Men

Words of Grief and Hope

cross markerSpecial thanks to the Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn for granting permission to reprint this post from his website “Lutheran Logomaniac.” Pastor Peperkorn is a husband, a father, and a pastor. He shares his grief and his confidence in the promise of the resurrection on the Last Day.

“Nadia After Eight”

Each year the day after Thanksgiving begins a period for me where a whole bunch of anniversaries begin. The first is the death of our unborn daughter, Nadia. After that comes the death of our unborn son, Emmanuel. Then it is the death of my mother. Finally is the time when I went on disability for clinical depression.

In many ways my grief is less raw than it once was. It is less primal and fear inducing. My grief now has taken on another character. That character is grief as guilt.

I remember when Nadia died eight years ago. No one knows what to do with a miscarriage. Is it a big deal or not? How do people react to such a thing? And because no one knows what to do, that generally means that most people do nothing. We had a lot of family staying with us when Nadia died, and sure enough, they really did nothing.

I remember being angry at them, so very angry. WE LOST A BABY! Why don’t you care?

Eight years later, I can see that my anger at them was really not directed so much at them as it was at God. They were simply an easier target. When someone dies, above all you want someone to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Fix it, somehow. The least you can do is die with them. But it doesn’t work that way. Someone dies, and everything else just lingers on. Eventually things return to normal, whatever that means. But that smoldering anger remains.

The fact is that God did do something about Nadia’s death. He sent His Son into another womb, helpless and in complete and utter need. And He lived that life of no consequence, just like everyone else’s life. You wouldn’t know Him by looking at Him. And so it is that He died. He died for all of the Nadias out there. He died for all the children born and unborn who are enslaved by this grip of death. He died for the grieving and lingering. He died for them and for me. And you.

I’m not angry at God anymore. Not about that, at least. Ok, not as much. But the grief remains. I cling to this grief, believing that by holding onto this grief (and anger) I can somehow maintain the rightness of my cause. Surely God will do something about this. Surely He will call her from the dead. Surely we will feast together at the Last Day. Surely God will dry our tears. Surely…

Zion hears the watchmen singing,

And all her heart with joy is springing;

She wakes, she rises from her gloom.

For her Lord comes down all-glorious,

The strong in grace, in truth victorious;

Her star is ris’n, her light is come.

Now come, Thou Blessèd One,

Lord Jesus, God’s own Son,

Hail! Hosanna!

We enter all

The wedding hall

To eat the Supper at Thy call.

(LSB 516:2)

Covet

Thank you, Rev. Michael Mohr, for helping us see how God can give us the vocation of parenthood even in our barrenness:

Last month, I was attending a youth conference with one of the young men from our joint youth group. One of the break-out sections he wanted to attend was on Biblical manhood. As we sat there listening, my heart was saddened. Much of the presentation was about the Biblical role of rearing boys into men – fathers leading sons away from their mothers to grow into manhood. This was something I would never have, I thought. As my singleness has left me barren, I would have no son to lead through the steps to manhood. This is something I have earnestly desired (or, as the King James translation puts it – coveted), even to the point of idolatrous envy (i.e. covetousness). There are so many miserable fathers out there. Surely I could do a better job than they are doing. Why am I left sonless? The sadness was beginning to turn to anger and bitterness.

As the presentation ended, my young charge turned to me and asked, “Were you thinking what I was thinking?” I wasn’t about to admit my guilt right there on the spot – especially since I highly doubted he was pondering my barrenness. “What’s that, Jason?” I asked. “About us, how you kind of father me – like on this trip.”

Out of the mouths of babes! How could I have been so blind as to not see the great gift of God that was before me? To mentor youth, to take an active role in their lives, to express love and care for them is to fulfill the plan God has for me. This is the gift I covet, and He has been giving it to me all along.

Epilogue

The other day, we were traveling to a workshop and Jason asked to make a side trip to pick something up from his girlfriend’s house. As I dutifully waited in the car (“so as not to embarrass him,” I thought), he brought her out to the car and introduced me – “This is Pastor Mohr, my second dad.” I almost cried. I thank God for all of the young men I have thought of as sons, that God has permitted me to shape and mold for a time. I thank God that He has fulfilled His plan of how I should father those He has sent into my life.

