Question Submitted: I’m happily married. My husband and I want children, but we haven’t been blessed with any. I want to take comfort in the fact that God gives and withholds the gift of children as you say, but I can’t. God gave me the gift of a child years ago before I met my husband, and I aborted it. I murdered God’s gift, and now I’m left childless. I’m barren at my own hand. I don’t deserve to be comforted.
Dear one, I don’t deserve to be comforted, either, yet God comforts me, anyway. Hear God’s comfort for you from one of His called and ordained servants of the Word:
Dearest sister in Christ,
In this life one of the most difficult things is to be faced with the tragic consequences of sin, whether it’s our own sin or someone else’s. At times it seems that these consequences are like open wounds, refusing to completely heal, staring us in the face as reminders that everything is not as it should be because sin has corrupted our world and our lives. It’s in the “openness” of the wound, the seeming lack of healing, that we find the most grief and heartache. But it’s also in this very same openness that we are driven time and time again to our Lord. The fact that we can do nothing about it leads us to seek out the God who has done something about it on the cross of His Son. These constant reminders, these thorns in the flesh of our hearts, serve to draw us to the only One who makes us complete in the death and resurrection of His Son, who has conquered every sin and every death.
You have confessed your own sin and admit that you feel the sting of its reminder. In confessing your sin, you do not lack repentance. As our Catechism teaches, this admission of guilt is the first part of Confession. The second part is “that we receive absolution, that is, forgiveness, from the pastor as from God Himself, not doubting, but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven.” We have our Lord’s own Word, which promises, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Your fear is that you don’t deserve to be comforted, but blessedly, God’s grace does not depend on our worthiness. That’s the beauty of grace. Your heavenly Father forgives you, in spite of what you deserve. He bathes you in the water of your Baptism and every stain is removed. It’s a trick of the devil to get us to look at our own worthiness. Don’t look to your own faithfulness or worthiness because your Lord is faithful and just and He forgives you of all unrighteousness.
In the Old Testament, King David had to deal with the consequences of his sin with Bathsheba. The prophet Nathan told him that because of David’s sin, the child born of that sin would die. David’s guilt and grief must have crushed him as he saw his own sin have such tragic consequences for his child. And yet David still trusted in the Lord’s mercy after this loss when he said, “Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Sam. 12:23). David, the man familiar with grief and guilt over his own sin, also wrote: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:8-12). David knew not to look at his own worthiness to be comforted. David trusted the Lord to relieve and comfort him because of the Lord’s mercy and grace.
Do not look to yourself or your own unworthiness, dear sister. You’ve confessed your sin, now hear the Lord’s forgiveness. The Lord does not deal with you according to your sin. Instead, He forgives it. He sent His Son to bear your sins, every specific one, and to put them to death on the cross. Jesus takes our darkest deeds onto Himself and He gives you His own holiness. Look to your Savior and what He has done and know that you are really and truly forgiven.
Sometimes it seems that our wounds of grief or guilt will never completely heal. But as I said before, these wounds, even the wound of childlessness that you have now, serve to draw us to our Lord again and again. When your conscience stings you, run to your Lord and receive the healing of His forgiveness in His Holy Supper. When the devil holds your sins in your face, go and confess those sins to one of the pastors that your Good Shepherd has sent to you and hear the words of forgiveness again and again. When you’re tempted to focus on your own sin or unworthiness, flee to Your Savior and focus instead on His perfection that He shares with you. Your Lord is greater than your sin and He forgives you. Hold to that when the grief and guilt seem too great. Your Father forgives you, loves you, and comforts you, not because of what you’ve done, but because of what His Son has done. Peace be with you.
Rev. Tony Oliphant