Divorce

What Did I Do?

It is our honor to share with you, in no particular order, three honorable mentions selected from the bounty of our Lenten writing contest submissions. We simply could not let these treasures go unread.

This first selection written by Katie Fischer features a line that I wish I had written myself. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which one it is.


iu-3 2“What did I do to deserve this, Lord?”

Even at the time I knew it was my doubts and unbelieving sinful nature that gave me those words to say, but I was sad and angry and I didn’t care. I had been praying for years for my husband’s faith and yet on that day he was still off, joining another denomination. Finalizing the break in our Communion fellowship. 

I had pleaded my cause in prayer for so long I felt I had nothing to pray that day – only despair.

Unheard, unloved, a woman thrust into a position I never wanted to be in. My number one requirement for marriage was a man who could be my spiritual head, to lead our family in the faith, and who would train our children in the words of the catechism. And yet here I was: unequally yoked and having to take up the headship not intended for me.

I knew the world was broken by sin and we are supposed to do the best with what we have, but I didn’t want that for me. I had prayed for unity of confession within our family countless times, a good gift to desire, and it was like my prayers had fallen on deaf ears. 

The years kept passing. I couldn’t change the situation, but I also wouldn’t accept it. In waves the frustrations would resurface to bring a full renewal of the grief.

Usually when my children practice their choir music I don’t purposefully listen in. Not that it’s bad, much to the contrary, I know I’m going to be steeped in it for the next month or two and can take my time to enjoy it. But one day I heard their little voices working on the antiphon, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give to you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

I immediately tuned in. I’d heard the verse before. It usually hurt because the desire of my heart received a “no” day after day, year after year. Whether it was due to the recent sermon or the Bible study, I can’t remember which, but that day was different. Instead of hearing it as a rule to follow to get my reward, it was a promise. If my delight is in the Lord He will be my desire and I know He Himself – His mercy and forgiveness flowing from His death on the cross – is what He has promised to give me.

It may not be Law, but it was convicting all the same. I, a poor miserable sinner, was not delighting in the Lord. The desires I prayed for were not for the certain promises given in my baptism. I wanted to twist God’s ear to what I decided was most important. I had made an idol and a god out of having a Lutheran husband, thought of it as necessary to my faith, and was still clinging to that idol even after it had been torn away. I had been focusing on the hearts of others and neglecting my own.

When I cried out He had heard; when I prayed He had answered. It was not the answer I expected (or thought I needed) so I turned away and was blind to it. The circumstances that I wanted bent to my own will didn’t change, but through the preaching of the Word my prayers were changed. A good gift can still be an idol, and by keeping my eyes on the one gift I didn’t have I even robbed joy from the good I did have: a loving husband who works hard for his family. There is much more peace in praying for what God has promised than in pleading to keep an idol of my own building. 

That verse, Psalm 37:4, is written on the front page of my hymnal as a reminder, for I certainly need plenty of reminders to lead me back to repentance. For in His mercy He hears and washes me anew every day, even before I cry out for it.

By Katie Fischer

All Kinds of Barrenness

IMG_0211Special thanks to Katy Cloninger for today’s guest post. Her words of empathy, compassion, and truth are a welcome start to the day.


What does it mean to be barren? Merriam-Webster coldly and bleakly defines it as “incapable of producing offspring,” or “not yet or not recently pregnant.” But on a personal level, there are as many kinds of barrenness as there are barren women.

Some women fall into what may be called the classic category: they have never been able to get pregnant, no matter how much they try to “take charge of their fertility.” Others have been able to conceive but not to carry a child to term. Yet others have carried a pregnancy to term, but the baby was stillborn. Lord, have mercy on us all.

Other women suffer from secondary infertility. They have had one or more children, but for whatever reason, or no apparent reason at all, they cannot have any more. Such cases are made even sadder when the one child a woman has is taken from her by SIDS or some other tragic circumstance. Lord, have mercy on us all.

There are women who have had abortions before they knew the value of life, or knew it but were coerced, and the procedure took away not only the child they had but the ability to have children later on. Or perhaps some other surgery, necessary to preserve their own life, robbed them of the ability to bring more life into the world. Lord, have mercy on us all.

Then there are those women who never found a suitable husband, though their greatest desire was to be a loving wife and mother. Others have found husbands, but their husbands have turned out not to want children, or there are difficulties consummating the marriage, or their husbands have abandoned them, terminating all dreams of a happy home full of children. Perhaps the husband is the sterile spouse. Or perhaps the husband met an untimely death, leaving his young and hopeful wife a widow in her prime childbearing years. Lord, have mercy on us all.

No doubt there are many more kinds of barrenness than I have named. And for every person touched by barrenness, the individual details and complications add layer upon layer of sorrow and grief. Often we feel completely unique and alone in our pain.

But that feeling is a satanic lie, for the Bible tells us so.

“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows,” Isaiah prophesies of Jesus, “yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Is 53:4). This Jesus, the Son of the Virgin, indeed “grew up before [the LORD] like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground” (v. 2), for the very purpose that He would be “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (v. 3)—for us and for our salvation. Though our suffering is unique in some ways, it is common in that we all suffer the effects of sin; we all suffer the death-in-life of existing in a fallen world. We need a Savior to come and suffer for us the true forsaking of God so that we can be assured that God will never forsake us (Heb 13:5).

But because we are in Christ, our suffering leads ultimately to glorification. St. Peter instructs that “those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Pet 4:19), and to “rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed” (v. 13). St. Paul picks up on the same theme. He reminds us that we are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him” (Rom 8:17). Paul later adds that “those whom [God] foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son” (v. 29)—an image that is first cruciform, and only later glorified.

Nevertheless, Paul comforts us that our sufferings are brief and, with Peter, he encourages us to await the revelation of God’s glory in our now-broken selves: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18). Our glorification is so certain that Paul can speak of it in the past tense: “those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called he also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified” (v. 30). Even now, Paul tells us, the Holy Spirit is bringing forth fruit as we suffer; we can “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5:3–5).

In our present vale of tears, we may not know why God sends us this cross or that one. But we are assured that somehow, it is for our good: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28).

Our crosses, whatever they be, are always hard to bear—would be impossible to bear without God’s constant and mighty aid. But even if we are not bearing fruit in our wombs, the Holy Spirit is bearing fruit in us. So we wait with patience, trusting that the God who opens and closes our wombs knows best, and knowing that the glorification of our fallen world—and our fallen bodies—is at hand.


Katy Cloninger is a freelance copyeditor and the divorced mother of one. She has a BA in English from Newberry College and is a member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, SC. She loves reading, writing, hearing, teaching, and singing about her Savior Jesus Christ and the marvelous truths of God’s Word.