How The Church Can Care for the Childless

I’m excited to have Chelsea Patterson Sobolik offering a guest post today about being sensitive to the needs of the childless mothers.  She has also graciously given me a copy of her book Longing for Motherhood to give away to one reader.  To be entered, simply comment on this post.  I will draw a winner on May 24th.

 

Sitting in the pews of every church are men and women struggling with the excruciating pain of childlessness. For some, it might be infertility, trying month after month with no success, to finally get pregnant. For others, it might be a miscarriage, the death of their precious anticipated little one that’s left them heartbroken. Regardless of the particular circumstances, the trial of childlessness is one of the most difficult and devastating that someone can experience. Living in the nightmare that is infertility cuts to the very core of the way humanity was designed. One of the first commandments the Lord gave Adam and Eve was to be fruitful and multiply. When a couple struggles to bear babies, they can quickly feel guilt and shame over their inability to fulfill that commandment.

I’m all too familiar with the ache to be a mother, but natural motherhood won’t come. With a tear stained face, I’ve entered into the greatest wrestling match of my life with the Lord. “God, I don’t understand!” I’ve cried out in prayer. “You’ve placed this longing on my heart, only to leave me with an unfulfilled desire!” Over the years, I’ve shared the cries of my heart with close friends and trusted companions at my church, as they’ve helped me walk through my sorrow.

The Church is God’s household, filled with God’s children. It should be a beacon of comfort and hope. A place where people will feel cared for, heard, understood and unconditionally loved. Christians know that they will face trials, and they must be armed and equipped to care for the wounded and the hurting among the Saints. Below are a few suggestions for pastors, elders, and church members on how to care for the childless in your congregations.

Remind People that Grief is Godly

Those grieving childlessness are grieving a dream deferred. Proverbs 13:12 tells us that hope deferred makes the heart sick. Come alongside the childless and grieve with them. Remind them that it’s okay to feel the hurt, pain and loss. That they don’t have to quickly “get over” their sorrow, but they have a Savior who’s well acquainted with grief, and was the man of all sorrows (Isaiah 53:3). Encourage them to take their grief, and press into the arms of the Beloved who knows their pain.

Preach Good Sermons

Make it a point to regularly incorporate the childless into sermons. Remember that the Bible is full of women that have struggled with the longing to be a mother. (Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth) Dive into these passages, and preach Gospel-centered sermons that will encourage the souls of the weary.

Pray With and on Behalf of the Childless

David was bold in his prayers before the Lord. He knew where to take his questions, his grief, his pain, and his longings – straight into the heart of his Father. Prayer should should be the first thing Christians do with and on behalf of the childless. In the Psalms, we see that David’s most trusted companion and friend was the Lord, but we also see that David wasn’t afraid of sharing exactly what was on his mind and heart. In Psalm 13, he bluntly asks the Lord how long he’ll have to suffer. David felt forgotten, and bent the ear of the Lord in his sorrow and frustration.

“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2)

Hannah, a woman who intimately knew the pain of infertility, wasn’t shy to bring her pain and tears before the Lord in prayer. The Bible says that “she was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly.” Hannah’s prayers were so fervent that Eli, the priest thought she was drunk.

We should take the charge to weep with those who weep seriously and come alongside the suffering with words of comfort and truth. Never underestimate the power of prayer.

Point Their Eyes To The Lord

The most important thing the church can do is redirect the gaze of the childless to Christ. Give them room to grieve the loss of their dream, or the loss of their baby. Please don’t feel the need to swoop in, and slap Bible verses on their suffering. Yes, the word of God is inspired and inherent, but shouldn’t be viewed or used as a quick fix. Learn how to sit with someone in their grief, and how to gently point their eyes to the Lord in the midst of their trials. One of the most comforting verses in the bible is found in Revelation 21:4, where the Lord promises to wipe away every tear from our eyes. Until that day, remember that the Lord is present as each tear falls. Suffering is inevitable while we live in a fallen world, but may we ensure that no one suffers alone.

