Some time ago I was listening to a radio broadcast and the speaker was talking about trials in our Christian walk. She called out this quote from Abigail Adams (mom) to John Quincy Adams. It was in a letter she had written encouraging him to go on a trip overseas with his father – a trip that he apparently wasn’t thrilled to go on. She told him this…
These are times in which a Genious would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. Would Cicero have shone so distinguished an orater, if he had not been roused, kindled and enflamed by the Tyranny of Catiline, Millo, Verres and Mark Anthony. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. All history will convince you of this, and that wisdom and penetration are the fruits of experience, not the lessons of retirement and leisure. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherways lay dormant, wake into life, and form the character of the hero and the Statesman.
Abigail Adams to John Quincy Adams, 19 January 1780
Adams Family Corresondence, 3:268
Though few of us would choose life’s most difficult heart aches, the truth remains that these are, unfortunately, the things that most develop our character and call out in us a strength that we never imagined possible. Truthefully, they not only shape who we are, but bring up in us characteristics that would otherwise never be able to grow and develop without such heart ache. I’m not saying I like it nor approve of it, but it is what it is…and apparently that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Romans 5:3-5 (NIV)
3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
So, what does this have to do with infertility and faith?
The very last thing you will hear me say is “Stop wallowing and learn to rejoice! At least this will teach you some wonderful life lessons and cause you to grow in your spiritual walk.” I know the Bible says it and I’m not saying it’s wrong. I’m just saying that sometimes the call to rejoice can drive a person crazy. I was broken, shattered beyond recognition, and a very wise friend of mine once said “you can’t fix an emotional issue with an intellectual answer.” Infertility is an extremely emotional issue. I could not will myself to rejoice. I didn’t even want to will myself to rejoice. I was so afraid of missing my refining process by glossing over (ignoring, burying, hiding) my true raw feelings that I forced myself to continue to feel them rather than picking myself up and saying “I’m going to trust God that He’s doing great things in me.” It was NOT forever that I felt this way, but it was close to a full year before healing began to occur in my life.
So why am I sharing this whole thing anyway then?
I guess I’m sharing it because I’ve seen the truth in it…I’m far enough out of my valley that I CAN say it. One day hope WILL be restored. The parts of your personality that you feel may be lost forever (those happy-go-lucky, crazy fun, constantly laughing and joyous parts) will return. Yes, this trial will change you. You will never be the same again…but as with any refining process, if you let it, it will only be the unhealthy parts of you that will disappear forever and they will be replaced with things so much better than you could have imagined. Abigail Adams was absolutely right that it is life’s difficulties that awake in us deeper wisdom, virtue, and (dare I say) heroic faith.
And last, for the truly cynical (don’t worry, I’m on your team – that was me) – next time someone tells you to rejoice in your trial, find out where they are coming from. It’s pretty easy to determine the plastic people from the ones made of thicker stuff. If they have a genuine deep faith that really gets under your skin because you just can’t muster up that kind of joy, chances are they have already gone through their valley…let them tell you about it. You might be surprised.