is almost as if I turned to I Samuel chapter one and two because in this situation, incredibly, miraculously, three people are involved, Elkanah, don’t you love that name, the Elk man, his wife Hannah and Eli, all are involved in infertility and adoption.
Let’s jump right in. I Samuel 1:2, the first verse on your outline. “And he, Elkanah, (and the word Elkanah in the Hebrew is a nickname that is why it rhymes with Hannah) had two wives.” Oh, oh, I’ll say it again to shock some of you, and he had two wives, Why even watch the soap operas, ladies, when you can read the Bible? The Bible will make the best soap operas seem boring. Elkanah, he had a problem already, two wives. He was a polygamist. “Ed, what about polygamy in the Bible? My goodness gracious.” Nowhere in the Bible does God honor polygamy, nowhere. Wherever you see it, there are problems, there are difficulties. And in Elkanah’s life you are going to see what happens. He had two wives, the name of one was Hannah, the name of the other was Peninnah. Peninnah had children but Hannah had none. Peninnah was fertile Myrtle. Hannah, barren. We would call her infertile. Infertility is a draining thing to go through. I think it is harder on women than it is on men. It seems as though women in our society, we condition them at a very young age to have children. You know, “Ed and Lisa sitting in a tree, K I S S I N G, first comes love, then comes marriage, there goes Ed with the baby carriage.” Yesterday, LeeBeth celebrated her eighth birthday and when she opened up one of her gifts, a baby doll, all of her friends go, “Ah, she is so cute.” Most women think about, “I’m going to become a parent one day. I am going to conceive and bear children.” Men, we think about it but it is kind of meshed with other roles, in the marketplace, recreationally. For a woman, that is it. And for a woman to be barren, that is an assault on her femininity. That is an assault on who she is as a woman. She doesn’t feel complete in many circumstances.
Let’s jump down to the next verse, I Samuel 1:7. The plot thickens. “And it happened year after year as often as she, Hannah, went up to the house of the Lord.” Now I know what some of your are saying, you are saying, “You only had to go to church once a year back then. Heh, I like that, I could catch all of the Cowboy games back then.” But they did worship regularly. This was for a special worship service the main temple. “It happened year after year as often as she, Hannah, went up to the house of the Lord, she, Peninnah, would (say it with me) provoke her so she wept and would not eat.” How cruel, you say. I cannot believe someone like Peninnah. How vicious. How vindictive. How cold hearted. She sounds to me like a female pit viper. Poor Hannah, you say. Peninnah, day after day, year after year, month after month, joking about her, ridiculing her, getting on her because she can’t have children. Wow.
I have got some sobering news for you. A lot of you make Peninnah-type statements to couples without even realizing it. You are saying. “Ed, me? Bible toting, scripture quoting me. You mean, I make those Peninnah-type, pit viper statements to couples?” Yes. Yes. Without even realizing it. My wife and I experienced three and a half years of infertility. All of the money that insurance doesn’t cover, the doctors, the pressure. It is something that is difficult to explain unless you have been there. And I have come up with a list of statements that individuals would make about our infertility. And these words are words that you should never utter. Just take a pen or pencil out, this is extra credit. No charge for this one. Take a pen or pencil out and write these down, words never to say to a couple, never. But I am their grandparents. Never. I am their parents. Never. I am their best friend. Never. The first one, “Hey, when are you all going to have a baby?” Don’t ever say that. “When are you going to have a baby?” Number two. “Just relax. Take a cruise. Maybe go to Hawaii, that will do it.” Insensitive, cruel, a Peninnah-like statement. Or maybe this one. “Just adopt. You know close friends of mine a couple of years ago, they didn’t have children, they couldn’t have children, they had a miscarriage. Then they finally adopted. A couple of years later they had a child. So adopt.” Or how about this one. “Hey, well you are infertile. Not my wife and I, all we had to do was wink at each other. Pregnant.” Like I am King Testosterone and she is Queen Estrogen, you know. Again you are not realizing what you are saying, you are damaging, you are tearing apart oftentimes the self-esteem of a man and a woman in a marriage. Don’t say those comments, because we have a lot of Hannahs running around who are weeping and who are crying and who are bitter.
