Thank you, Rev. Dr. Benjamin T. G. Mayes (husband of Rebecca), for generously responding to the following question recently submitted.
Question Submitted: Any ideas for barren husbands? This may be harder on me than on my wife. We’re a happy family of 2, but I have rough days missing children we won’t have.
Brother, here are some random thoughts to give an answer to your question. My sense is that men have totally different feelings about barrenness and lack of children. Most men are probably able to compartmentalize the disappointment that they feel when they realize that their family might not include any little ones. We probably are not all the same. As for me, there were times when I did not feel the desire for children. Of course, that’s when I thought it would be easy to have them! We always seem to want what we don’t have, isn’t that true?
I have one son, who is definitely not a baby any more. He has been a major blessing to me and Rebecca, so I’m afraid I’m not in your exact situation. But now, I, too, wish to have another child of my own, and who knows if and when that will happen?
I don’t think anything can take the place of having your own child, just like nothing can take the place of having your own wife. God gives different gifts to different people, but those gifts are unique and not interchangeable. The woman with five kids might be tempted to see those kids as a burden. For us, we feel the lack of children as a burden. We feel that we lack little ones on which to shower our love. I don’t think anything can take the place of those kids. So that is the one major caveat I have to give here. The following tips may not fill the hole in your life and family that you are feeling. But they might help, and they will certainly be good reminders of the truths you probably already know.
1. Katie and her team here have amassed a treasure trove of Gospel comfort for barren families, including you.
2. As I’m sure you know, our primary identity and joy (we must remind ourselves!) should come from belonging to God’s family, having God as our true Father, the church as our true mother (cf. Matt. 12:50; Gal. 4:26), and other Christians as our brothers and sisters. If you are a pastor, you also have children in the faith through your preaching, teaching, and baptizing (1 Cor. 4:15).
3. On a practical level, obviously pursue adoption if you’re able.
4. Since you don’t have kids, you may as well save up some money and splurge on doing some special things with your wife, like traveling or investing in some of the hobbies you both enjoy. I would personally suggest checking out beautiful art and architecture in Germany and Italy! Then, of course, you might also be able to afford being generous to others.
5. I’d recommend becoming a mentor for boys or young men in your area. Many boys have no father figures and really need one. I’ve had the opportunity to become involved in the life of a young man, my godson, who was baptized at our church when he was 8 (now he’s a teenager). He was adopted by his great-grandmother and had no father figure to look up to. So he comes to our house every Saturday night, and we have what you might call a family night, so that he can see how a man should treat his wife, so that we can play games together, and also have time to talk about questions that he wouldn’t feel comfortable asking grandma. It’s been a great experience for me, and for him, too. Maybe for you, spending time with the church’s youth group would allow you to show the love of Christ to young people. It doesn’t take the place of having your own son, but it is a way that someone in your position can truly help a young man and show him the love of Christ. And truly, if the Lord has not blessed you with physical children, showing the love of Christ is more important than having a child of your own.
In summary, I think men probably approach the issue of barrenness with more detachment than our sisters in Christ, but what does detachment really mean? It means that we can compartmentalize our sorrow and put it in a box so that it doesn’t bother us all the time. But it is still there. We pray to God for solace, and He gives solace when and where it pleases Him, not when and where it pleases us. In the meantime, He has given you the best solace in His Son and Holy Spirit (the Comforter!), and at the same time, I think He gives you other blessings and avenues of service that might just be unique to people in your situation.
—Rev. Dr. Benjamin T. G. Mayes