It didn’t take me long to figure out that I was the only one. My husband thought the social gathering would be good for my soul. I knew better, but agreed to go anyway. In a crowded, boisterous circle of acquaintances and strangers, I listened from a distance, unable to contribute to the conversation.
Infertility and heartbreaking loss had taken its toll on my heart.
Two women shared their personal experiences with moldy sippy cup lids while a third offered her fool-proof solution for barring off this kind of unwanted fungal growth. All I heard was that familiar lie:
You will never belong here.
I didn’t know if my kitchen cabinets would ever hold sippy cups, and I didn’t know if my body would ever carry a baby like it was supposed to. It had been years and hope was slipping out of my empty arms. The scars from my most recent loss were anything but healed, and there was nothing tidy about the emotions spilling out of me. I made eye contact with the hostess as I quickly mapped out my exit plan. My eyes pleaded with her, Please understand.
“Take me home,” I whispered to my husband when I found him outside with the rest of the guys. Confusion settled into the space between us. He was still unaware that we were the only childless people at the party, and I was surprised that this made me jealous. When he realized my request was more of a plea, we said our goodbyes and left.
I needed to be heard.
On the car ride home, I tried to explain. I expected him of all people to understand. He had experienced the same devastating loss, yet instead of uniting us, it was pulling us in opposite directions. I was terrified that the strain of it all would rip us right apart.
I quit speaking to God that week- just picked up silence and wore it like a cloak. Months passed before I realized that my anger couldn’t run Him off or push Him away.
One day in desperation, I picked up His Word, and the ground of my heart shifted as love and grace and truth seeped deep into the cracks of my dry and parched faith. It was that same day I realized what I wish I had known years before.
God is the only One who will ever truly understand.
Hannah was a girl just like me. Her story begins in 1 Samuel chapter 1. Her husband took another wife when it became clear that she was barren. Her name was Peninnah. This one short verse sums up the circumstances Hannah found herself in:
Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none. 1 Samuel 1:2b
Year after year, Hannah watched this other woman give birth while she secretly wondered if she was somehow disqualified. Our culture today unknowingly isolates women struggling with infertility, but in Hannah’s day, it was seen as divine judgment.
Tension began to grow in Hannah’s marriage. Elkanah, her husband, didn’t think Hannah’s childlessness was that big of a deal. He didn’t understand why she was so miserable. He provided for her and he loved her more than Peninnah, the mother of his children. But all of his efforts couldn’t change the fact that Hannah’s heart was splitting in two.
Hannah took her broken heart and laid it bare before God. But this very private prayer made in a public place brought more painful misunderstanding. Eli, the priest, witnessed her lips moving silently as she poured out her pain to God and mistakenly thought she was drunk. As if her anguish was not enough, Eli’s accusation was piercing and misguided.
Hannah’s reaction that day in the temple grabs me every time.
“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.” 1 Samuel 1:15-16
She didn’t use harsh words when Eli misunderstood her pain. She didn’t shut down, and she didn’t retreat. She simply told the truth. She knew her grief was misunderstood, and she also knew she could never expect anyone to truly hear her and she didn’t expect anyone to understand. Peninnah couldn’t, and neither could Elkanah or Eli. God is the only One who understood Hannah’s pain and longing, and she wasted none of her effort trying to pour out her pain anywhere else.
It causes more pain when we take our broken hearts to anyone other than God.
In my own struggle, I was a slave to the expectations I created for everyone around me. I wanted others to understand how I spent sleepless nights wondering if I was being punished. I wanted them to realize that I prayed daily for God to remove my longing if He was not planning to fulfill it. I wanted them to see the guilt that plagued me when my grief prevented me from celebrating with those whose families were growing with ease. I wanted people to understand the loneliness that settled in between my husband and me as we walked the same path but experienced two very different journeys.
Over the years, God has strengthened our marriage through the struggle. After four years, two losses, and too many failed procedures to count, God gave us a son and a daughter, born just twenty minutes apart. Four years after that, when we thought the door had closed completely, He reminded us that nothing is outside His reach. Our third child, another daughter, is a constant reminder that He is able.
But even here in this current season, I still find myself holding others to my unrealistic expectations. I want people to respect our decisions regarding medical intervention. I want others to recognize how certain dates will forever remind me of all I’ve lost. I want them to know that even though I have children, infertility is still very much a part of my life. I want people to understand that being overwhelmed some days by motherhood doesn’t imply ungratefulness.
Expectations have only harmed me and strained my relationships. But with every misunderstanding, God draws me to His heart. He is teaching me that He is the only One who can truly hear my innermost cry. His love alone holds the power to silence all the lies that have held me captive.
We are never misunderstood in God’s embrace.
Hannah eventually conceived and gave birth to a son, Samuel, whose name means “heard by God.” Hannah could not keep her joy to herself. She prayed silently in her sorrow, but her prayer of praise was a bold and beautiful song to the God who understands. She began by praising God for deliverance from her enemies:
My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. 1 Samuel 2:1
I have always considered Hannah’s enemies all those who misunderstood her. But her enemy wasn’t Peninnah, and it certainly wasn’t the priest who made a bad judgment call. Her true enemy was God’s enemy, and he is our enemy, too. He devotes every waking moment to isolating us so we walk through life painfully alone.
Our enemy wants more than anything to destroy our relationships with each other and with God.
As Hannah continued her song, she noted the reversals only possible through the power of the Mighty One. The weak become strong and the strong become weak; the full find themselves hungry and the hungry find their full; the rich become poor and the poor become rich; and the one who was barren is barren no more! Her song ends with these powerful words:
The Most High will thunder from heaven; the Lord will judge the ends of the earth. He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed. 1 Samuel 2:10
“Anointed” is translated Messiah. This is the very first place in scripture that this word is used. It’s how God chose to reveal the beginning of His beautiful redemption plan. Hannah’s joyful prayer gives us a glimpse of the hope found in Jesus. He came to restore our broken bodies and heal our broken hearts and mend our broken relationships. He has already defeated our enemy.
If you are walking the road that’s often misunderstood, find peace in knowing that Jesus hears you, Jesus sees you, and Jesus understands you completely. Take all of your questions and your fears and your hurt to the One who can turn your weakness into strength, your longing into satisfaction, your pain into purpose, and your tears into beautiful songs of joy.
Jesus loves you,
A dear friend created this video the summer we found out we were expecting our third child. I was terrified to shoot it, because I struggled my entire pregnancy with the fear of losing this precious gift. I’m sharing it today in case you (or someone you love) need to be reminded that our God can do anything. He is limitless, and so is His love. Over the course of those nine months, I learned that we can never lose His love.