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Struggling With Thankfulness

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As I sat in the congregation this past Sunday, listening to the pastor preach on Ephesians 5:1–21, I found myself experiencing mixed emotions as I tried to apply the Apostle Paul’s words to my life. In the beginning of the chapter, Paul explained that those who practice sexual immorality, covetousness, foolish talk and crude jokes will not inherit the kingdom of Christ and God. Though this isn’t a checklist to be sure we’re refraining from those specific things, it’s hard not to compare myself to that standard. I found myself thinking, “I don’t make it a point to practice these things, I believe I am doing my best to ‘walk as a child of the light… discerning what is pleasing to the Lord,’” like it says in verses 8–10. Do I mess up? Absolutely. But that doesn’t make me a follower of darkness, right?

Then I read the end of verse four, “…but instead let there be thanksgiving.”

I am going to be honest about some of the thoughts that have gone through my mind during the past year, and I’m not proud of most of them. My husband and I have been struggling to become pregnant. Without getting in to the nitty-gritty details, I’ll just say that I have been placing a lot of the blame for our struggles on myself, and it has made me very bitter towards God. I feel like I have failed as a wife, that my husband deserves to be a father, and I can’t give that to him. I have felt loneliness, self-loathing and shame. I have wanted to be a mother my entire life, and I believe that God is calling me towards motherhood, so where is he in this? I have been so angry with him, I can’t even write this without becoming emotional.

Selfishly, I feel like this is something I deserve. I remember one afternoon, while my husband was at work, I took a pregnancy test. I was so sure that this time it would show up positive, I began thinking about all the ways I was going to surprise him when he got home. Alas, again it was negative. I threw the stick in the trash and cried aloud to God so angrily. I said to him, “I have given my life to serve you. I spend so much time serving your Church, both inside and outside c|Life’s walls. I love you with all I have. I ask for forgiveness when I know I’ve sinned against you. This isn’t just something to do, this is a way of life for me! I have built my life around you! Nothing brings me more joy than serving your kingdom, and I understand that you’re a good father who gladly gives when your children ask faithfully. Well, here I am, basically begging you to open my womb, but you won’t. Why? Don’t I deserve this? Why do women who don’t want kids get pregnant, while someone who seems to be doing everything right by you and who desperately wants to raise her children to know, love and serve you is having so much trouble with pregnancy?”

None of this seems fair. What is God trying to teach me through this? How am I supposed to understand his will — like it says in verse 17 — if I don’t understand what he’s doing by allowing me to go through this? I am not resting in the peace that God offers me as his daughter. It’s almost like I don’t want to. I feel like I’m throwing a teenage tantrum and not trusting him with his plan, knowing full-well that he knows what is best for my life. Time and time again, he has shown me that he is faithful when I am not, but that’s hard to remember when I want what I want, when I want it, and not a second later. I’ve never wanted something as badly as I do right now. I struggle with the idea that I may never be able to bear children of my own, little people that are half me and half my husband. How could that be God’s will? It seems cruel.

I desperately want to give this to God. I don’t want to worry about this anymore. It’s exhausting. To truly find peace, I believe what God has been trying to tell me through this study of Ephesians is to be thankful always, even when it seems like the hardest thing to be. I don’t believe this means that I can’t grieve, but I shouldn’t walk in that grief. God has called all of us toward an abundant life — a life full of hope found in his promises — and he never promised that all women would bear children. As hard as that truth is, I can rest in God’s provision. I can rest in his overwhelming love. I can rest in the assurance that he is not turning a blind eye toward my pain, that he understands. I can rest in his asking me to cast all of my anxieties onto him, because he cares for me. I can rest in his promise that one day I will be in his presence for eternity, and that will not be able to compare to my present sufferings.

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