Suffering

God Himself causes our suffering.  He is not the cause of sin, mind you, but He is the cause of our suffering.  [p.32]  Those are the words of Dr. Gregory Schulz  in his book The Problem of Suffering: A Father’s Hope.

As I read Dr. Schulz’s book, I began to think he had a window to my heart.  As he shared the struggles of pain and suffering surrounding the death of two of his children, he asked why these things could happen.  I asked that same question surrounding my barrenness.  He wrote based on his experiences as a father and a husband.  He asked why suffering happens.  He questioned suffering in the world.  I asked those very same things.  Dr. Schulz pointed me to Jesus, the only relief from suffering.

We experience death, pain, sorrow, and grief. How can suffering come from God?  Suffering is real.  Suffering hurts.  Suffering drives us to our knees.  Suffering demonstrates to us that we are mortal.  We cannot cure every disease.  We cannot prevent death.  We cannot administer the drug that takes away aches and pains.

No, our only relief lies in Jesus Christ.  He took all of our sin sicknesses and sufferings and ingested them into Himself on the cross – for us.  We are made holy in our baptisms.  Once baptized, though, we are signed up for a lifetime of suffering.

There is great temptation to say that our suffering will come to a fairy-tale ending in this world.  On the contrary, in this world we will have pain and sorrow.  It would be foolish to insist that our suffering is going to have a glorious finish.  This is a sinful world, and while we dwell in it, we will not be safe from sin.  When the body and soul of the believer in Christ are united with Jesus, THEN all suffering will end.  This is why we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “But deliver us from evil.”  True relief is peace in Christ.

In this world, we will experience disappointment, heartache, death, miscarriage, and so much more.  Take heart, dear sisters and brothers in Christ, you are not alone.  Dr. Schulz writes: “…even the Gospel doesn’t give us absolute rest as long as we are away from home in this vale of tears.  It can and does bring us the Good News of Jesus, the rest for our souls, but we still experience anger and anxiety.” [p.124]  He continues: “My joy is not complete.  It cannot be, until God grants us all a blessed reunion in heaven.” [p.125]  God does not abandon you.  He loves you, and He understands your suffering.

I commend this book to you.  Grieve with Dr. Schulz.  Live under the cross of Jesus until He takes you to Himself, where all suffering ends.

Father’s Day

Just because your husband may not be the father of his own children does not mean you cannot celebrate him this Sunday.

Does your husband teach Sunday school or help with the senior youth group? Does he buy ice cream for his nephews and read books to his nieces? Does he play dodgeball with rough-and-tumble sixth graders? Does he instruct his godchildren in the Way they should go?

Does he serve on the board of elders, church council, or board of trustees? Does he chaperone youth trips? Does he turn sticks into lightsabers? Does he give money to crisis pregnancy centers, school auctions, or pro-life organizations? Does he carry tired children across the State Fair grounds? Does he include his voice with all of the Church to pray?

Then, he is a father.

Go all out this year, ladies. Spoil your husbands silly. Foot rubs, massages, grilled steaks, homemade rolls, tickets to see Prometheus, the whole nine yards. Celebrate the dickens out of your guy, because he is a father to all children.

 

Admonition and Comfort for the Barren

Emmanuel Press has graciously allowed us to make available for you on this site, “Admonition and Comfort for the Barren,” an excerpt from Starck’s Motherhood Prayers for All Occasions. Thank you, Emmanuel Press!

“Admonition and Comfort for the Barren” is an excerpt from Starck’s Motherhood Prayers for All Occasions, which was originally published in the English edition of Starck’s Prayer Book in 1921. Johann Friedrich Starck was an 18th century Lutheran pastor, devotional writer, and poet in Frankfurt, Germany.  He and his wife, Katharina, gave birth to seven children, of whom two survived.

 

Admonition and Comfort for the Barren 

When God withholds children from married people, so that they say with Abraham: “Lord God, what wilt Thou give me, seeing I go childless?”  Gen. 15:2, they should:

1.  Reflect that in either spouse there may be natural causes of barrenness; for God does not bestow on all men the same qualities nor the same fruitfulness. If God has not placed this gift in them, they should be content with their condition, and believe that He is nevertheless their gracious God who loves them and is well-disposed towards them. Though a tulip has not as many flowers as a rose bush, it is nevertheless a pleasant plant to the gardener and the proprietor of the garden. How many shrubs adorn a garden, without bearing fruit, and yet we are glad to have them in our gardens. Thus barren spouses are also dear children of God, though He has not made them equal to others as regards fruitfulness.