I Samuel 1:10. “And she was greatly distressed…” Why is she greatly distressed? Infertility, folks, is a crisis of control. You are out of control when you are infertile. You can’t get your hands around it. You can’t really zero in on it. You can’t blame the doctor. You can’t blame your parents. You can’t blame yourself. And when you are out of control, you experience anxiety. She was greatly distressed “and she prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.” Nothing will challenge your faith more than being infertile. Just think about it. Put yourself in Hannah’s shoes, or someone else’s shoes. You see parents abusing children and you say, “God, why can’t I be a parent?” You see mothers addicted to crack cocaine having children, crack babies. “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I experience this?” And these are questions that you need to ask of God. And we talked about the why question last week. And it is a question we all deal with and we all think about concerning infertility. You see we live in a fallen world. We live in a world where there is sin, where there are problems, where there is disease and difficulty. And infertility is a disease. It is the inability to conceive. And in most circumstances, in fact in 75% of infertility cases, the parents do conceive and have a child. But in the other 25%, they don’t.
She was greatly distressed. She prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. I heard someone say that infertility is sometimes more difficult to deal with than the death of a loved one. Now that is a hard line there. But I began to think about it, and I began to read about it and in certain ways it is true. You see when someone dies, there is closure, there is a finality. You go through a funeral and you say bye to the person and they graduate from this life to the next life. It is over. It is done with. And you think about the person, you remember them, but you know they are gone. In infertility you have something called the GH principle, see it on your outline, the GH principle that happens. It is grief married with hope. That is an unusual twist to infertility. On one hand you experience grief, day after day after day. It is the loss of potential, not something actual. But you are grieving because you can’t have. Also hope comes into the picture because you are hoping maybe next month we will conceive. Maybe next year. Maybe five years. Maybe when we spend some more money at the infertility specialists. Grief and hope are inseparably linked when you are going through infertility. But if you want to face it, if you want to help someone come through it, you have got to really have endurance and have vision and go through grief valley. If you want to go through infertility and come out of infertility knowing what God wants you to do, knowing His purpose and plan for your life, you have got to go through grief valley.
There are six steps in grief valley and you have got to take every one of these steps. The first step is denial. A lot of infertile couples, they deny they are infertile and they hid behind a boulder right on the edge of grief valley. And they go from doctor to doctor to doctor hoping to get a different diagnosis. And they say, “Well surely we are not really infertile, not us.” And men, we try to hid ourselves behind work and papers. Denial.
The second step is guilt. We take our first couple of steps in grief valley. A mountain lion like thing jumps on us. It is hiding behind a boulder and it jumps on us and is called guilt. And it sinks it’s claws into us and it almost takes us down. What do I mean when I am talking about guilt. I mean, “Well the reason we can’t conceive is because I had pre-marital sex”, or “The reason I can’t conceive is because I had an abortion”, or “The reason I can’t conceive is because I had an extramarital affair”. And we think that God is up there in heaven saying, “Ok you are not going to have a baby because you did this, you did that.” Read Psalm 103. Read that. Because Psalm 103 says that God forgives us, He doesn’t hold us guilty and accountable for things we have confessed and turned from. Yes, He will allow consequences of sin. For example, if you have scarring due to an abortion, that could be why you are not conceiving, but He is not going to say well because you did that, no way you can conceive.
Another step is anger. Anger. And anger is a real one. After guilt many people experience this anger. And anger is something that we are not really taught to deal with properly. A lot of us have grown up hearing, don’t express anger, don’t get mad, don’t tell someone that. Or especially don’t tell a holy God you are angry, that is just the worst thing in the world. And in marriages, oftentimes, we don’t verbalize how we feel to our spouse and especially to the Lord so we take anger and we submerge and it becomes a proverbial submarine, below the surface. And it stays down there. We don’t know it is there. But if you talk to anyone who has been in a submarine, it is going to have to come up one day. And when it comes up, it will come up and you will take that periscope out and you will begin firing torpedoes at anything that moves, even the family pet, Rover. And you will fire one at your spouse. And you will fire one at your boss. Because you are angry, you can’t conceive and you don’t know who to get mad at. We have got to handle anger properly. Read again the Psalms where David expressed his anger to God. Express it. As I have said before here, revealing your feeling is the beginning of healing. And part of a feeling that is healthy is to reveal this anger thing. Deal with it, talk to someone about it. Anger.