Chelsea Patterson Sobolik is the author of Longing for Motherhood, and has worked for the U.S. House of Representatives on issues such as child welfare, religious freedom, adoption, and foster care policy. Chelsea was adopted as a newborn from Bucharest, Romania, grew up in North Carolina, and then graduated from Liberty University. She and her husband Michael live in Washington, D.C.

Written by Chelsea Patterson Sobolik author of Longing for Motherhood, Moody Publishers 2018

Why You Should Care About Special Needs Children

 

It can be difficult to understand the complexities of raising a special needs child if this calling is not part of your daily reality. I get it. I never gave these children nor their caretakers a second thought before I had a handicapped child. It’s hard to empathize with a situation without experience.

 

My goal in writing – in books, on the blog, and on social media – is to tell stories that portray all of the aspects of raising a special needs child – the demanding, the taxing, the beautiful, and the joy.

 

There is undoubtedly a blessing. These kids are closer to Heaven than we will ever be with their innocence and child-like faith. They teach us invaluable lessons about the nature of our heavenly father’s love and care for his children. They model joy, perseverance, and faith in quantities us “normal” folk can only dream about BUT –

 

Raising a special needs child is a massively exhausting undertaking as well.

 

A few weeks ago a friend’s 8 year old daughter unexpectedly passed away. This little girl was never supposed to survive; however, these kids often have a way of proving the experts wrong. I recently asked her mama if the new ease of life was haunting because when you live in special needs world, there are rarely moments of ease. It’s like being in a combat zone. You’re always mentally anticipating your child’s next basic needs – hunger, pain, angst, smell, what, where, when, why – all the time. These kids often don’t grow up and become independent so there is no end in sight which can feel overwhelming.

 

One of my greatest goals with The Lucas Project – a non-profit organization to assist special needs families in rural Tennessee – is to educate people on why they should care – even if it’s not a part of their daily reality.

 

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40

 

These children are the least of the least of the least of these. They often have the mental and emotional capacity of an infant. They are usually physically unable to care for themselves without continual assistance, and without the loving intervention of caretakers, these children could not survive.

 

I would admonish you to care about these kids and their families because you don’t have to care, and that’s a blessing.

 

Special needs may not be a part of your daily reality, but it is a reality for 6.7 million children (nces.ed.gov) and often includes:

 

Bathing a grown child

Feeding – either by utensil or tube feeding – often restrained in a special chair.

Diapering a thirteen year old

Wondering at times if one day you’ll be diapering a thirty year old.

Restraining a teenager who has become aggressive due to puberty.

Entering the local ER in the middle of the night to play a guessing game for the next 24 hours as you try to determine the cause of angst in your non-verbal child.

Declining an invitation for a fun event because there is no one to watch your child, and he or she would cause disruptions and outbursts.

Attempting to distract a child who is frustrated and banging his head against his crib.

Sleeping with a baby monitor beside your head for 18 + years

Getting up multiple times in the middle of the night to administer meds, tubes or breathing equipment or to make sure your child is still alive.

Spending the majority of your free time in a doctor or therapist’s office.

Not being alone with your spouse in years because there is no one you trust to care for your child in your absence.

Suffering extreme pain and popping Advil like it’s candy because your child has grown too large for you to comfortably handle, and the strain is taking a toll on your aging body.

 

You should care about caretakers who experience stress, anxiety, exhaustion, and depression on a regular basis but don’t have the funds nor the time to address the problem, and in rural environments, lacking in professionals to even help address the problem!

 

You should care if you live where resources are plentiful because there are people who live in rural communities where resources are sorely lacking.

 

You should care if your children are healthy because there are parents who manage a child’s chronic illness every day of their lives.

 

You should care because we are all a part of this grand body known as humanity, and we have a moral obligation to care for one another, especially the least of these, like our lives depend upon it – because they do.

 

Please consider a donation to The Lucas Project so that we can all begin caring or check out TheLucasProject.org to learn more.

 

Just keep livin.