2.  They should remember that children are a gift of the Lord. If He withholds this gift from anyone, that person should not on that account murmur against God, nor grow envious when he sees that God gives to some more than to others. God is the Lord in His house: He dispenses His gifts according to His good pleasure. God has reserved for Himself three keys: the key to the grave, for nobody except God can raise the dead; the key that unlocks the rain in the clouds, for no false god can give rain, and no human being can cause rain; and the key to the womb, which nobody can open when the Lord has locked it, nor lock when the Lord opens it. However, if it is God’s gracious will to withhold from married persons the blessing of children, such spouses must give proof of their patience, resignation, and hope in their childless state.

3.  Barrenness is not a sign of God’s wrath; for that God is not angry with them the barren may gather from the fact that God does not suffer them to lack other blessings: He bestows on them temporal gifts, such as health, daily bread, prosperity, and other blessings, which He does not give so lavishly to others who have children and whom He frequently visits with much sickness, sorrow over their children, and other afflictions. Moreover, God gives to the childless heavenly blessings, such as joy in God, peace with God, the righteousness of Jesus Christ, comfort, and spiritual delights. By all of these blessings He proves to them again that He is not angry with them; for a person who is in a state of wrath and disfavor with God must certainly go without these heavenly blessings.

4.  Barren spouses should also consider that God is showing them a special favor by their very barrenness, because He knows the condition of their body and mind better than they do themselves. For although many married wives love children, God may know that they would be too feeble to give birth to a child, or to raise children, or to endure the cross of seeing their children go astray. The child might cause to the husband and to the wife much vexation and worry that might hinder them in their private and public devotions; yea, if God in His counsel should let the child die, that might cause the parents much grief. Therefore, since God knows the strength and weakness of men better than they do themselves, He shows them a special favor by leaving them go childless, although in their ignorance they may not regard it as a favor.

5.  In particular, married persons should beware of trying to force God to give them children by their murmuring, dissatisfaction, and their importunate prayers; for in that case God may give them children in His anger. Either the mother who had murmured will lose her life or health through giving birth to a child, or if this does not happen, the child given her may turn out so ill that it causes its parents innumerable alarms, sorrows, and griefs, and puts them for the rest of their lives in a state of perpetual fear, sadness, and melancholy, all of which would be the results of their unreasonable petitions. May a son who had been obtained thus from God by unreasonable prayer afterwards became the cause of the father’s death and a scourge to his mother.

6.  Godly wives should not misapply the saying of Paul in 1 Tim. 2:15, where we read: “The woman shall be saved in childbearing, if she continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” For in this passage Paul does not say that wives shall be saved on account of childbearing. For we are made righteous before God and saved by the merit of Jesus Christ and for the sake of the blood which He shed for us, Rom. 3:28 and 5:1, and not by childbearing. For, if the latter were true, no maiden could be saved, which is contrary to God and His holy Word. But Paul has made this statement to comfort married women, telling them, namely, that although God has laid on them great pains in childbearing, because the woman suffered herself to be led astray in Paradise, and thus brought into the world transgression and sin, nevertheless God will aid and help them in childbearing; they are to be saved despite the fact that in the pangs of labor they feel God’s anger, provided in their condition they continue in faith in the Lord Jesus, in love towards God and men, in sanctification of life, self-discipline, and a Christian conversation. Accordingly, this passage speaks comfort to women in labor, and conveys to those who die during childbearing the assurance that notwithstanding the pains which have been laid upon them on account of sin they shall be saved. But this passage does not declare any cause for the salvation of women.

7.  Married persons, moreover, should abide God’s time and persevere in prayer. Some trees bear fruit for the first year, others after several years. Accordingly, godly spouses should not abandon all hope. “Cast not away your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward” Heb. 10:35. Now, as God does not bestow temporal blessings on all men at the same time, so also with regard to this blessing.

8.  In the connection married people should diligently beware of conceiving a dislike of their spouses, the wife blaming the husband, or the husband the wife; but they should reflect that it is God who withholds from them the fruit of the womb. Gen. 30:1. Accordingly, they should nevertheless love each other cordially and be content in God, because neither of them can alter matters without the favor, blessing, and will of God. Particularly they should beware of suspicion, jealousy, and disfavor, for instance, when friends, brothers, and sisters are beginning to make inquiries concerning the disposition of the property of childless spouses. But they should continue sincerely loving each other, and whenever this has to be done, dispose of their earthly possessions according to equity and charity.