Next we move to bargaining. Bargaining. We say, “Let’s make a deal, God.” And we bring Monte Hall down. “God, if you give me a child, yes, I’ll serve you for the rest of my life. God, if you give me a child, I’ll even tithe, Lord. God, if you give me a child, I will dedicate the child to be an evangelist.” We make all these promises thinking that if we kind of bargain with God, kind of do the deal-making thing, then He will say, “OK here is a baby.” Everything is fine and dandy. Sound familiar? Bargaining.
From bargaining we sometimes move to depression. Depression. Depression is real. Hannah was depressed. I mean she was feeling low. She was feeling horrible. She was feeling down. And we have got to wade through depression. And anything can send you into depression when you are infertile. You can be driving down the street and see a lady pushing a little baby carriage and it just freaks you out. You loose it. You have got to go through it.
The final step, the sixth step, acceptance. You are not depressed any more, you are not angry anymore, you come to the realization that you are infertile and you accept the fact. Six steps of grief valley.
Now let’s get personal. Three personal precepts I want infertile couples to apply. Or maybe parents you are thinking to yourself, “Ed, how does this even make sense in my life?” Your children could very well go through this process, a good friend, a neighbor, a co-worker. Here are three things you need to tell them to do, and you need to do if you are infertile.
Number one. Admit you are powerless before God, your spouse and yourself. Admit you are powerless before God, your spouse and yourself. You can’t control it. You can’t deal with it. You have got to give it to God. And I challenge you, when you pray about infertility, to lift your hands to the heavens, because the Bible says to lift our holy hands and say, “God, you take it. God, it is Yours, I am powerless over it. I cannot deal with it anymore.” And you might have to do it day in and day out. And here is an exercise that I would tell you to do in the bed. This is for everyone but it has to do with infertility. When you are lying there in the bed right before you get up, you take your hands and do this. (Illustration of hands pushing away.) That represents you’re pushing away every bit of anxiety, every bit of pressure, every bit of outside influence that doesn’t come from Jesus Christ. You are saying I don’t want to deal with it, I am powerless over it. And then lift your hands and say, “God, I receive Your blessing, I receive Your anointing, I receive Your purpose for my life. I give this thing over to you.” Watch and see what happens.
Number two. Realize there is a purpose in your marriage. In the Garden, I am talking about the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, God said, “You, Adam and Eve, you are a family.” A child does not constitute a family. God can have a purpose and He does have a purpose, He can have a plan and He does have a plan for you even without a child. And if you think a baby is going to fix it, as I said about eight weeks ago when I began this series, children complicate the matter, they don’t smooth it out. So God still has a purpose for your marriage.
Number three. Set financial and emotional goals. And that is important. There will become a time when you just can’t pay anymore. My sister-in-law and her husband paid $40,000 out of pocket for their last child. Lisa and I set a limit financially a couple of years ago. We couldn’t pay anymore. That was it. See you later. The specialists. It was over. And we ended up having twins. That is a whole other story that we will get into later, talking about the miraculous blessings of God. But you have got to set that goal. Also you have got to set a goal emotionally. There is going to come a point when you are tired of your sex life and your intimacy being impacted and influenced by temperature charts and medications and doctors. That is a lot of stuff to deal with. Infertility.
This story does not stop here. It would be easy to close the Bible and say, well, it’s over. But it continues. Guess what happened? Hannah prayed, Hannah prayed, Hannah prayed and God answered her prayers and God gave Hannah a baby boy. I Samuel 1:25. They brought the boy to Eli. We have adoption now. They had Samuel, and the Elk man and Hannah, after the child was weaned, they brought the child, I am talking about Samuel, the man of God, to Eli, the priest, the pastor and he adopted Samuel. Eli was an interesting cat. The man was a great leader but he was a horrible father. He spent too much time in church and not enough time with his family. He had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, they were the worst preacher’s kids in the world. They were having sexual relations with the ladies who worked at the church, they were also abusing God’s sacrificial system. Eli had blown it. He spent so much time helping others, he forgot the most important thing. Does that sound familiar to some people here? Am I preaching to anyone, now? “Yeah, but I am doing good work up there. I am sharing the Lord with this person.” Although your children are going crazy and they are begging you and pleading with you to spend time with them. “Yeah, but I am doing this over here, God.” He missed it. God, though, gave Eli a second chance. He gave him Samuel. And he was able to take Samuel and rear Samuel. Look at the next verse. I Samuel 2:11. “Then Elkanah went to his home at Ramah, but the boy ministered to the Lord before Eli the priest.” Adoption.
