Infertility

Do Not Hinder Them

Pastor Mark Surburg, in his sermon preached on March 24th of this year at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Marion, Illinois, draws from the wisdom of Martin Chemnitz in applying Jesus’ admonition of His disciples (Mark 10:13-16) as comfort for Christians grieving a miscarriage.

Pastor Surburg graciously granted us permission to reproduce a portion of his sermon here. You can read the sermon in its entirety on his blog.


iu[T]he loss of a baby in miscarriage is a source of profound grief. The joyful expectation of knowing this little one abruptly ends, and we are left with nothing but sonogram images. Where a miscarriage occurs in the setting of ongoing fertility problems, it can be particularly crushing.

Yet it is not just the grief of a life lost. Our knowledge from God’s Word about the nature of man since the Fall also means that miscarriage presents us with troubling questions. Our Lord Jesus told Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” We know from Scripture that sinful, fallen man produces sinful, fallen man. It matters not how cute that sinful, fallen man is. 

For this very reason Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Our Lord has given us Holy Baptism as the means by which babies receive a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit, and become saints forgiven because of Christ. What then are we to say about these babies who were never born alive, and so never could receive rebirth in Holy Baptism?

Our text from Mark chapter ten provides encouragement to think about these things on the basis of our Lord’s word. It does not provide an exact answer. But it sends us to Christ in faith and hope. Mark begins by telling us, “And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them.”

Presumably parents were bringing their children – and the term used here includes very young children – so that Jesus could touch them. Now in Mark’s Gospel, every other time that Jesus touches someone it is order to provide healing. The saving power of the kingdom of God – the reign of God – was present in Jesus. People recognized this. On three different occasions in the gospel, Mark tells us that people in need of healing hoped to touch Jesus, or even just to touch his clothes.

Why did these parents want Jesus to touch their children?  They did because Jesus came proclaiming, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” They did because Jesus healed the sick, the blind and lepers with his touch. They did because the demons cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God,” before he cast them out. They wanted Jesus to touch their children because Jesus and his touch brought God’s saving reign.

However, we learn that when this happened “the disciples rebuked them.” Since the text never actually mentions who brought the children, I think we have to assume that the “them” refers to the children themselves. This fits with an important piece of cultural background that we need to understand. 

In our world children are revered. They are viewed as pure and untainted sources of wisdom. “Listen to the children” we are told. However, in the ancient world children were viewed as inferior because they were helpless and not able to work like adults; they were physically weak; they were likely to get sick and die; they were not guided by reason. They were looked down upon and were not held up as role models for adults to imitate.

But in response, the Lord Jesus was indignant about what the disciples were doing. He commanded them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And then Jesus took children in his arms – he embraced them – and blessed the children, laying his hands on them.

Jesus says in our text that the kingdom of God – the saving reign of God – was meant for those children. It was his will for them to receive it. He did not want them hindered from being brought to him. In the experience of miscarriage these words give us comfort and hope. Jesus wants these children in the womb to receive the reign of God. When Christian parents are prevented by miscarriage from bringing a child to baptism, we take comfort in the knowledge that our Lord does not want children to be hindered from receiving his saving reign.

Jesus Christ was so intent on bringing the reign of God that he suffered and died on the cross for you; for me; for every child we have lost in miscarriage. It is in this same chapter that our Lord says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Christ offered himself up in the suffering of the cross as the sacrifice for our sin.

But God’s reign in Christ could not be defeated by death.  Instead, Jesus passed through death in order to defeat it.  On the third day God raised Jesus from the dead. In his resurrection Christ has conquered death – even the death of infants in the womb. He has begun the resurrection of the Last Day that he will bring to completion for us when he returns in glory.

We entrust the little ones we have lost to the crucified and risen Lord. He has said that the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. He has said that he does not want them hindered from being brought to God’s reign. We know that he has bound us to the Means of Grace. But as God he knows no limitations. Indeed, it is immediately after our text that in response to the disciples shocked question, “Then who can be saved?”, that our Lord says: “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” We know the kind of Lord that Jesus has revealed himself to be in his death and resurrection, and so in hope and faith we entrust these little ones to him. They rest in his hands. That is all we need to know, because we know him.

And because we know him, we find comfort in the midst of our grief. In our text Jesus says, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Our Lord declares that the kingdom of God – the reign of God – belongs to children. It belongs to those who were considered weak and helpless – those who had nothing to offer.

That is what we are.  We are weak and helpless. We are not in control. The loss of a child in miscarriage unmasks all of these realities. But Jesus Christ came to bring God’s saving reign to just such people. He came to bring forgiveness and life. He came to bring comfort. He came to bring hope. Sin, sorrow and death do not get the last word. They do not because Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.

