A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I sat together in an andrologist’s office as she shuffled through papers, asked a few questions, scribbled notes, and looked at the results of my husband’s latest tests. Time ticked past with excruciating slowness as we waited for her to give the verdict we’d been anticipating for longer than a year—ever since my husband entered remission for lymphoma in December 2021. Finally, she looked up at us and delivered the devastating news: because of the high toxicity of my husband’s chemotherapy, we were not going to be able to have children naturally.
She looked up at us and delivered the devastating news … we were not going to be able to have children naturally.
As I slowly worked my way through the tissues on her desk, she was sympathetic but clinical: “At least your husband survived the cancer.” (Top tip for managing sobbing strangers: Truly empathetic sentences never begin with “At least…”)
My husband and I are only just beginning to navigate this new wilderness—one of several we have faced over the past nine years of our marriage. But in the midst of our grief at the loss of a deeply desired future, one verse has lodged itself in my mind. It comes from Acts 3:15:
You killed the Author of life, but God raised Him from the dead, and we are witnesses of the fact.
Jesus is the Author of Life. John tells us that everything in the world was made through Jesus:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.”
(John 1:1-4, NIV; my emphasis)
In Colossians 1:16-17, Paul tells us that not only was everything made through Jesus, but everything was made for Jesus:
All things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
Jesus alone brings order and cohesion; he is the sticky substance that makes sense of and gives meaning to everything.
I’m originally a clinically-trained psychologist, but these days I work as a fantasy author. If you are a reader, you will appreciate just how much power authors have over their created worlds—and the emotions of their readers. The deaths of Gandalf or Aslan or Albus Dumbledore are devastating not only because we care deeply for those characters, but because they mimic the uncontrollability and chaos—and unfairness—of real life.
Trusting the Author
Good people die; bad people endure. And the author—that infuriatingly omnipotent, omniscient creature who tugs at our heartstrings seemingly without remorse or regret—is in control of it all, deciding who lives and who dies.
That’s not to say that we can’t reserve our right to be upset when the story doesn’t proceed as we want it to. Entire fan bases have been inflamed by the untimely demise of likeable characters. The death of Mr Spock in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan led to advertisements pleading for the death to be reversed, and—rather ironically—even death threats sent to the family of Leonard Nimoy, who portrayed Spock.
Death, even in fiction, can be devastating. But if you trust the author, and you know the ending, all is well. Aslan’s sacrifice (as a willing victim in the traitor’s stead) unlocks the “Deeper Magic”, thwarting the White Witch, despite all her cunning. Obi-Wan Kenobi allows Darth Vader to kill him, but goes on in the power of the Force. Gandalf the Grey’s willingness to die ensures the survival of the Fellowship and paves the way for his own triumphant return as Gandalf the White. Those who give up their life will find it (Matthew 10:39).
What bearing, if any, does all of this have on mine and my husband’s inability to have children? Why am I talking so much about death when it’s life we’re interested in?
But since the Fall, death and life are always interlinked—especially in the Bible.
God is absolutely sovereign. He presides over good fortune and bad fortune alike.
In the Bible, God is absolutely sovereign. He presides over good fortune and bad fortune alike (as the Book of Job illustrates). He rules over fertility and infertility. Even a young couple in the prime of life and health only conceives through the grace of God—because God allows it. He is the one who knits us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13-14). We think we’re the ones making things happen, but it’s God who creates our inmost being—any semblance of control is always an illusion. Likewise, if God has closed this door, it is he who has closed it, and no one else (1 Samuel 1:5-6).
At the beginning of my chronic illness journey five years ago, that realisation was enough to make me shake my fist at God. But now, it’s one of my greatest comforts. If God wants to give my husband and I children, the Bible is evidence that nothing and no one can stand in his way: not age (Genesis 18:11; Luke 1:36); or barrenness (1 Samuel 1); or a physical inability to give birth (Genesis 17:17); or my own attempts to bring about a desired outcome (Genesis 16:1-4). And, simultaneously, if God has other plans for us (such as adoption, or a life of serving others as a couple), nothing we can do can twist his arm: not fertility supplements or innovative treatments or the very best doctors that money can buy.
The God of Comfort
Of course, it’s not sinful to use the things that God has put in this world to help us (and indeed my husband and I are currently looking into our options in regards to fertility treatment and adoption). But if you are on this infertility journey yourself, God wants you to find your comfort in him. As Paul reminds the Corinthians, God is the:
… Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. (1 Cor 1:3-5)
If you are in the wilderness of childlessness, let God be your comfort. Cry out to him; proclaim your helplessness and humble dependence as his child. Lay your heartache at his feet. Submit your actions and your future course to his control. And with the comfort you receive, comfort others (preferably not with meaningless platitudes like the one from our andrologist). There are many of us in this particular boat, at the mercy of the waves of fear and doubt and uncertainty, crying out for Jesus to grant us relief from this particular trial.
God is the Author: not just of you, but of life itself.
God is the Author: not just of you, but of life itself. He isn’t wily or capricious, and he doesn’t kill off characters (or bring them into the story) for his own amusement. Rather, he entered his own story—our world—to suffer and die on a criminal’s cross for our sake. And in that most humble sacrifice, the glory, power, and enduring goodness of the Author was revealed. He laid down his life, only to take it up again (John 10:17). Death could not hold him, and because of that, it cannot hold you.
Life to the Full
Even if my life doesn’t proceed the way I hoped or wished; even if my arms never cradle a child of my own DNA (or someone else’s), Jesus promises me that life with him will be exceedingly abundant and fruitful (John 15:5-8). He promises my husband and me that we will have “life … to the full” (John 10:10). He is lovingly authoring our lives, and if, as he did with Sarah or Hannah or Elizabeth, he chooses to bring forth a little Isaac or a Samuel or a John—it will happen in his perfect timing. But our lives will be full nonetheless, simply because he is in them.
The Author of Life knows our beginning, our middle, and our end. We may not know our end, but he does, and he tells us it’s going to be out of this world (Revelation 21:1-7; 22:1-5). In fact, it’s not going to be an ending at all, but the new beginning of a life … and not just any life, but life as it was always meant to be. In the meantime, in this present wilderness of pain and loneliness and loss, he promises that he will be everything we need, and more.
So join us as we strive to trust our Author. Let’s pray that he would be our light, even as all other lights wink out. Let’s trust him as our story unfolds beneath his loving pen—even if it’s not the story we would have written for ourselves. Suffering and comfort will abound in equal measure, but the Author of life won’t ever let us go—and the ending he’s writing for us will be beyond our wildest imaginings.