Three precepts about adoption. First. Present a unified front. The most critical thing you can do in adoption is you have to come to a conclusion, both the husband and the wife unified, that you are going to adopt. You have got to say, “I don’t care if it is a biological child, if it is a child we have conceived or if it is a child we have adopted, I am going to thank God no matter what.” You have got to present a unified front. If you are doing it by saying, “I’m just going to adopt because my wife really wants a child.” That is the wrong reason. “Well, I am going to adopt because it is the next best thing to having one’s own baby.” Don’t do it. That is the wrong reason. Present a unified front in adoption. Children are a gift from God, I don’t care if they are biological or you have adopted them. If you are adopted you have more in common with Jesus Christ than I do, then most people do. Jesus was adopted and if it was good enough for God’s son, I think it was good enough for you. And God used the concept of adoption to talk about the most precious thing in the world, our salvation. How powerful is that? How penetrating is that? Just because you have a child biologically doesn’t mean you are really parents. Parents are people who lead. Parents are people who parent by grace. Parents are people who love. Parents are people who are unconditional in their friendship because they know this child is a gift from God. And I believe most parents who have adopted children hold those children more precious than those fertile Myrtles we hear about because they have gone through years and years of aching and wanting a child and finally a child is placed in their arms. Oh, it is so precious because you have been without for so long. And that is the beautiful picture of the concept of adoption concerning our salvation. You see, God aches, He yearns to adopt you and to adopt me and He can’t wait for us to place ourselves in His arms.
The second precept. Seek support and guidance from parents of adopted children. Seek support and guidance from parents of adopted children. You’re thinking about adoption and some say, we have been infertile for awhile, we’ll adopt and we’ll have a baby in a month. Talk to someone as I did this past week. You’re talking about five, six, seven, eight years of wait. And during that time it is wise to seek support and guidance from other parents who have adopted children. Be vulnerable with them. Ask them the cost. Ask them what to watch out for. Ask them the joys and the different challenges of adoption. That way you come to the adoptive table prepared, ready to do business.
Number three. Adopt an attitude of patience. This is, again, so, so important. Patience. You are going to have to ask God for this patience. God, give me patience beyond my years. Give me that Christ-like endurance to come through this and You prepare me, day in and day out, for the agency or another person to present that baby to me. Prepare me for it.
A final verse I want you to read and then we will close it down. Look at this verse, Romans 8:15. “But you have received a spirit of adoption as sons.” We have got a lot of people here and they are spiritual orphans. You are spiritually an orphan. You are without a parent. And you are not connected to an eternal family. And if you were to die right now, you would spend eternity separated from that family. The Bible calls it hell. And some of your right now are facing a Christ-less eternity, you are facing hell because you have not been adopted into the family of God. I want to tell you something. You are missing out on the greatest experience known to man. You see, you can’t pay for your adoption. You can’t earn it. You can’t come up with enough cash, enough good points. The price has already been paid. God sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for all of our sins and to rise again. God says, I want to adopt you. The price has been paid. But you have got to be obedient to Romans 8 and you have got to receive this. You have got to become adopted. So some of you right now, this morning, need to pray and say, “Jesus Christ, I ask You to take control of my life, I want to be adopted into Your family.” And once you are adopted, it is forever. It is not just a thing that lasts a couple of years or ten years, it is forever, when you come into the family of God.
Infertility and adoption. Two issues that so many of us deal with in different ways and in different situations, issues we need to face Biblically and morally, before God. But more important than infertility and adoption is the true issue of where you will spend eternity: a spiritual orphan or a member of the family of God.