Question submitted: Some members of our family gave birth to their children through IVF. Throughout their IVF journey there was grief, despair, and much sorrow both at the loss of several children/embryos as well as family members who did not necessarily approve of their decision to move forward with IVF. As IVF has become such a common practice, how can Christians and Christian family members express their concern without being seen as unloving, uncaring and just plain ignorant? In their view we just didn’t “get infertility” and we had children of our own so we truly didn’t understand their pain and suffering. Secondly, now that they have brought children into the world there is much joy and happiness throughout our entire family. But the one thing that continues to weigh heavy on my heart is the children/embryos that are currently frozen. Should we as Christian family members question when these children will be brought into the world or do we just remain silent now that there is finally family unity? I will tell you that during their IVF treatments there was so much unrest because some family members condoned their IVF treatments and others did not.
Dear friend, you have just given our readers a first-hand account of the heartache and conflict that IVF can bring to a family. And this is happening in Christian families everywhere, touching those who live the faster-paced lifestyles in the major cities as well as the “family values” farming communities in the Midwest. On our speaking tours, Katie and Kristi and I have talked to many women and other family members who, like you, are at a loss as to how to address this huge mess that has spilled out of a couple’s seemingly innocent desire to have a child. Lord, have mercy!
Your question has two main parts and I want to address them separately.
1. “How can Christians and Christian family members express their concern without being seen as unloving, uncaring and just plain ignorant?”
I know that it is often hard for fertile family members to reach out to their barren loved ones. But I think that in the case where IVF is being discussed it is absolutely vital for families, churches and pastors to pray for courage to address this with a couple. It is because you love them that you desire to steer them away from the temptation to fall into sin—namely the sin against the 5th Commandment where they would most certainly (not might, not could) be hurting or even killing their “neighbor” (the embryos/children that are discarded or frozen as a result). And it is your love for God that propels you to boldly share His Word about this kind of sin with the couple, believing that the Word is powerful and can change hearts. Approach your family members with the genuine compassion that you’ve expressed and confidently share with them these thoughts:
a. Some of our previous posts on IVF lay out what can happen during IVF and why Christians should abandon this option.
b. The various resources listed on this site (particularly Dr. Weise’s article and this Issues, Etc. show) are filled with wisdom, Scripture references, and more reasons not to engage in the procedure.
c. Scripture calls children a reward, a gift, intricately woven, formed and knitted together by our Heavenly Father (Psalm 127:3 and 139:15). When the vast majority of IVF procedures end in the freezing or killing off of unwanted children, then we are not viewing them as rewards, gifts, and specially created beings who were meant to be born, baptized, and raised in the Christian faith (Exodus 20:13).
d. Don’t let the fact that you are fertile prevent you from speaking the truth in love to your barren family. They need to realize that the pain of barrenness does not justify treating living human beings as IVF treats them.
2. “The one thing that continues to weigh heavy on my heart is the children/embryos that are currently frozen. Should we as Christian family members question when these children will be brought into the world or do we just remain silent now that there is finally family unity?”
Thank you for acknowledging the lives that still exist as a result of this couple’s actions. You are very aware that this couple has multiple children now, though most of them have not been born. Can there truly be family unity now when parts of the family are frozen and deserted? Since these children are your relatives, too, you see that they are not being cared for as they should and I think you have every right to bring this to the attention of the parents. Please do encourage and attempt to influence your family members to recognize that those tiny human embryos are really children who must be rescued. The couple made the conscious decision to conceive these children—which made them parents—and the Bible has much to say about the responsibility that comes with parenting:
When parents allow their children to be frozen and to remain in this state they cannot carry out these responsibilities. The goal of your discussion with your family members is repentance, a change of mind. If they do indeed repent and as a result want to “bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8), then it would be good to help them to do so.
And here is where it gets really hard. There is no easy way to undo the wrong that has been done. The hard truth is that this couple is morally obligated to parent all these children that they have made, meaning they should plan to implant all of the frozen embryos. This would likely take several procedures to achieve, each costing several thousands of dollars, and in the process several lives will probably be lost. I wish there was an easier way but I do not know of any. IVF is such a tangled mess that it is extremely difficult and very costly to try to make amends. That is why we choose to address this topic so much on this blog. We seek not only to show love to children by promoting procreation the “traditional” way, but we seek to show love to the desperate couple who is contemplating this procedure. Our goal is to spare them and their family members from having to make the extreme sacrifices that are necessary in order to take full responsibility for all the children conceived in IVF. The amazing power of Christ’s forgiveness, applied to the repentant heart, repairs our broken relationship with God and renews our ability to stand before him as righteous, cleansed and cherished children. This is true family unity. But in this earthly life there are still consequences for sin and these are often a very heavy burden. If you find that your family members are ready to confess the mistakes of their past, embrace them with your love and Christ’s, and do what you can to help them bear what lies ahead as they attempt to care for all their children.