9.  If God withholds children from godly spouses, they should increase the more in the love of Jesus. While those who have children are often hindered by their children in their devotions, church attendance, and their spiritual edification, the childless can attend to the service of God unhindered and undisturbed.

10.  Christians whose marriage God does not bless with children should regard the poor as committed to their special care: they should do good to godly children, clothe them, send them to school, and aid in their education. Such children will on the last day bless them as their fathers and mothers, and praise them before God, saying: These have clothed us, and given us food and drink.  Matt. 25.

11.  Sometimes God, out of love and mercy, does not bless the marriage of Christians with children because he foreknows terrible national calamities and visitations which are to overwhelm a city or country. He removes the godly before such calamities come, and puts His dear children to rest before the storms of affliction begin to blow, as He promised to do for Hezekiah, and as He did for St. Augustine. Now, if this is indeed a great mercy of God, it is also a merciful providence, if God does not give married people any children, in order that they may not behold the misery that is to come upon the world, as happened in the Flood.

12.  Finally, married people may reflect whether they regard children as a natural gift or as a gift of God, which children, in fact, are. If they think that children are a natural gift which they can produce themselves, they are very much mistaken; and by withholding the blessing of wedlock from them, God wants to show to such married persons that it is not left to their choice whether they will have children, but that children are a gift of God, for which He wants us to pray. If Christian husbands and wives should here raise the objection that whoremongers and whores do not ask for children, and yet beget them, I answer: In that case God lets nature take its course to reveal the depravity of men, because such people do not unite for the purpose of begetting children for the glory of God, but to gratify their evil lust. Accordingly, godly wives should follow the example of Isaac, of whom it is written: “And Isaac entreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren.” Hence Isaac understood quite well that children are not in every case a product of nature, but a gracious gift of God. Accordingly, the text continues: “And the Lord was entreated of him, and Rebekah, his wife, conceived.”  Gen. 25:21.

On all these facts Christian spouses should diligently reflect, and thus guard against impatience and disquietude of mind. They should consider that, though their home is lonely and childless, they will, after their happy departure from this life, be received into the company of many thousands of holy angels, with whom they will rejoice forever at the throne of the Triune God.

 

Prayer

Lord God, what wilt Thou give me, seeing I go childless? O my God, I see that Thou bestowest on others the blessing of wedlock in abundant measure, but from me Thou hast hitherto withheld it. Lord, Lord, let me bear this with Christian resignation; let me accept it in patience as Thy gracious will. I know that Thou art an almighty God; Thou canst, if Thou wilt, easily give me children, and make me fruitful. I also know that Thou art gracious to me, that Thou lovest me, and hast never yet denied me Thy grace. Therefore I shall patiently submit to Thy will in this matter: Thou knowest best why Thou hast not yet bestowed this blessing on me. If I am too feeble for child-bearing, too negligent in the training of children, or too readily cast down by afflictions caused by children, I acknowledge Thy goodness, which wishes to spare me and not suffer me to be tempted above that I am able.

But if Thou dost not give me the joy which children bring, let me rejoice the more in Thee, loving Thee from the heart, and finding my pleasure and delight in Thee. Meanwhile, O Triune God, let me continue in faith toward Thee, in love toward my neighbor, and in the sanctification of life; yea, let me walk before all men in decency and uprightness. Let Thy Holy Spirit convince my heart more and more that this is Thy gracious will concerning me, and I shall submit to it with all my heart.

