Question Submitted: Could you recommend a book that would be helpful for my husband? He feels immense guilt and sadness about our inability to have children. I know there are books geared towards women, but I don’t know of any that are geared towards men.
As a barren husband myself, I wish that I knew of a book or article out there that addressed this topic for men. From what I’ve been able to discover, though, there is little if anything out there that seeks to provide comfort to barren men. That being said, I do think that many men would benefit from reading Katie’s book. Yes, there are sections of it that speak much more to the specific grief and pain that the barren woman feels, yet many of the feelings of loss, abandonment, and loneliness are shared by both husband and wife. He Remembers the Barren helps to point each of us back to our abundant worth as children of God.
I’ve also found that studying the Lutheran (Scriptural, really) doctrine of vocation has been beneficial in my personal struggles with feelings of helplessness and of having let my wife down. For the general reader, Gene Veith’s God at Work is the go-to text for learning about this doctrine of vocation. Through vocation, we Christians gain a tremendous comfort in knowing that the things we’re doing in our lives, as well as being able to identify who our neighbors are in life, are all providential gifts of God. He intends for us to serve our neighbor in many and various ways, and He uses us as his “masks” in order to serve them. We find comfort in seeing God’s will concretely revealed for us in the exact circumstances in which we find ourselves.
In fact, using the general doctrine of vocation as a guide, I’d encourage all men who are suffering from barrenness to listen to God’s Word for them in Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” (ESV)
Here is God’s general desire for husbands: love your wives. Christ came not to be served but to serve. Hearing that we husbands are “Christs” to our wives in marriage (Paul tells us that marriage is a mysterious picture of Christ and the Church), our vocation then is understood as one of serving them. In other words, we should look first to their needs. Our needs are taken care of in Christ’s gift of our wives. Marriage is so beautiful, because, as we serve our wives and give ourselves for them, they likewise will serve us, too.
So, practically speaking, lead your wife in life and especially in the faith. Find a good devotional resource that you can use on a daily basis. A couple excellent ones are the Treasury of Daily Prayer and Bo Giertz’s To Live with Christ. Pray with and for your wife. Set aside a time each week where the two of you will go and do something which you both enjoy together. Once a week, get out the grill and make lunch or dinner. When something breaks in the house, don’t call the repair man, but instead see if you can learn how to fix it yourself (but, please, don’t kill yourself!). These are all excellent vocational ways to actively love and lead your wife.
Finally, men, don’t be afraid to go and talk to your pastor. I know it’s true that we want to appear strong and might feel that talking with your pastor would be a sign of weakness. Please don’t feel this way. Your pastor is there for you, to listen to you and speak Christ’s words to you, in your need. Every single one of us needs this. Hear what the writer to the Hebrews says about Jesus: “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (ESV) See what care God has for you? Jesus is there to speak comfort to you, because He completely understands you. Don’t be afraid to come to Him and His pastors, so that your ears can hear his words of mercy for you.
Rev. Michael P. Schuermann