Written by Pastor Mark Surburg + Sermon for Life Service + March 24, 2019

Happy Grandmother’s Day!

Have you considered the facts?

  • Your uterus is not performing at her peak these days.
  • Your doctors draw your blood regularly and order further medical tests.
  • Your pillbox has both an AM and PM dispenser.
  • You spend your evenings volunteering at church and around town because you have the time.
  • The majority of the Christmas gifts you wrap end up under other families’ trees.
  • You pull up pictures and videos on your phone of other adults’ children to show at parties.
  • You thrill when a small hand makes a sticky print on your clean window or spills apple juice on your polished floor.
  • You rejoice when a child asks you to read her the same book five times in a row.
  • Children tell you their secrets and ask you to display their colored artwork on your refrigerator.
  • Parents generously bring their children over to your house to visit at their best hours and then take them home for their worst hours.
  • You travel all across the nation just to sit on a bleacher and watch amateur sports.
  • You wash the dishes and wipe down kitchen counters for weary mothers.
  • You offer them your shoulder to cry on and hope they will allow you to mother them this late in life.
  • You watch parents struggle in raising their children and hold your tongue.
  • You pray for all of them day and night.
  • You grieve your own empty nest.

Have you considered the fact that you skipped motherhood altogether in this life and jumped straight into the role of grandma?

It’s not what you wanted, I know, but you have to admit: the joys are deep, the work abundant, and the sleep better than most. It is good to be you.

And for this reason, may I wish you the happiest of Grandmother’s Days tomorrow and every day?

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I’m Already Blessed

th-1 “It happened again,” my friend Barb said to me. “Somebody asked me when Monte and I were going to start a family. People don’t need to know my whole life story, and they shouldn’t pry into my private life.”

I grimaced as Barb shared those words. She and her husband had been married for several years and were still without children. People were starting to ask more frequently when this young couple would start having children. After much prayer, Barb and Monte had decided to move forward with the adoption process, but it was going slowly. Several months ago, a birth mother had contacted them with the possibility of having Barb and Monte adopt the child when he was born. However, once the mother delivered her baby, she chose to parent him.

“I’m sad that we didn’t get to adopt Peter, but I’m glad his mother loves him. That baby boy wasn’t the answer God has in mind for us.”

I marveled at Barb’s wisdom. She and her husband were so young but also wise beyond their years.

Barb continued, “I don’t know why people can’t be happy for me. I have an awesome husband. He supports me in my grief, even when he doesn’t know what to say or do in the sad times. I am healthy, and I have a job that pays me a decent salary. I have loving family and friends around me. Why can’t people see that I’m already blessed and be happy for me in those things?”

And there it was. In her grief, Barb recognized her many blessings from the Lord. Yes, the adoption process had experienced a setback. And, yes, Barb was mourning a child that was not given to her. However, through her sorrow, Barb could still recall the Lord’s numerous blessings to her and her husband.

Whether or not God will grant Barb and Monte a child, I cannot say. Rather, may we all, no matter our trials and tribulations, confess with Barb, “I’m already blessed!”

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.

Birth Announcements

iurI often am asked, “How do I tell my barren friend that I am pregnant?”

Personal preferences are always personal, so I cannot speak for every woman. However, I can share with you exactly how I want to receive the news of another’s pregnancy: personally and in private.

And if that personal, private pregnancy announcement is accompanied by a sincere invitation for me to take part in my pregnant friend’s joy, then I find that I often can, indeed, rejoice in the gift given to her. While it always hurts to remain barren when others are blessed, I recognize the tender care in being sought out ahead of the crowd. I see the extended kindness in being invited to join in on the celebration. Being remembered is always a better experience for me than being left alone.

But do you know what helps me the most during these times of grief? I am greatly comforted and encouraged when my pregnant friend rightly believes and confesses that her child is a gift from God, and that confession is often expressed — not through a cheeky Instagram picture or a clever Facebook announcement — but through a dignified email such as this:


Katie,

Several times in the past year, I felt quite a bit like Hannah — weeping bitterly before the Lord. I wondered many times why He didn’t remember me, as He remembered her. But the Lord is faithful and merciful, and He has remembered me. We found out last month that I am pregnant. And while this news has come with much joy and thanksgiving, it has also come with great grief. In my joy, I can’t help but think of all my sisters who, like Hannah, also weep bitterly before the Lord, and yet do not receive the gift of a child.

I pray for you and your husband often. I pray that He will shower you with the same blessings He has given me and my husband through our children. But more importantly, I pray He will grant you peace and comfort, and remind you ever that you are His, and that His love for you endures forever.

God’s blessings to you in all that you do.

In Christ,
Leah

Leah, in the midst of her rejoicing, chooses to remember — even share in — my grief.

And in the safety of such obvious love, I find it quite easy to share in her joy.