How to be Obedient to the Call God Places on Your Life

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“This is holy work,” I begrudgingly reminded myself a day after returning home from a much needed couple’s vacation; a week of relaxation, sun, and reconnecting, and here I was now, again, changing my 13 year old’s diaper, my handicapped boy Lucas who was currently on his third bout of diarrhea in a month; so many wipes, diapers, hand washes, and missed school days – #buttwiperforever.
Continue reading “How to be Obedient to the Call God Places on Your Life”

Enjoy Life! Go Play!

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I shooed one of my children out of the kitchen, yet again, annoyed that I had to hear another complaint of boredom or some long winded tale about how one of their siblings had grossly mistreated them.  It sure felt like we were on day 100 million of this year’s particularly long winter break which continued on and on with the recent bout of inclement weather and now a flu crisis circulating throughout the schools.

“Aghhh, I sighed, frustrated again at how much work all of the kids were during these days without school. I didn’t understand how they could complain of boredom so often. We had purchased this beautiful property in the middle of nowhere on 30 acres of land, the river in the backyard, with the expectation that our children would spend their days romping in the fields, building forts, playing tag and hide and seek and whatever else they were able to convince one another to play, but that wasn’t generally the case.  Usually they were inside belly aching about how bored they were.

I returned to prepping for dinner that evening, a slow simmering chicken curry; garlic, onions, ginger and jalapenos chopped and sizzling in the pan as music played in the background,

“I’ll praise you in this storm” belted out an old time favorite of mine by the popular group Casting Crowns.

I’d been experiencing a bit of a faith crisis in the recent months as I desperately tried to remain in control as my life felt more and more out of control. Makes sense, right? Hormonal issues that inevitably arrive with aging, teaching which I loved but didn’t love as much as writing, writing which is my passion but doesn’t really pay the bills – at least not yet, raising 8 kids – now a few teenagers and a toddler; struggling to do right by our handicapped son Lucas, but in pursuing the best options for him also needing to sacrifice more of our limited resources and time. So many balls in the air.

It all felt overwhelming most of the time, and I knew I wasn’t handling it well.  Lately I spent most of my prayer time complaining, grumbling, and begging for super human strength to get through the days – annoyed that God would bequeath so many responsibilities upon my aging shoulders.

Praise you in this storm, huh,” I muttered.  I had so believed those words during some of the most difficult days of life – as a baby grew in my belly in 2004 – a child proclaimed to be dead even before taking his first breath and then again as my first husband took his last breath here on earth and now, when I had eight healthy children and a healthy husband, a good marriage, all of my needs met, I couldn’t muster up some praise in this pathetic little pity party of a storm I was having for myself?

I wasn’t even sure what exactly I believed anymore. I had faith, for sure, but what did that mean?  I had recently enjoyed listening to diverse preachers and teachers of the word and this had in turn caused me to question many of the traditional tenants of my faith including a woman’s role, the church, what the first church actually looked like and what is all meant in my search for community, identity, and faith in action. 

“Jesus help” I sighed in indignation and frustration.

“Go Play” I heard gently whispered  –

“What?” I replied

“Go Play! Stop complaining and stop focusing on the negative and stop stressing about all of the tenants of ME, and stop all of the belly aching and just go play! Enjoy the life I made for you! Bask in my creation, jump on the trampoline with your kids, breathe in the beauty of nature all around, enjoy your life, enjoy what I have created for you – for your pleasure!  Take joy in the food you are preparing, savor the chocolate pie, sip the chardonnay, make love to your husband, read a good book, teach your daughters how to sew – GO PLAY!”

Could it be that all of my questions about my life, my faith, and my children could be answered in one simple command?  Go Play?  It’s what I desired for my children – to stop complaining and bickering and go play!  To enjoy what we had purchased for them!  To enjoy the beauty of their lives!  Could it possibly be that the God of the universe just wanted the same for his child?  For me to honor him through my enjoyment of what he’s blessed me with? 

My perspective shifted as it usually does when the Almighty has words with me.  A slow smile crept across my face as I poured myself a glass of chardonnay, wrapped up the kitchen duties and headed to the porch to sit with my husband.  As I opened the back door, still slightly hesitant about leaving so many tasks undone, I heard a whisper laced in joy urging me forward,

“Yes, go play.”

Just keep livin!