Meanwhile guard my heart against envy, suspicion, impatience, and dislike of my spouse. Let me love him nevertheless, cherish him as I would my child, and love him more than I would ten sons and daughters. If it be Thy will that I should wait a while, and that Thou wilt yet make me a fruitful mother, and remember me as Thou didst Hannah, convince my heart of this Thy gracious good pleasure concerning me. If Thou wilt not give me an heir, Lord, this shall be my heritage, that I observe Thy ways. Jesus shall be the Strength of my heart and my Portion forever. Lord, Lord, Thou canst do all things: Thou didst make Sarah and Elizabeth to conceive beyond their natural time, and it is a little thing for Thee to bless my wedded estate that has hitherto been barren. Lord, let Thyself be entreated by me, and I shall thank Thee for Thy gift to the end of my life, and will raise my child for Thy honor and glory; by Holy Baptism I will give it back to Thee. Let me not grow envious when I see that Thou fillest other homes with children, but let me show the more love, grace, and mercy to poor and abandoned children, clothe them, provide for them, and take care of the

O Lord, let Thy mercy be upon us, according as we hope in Thee. Cause us to rejoice; comfort us, help us, and, if it please Thee, give us children; however, not in Thine anger, not for our punishment, not for our humiliation. If it is for my benefit, grant me my prayer according to Thy mercy. But if such is not Thy good pleasure, I shall not wrest the gift of a child from Thee; yea, I will do nothing contrary to Thy holy will; I will not have any children either. Lord, I have poured out my heart before Thee; oh, choose for me what is salutary for me and pleasing to Thee. Grant that I may possess my soul in patience until Thou wilt reveal Thy help to me.

The will of God shall be my pleasure
While here on earth is mine abode;
My will is wrong beyond all measure,
It doth not will what pleaseth God.
The Christian’s maxim e’er must be:
What pleaseth God, that pleaseth me. Amen.

 

Hymn

Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish,
Come to the mercy-seat, fervently kneel;
Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;
Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.

Joy of the desolate, light of the straying,
Hope of the penitent, fadeless and pure,
Here speaks the Comforter, tenderly saying,
Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot cure.

Here see the Bread of Life, see water flowing
Forth from the throne of God, pure from above;
Come to the feast of love, come, ever knowing
Earth has no sorrow but Heaven can remove.

Here We Come!

Won’t you come out and meet us?

Rebecca Mayes and I, God willing, are getting behind the wheel next Tuesday in hopes of meeting YOU. We will be presenting on the topic “Caring for the Barren Woman” at Concordia University Chicago, Concordia Theological Seminary, and various churches in Michigan and Indiana. And – Best of all! – my husband is coming with us. Rev. Michael Schuermann will be available to answer any questions you may have regarding how to care for the barren man.

Location and presentation details can be found here.

If you would like any of the HeRemembersTheBarren.com hosts to present “Caring for the Barren Woman” at a church near you, please let us know via the “Submit a Question” page on this website.

We can’t wait to meet you!

* Photo by Adriane Dorr

A Dad’s Love for His Little Girl

Pastor Roger Schepmann is my dad, and he has graciously given me permission to share his thoughts surrounding my barrenness.  Dad has always been a stronghold for our family and has always loved me unconditionally.  I am blessed to be “Daddy’s little girl.”

As a father, I like to have everything go smoothly for my children.  When they were little, I’d tell them to bring whatever it was that needed fixing, so I could fix it, and they would be happy.  Example:  the child has fallen and his/her knee hurts.  Well, I’d kiss it to make it better.  Or, if some toy needed some minor repair, they could bring it to me, and I’d do my best to fix it.  Now, I’m not a “Mr. Fix-It,” but I’d do my best.

When it comes to barrenness, as a father, I still think it is something I should fix.  I want to fix it somehow so my daughter can have all the children she has ever wanted.  But it is something I cannot fix.  I’d like to fix it, but I can’t.  That’s why I simply put the entire matter into the hand of God.  He knows what to do or not to do.  He has it all figured out already.  And I have to realize that He can do the impossible.  That doesn’t mean He must, but He has the capacity to do what might be deemed as “impossible.”  So, I commend my daughter and her husband into the hand of God for I know God will work good through this very difficult matter.

Do I think less of my daughter for being barren?  Not at all.  She is who she is:  a child of God, made God’s own in Baptism, kept God’s own through the Spirit’s working in Word and Sacrament.  She is not any less a child of God because she is unable to conceive a child.  She is still “Daddy’s little girl” and will remain such.  I have always been very proud of her.  That has not changed.  Barrenness does not define who she is.  It is a cross she bears, but not one she bears alone.  As a father, I am here to listen, to pray, and to give her the support she needs.  I don’t always do a good job of all of that, but with God’s help, I will do better in the weeks and months ahead of us.

“God is our Refuge and Strength, an ever-present Help in trouble.” Ps. 46:1