The Ministry I Never Wanted

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My heart raced as I prepared to hit “publish”.  I debated whether or not to write anything at all.  The vulnerability scared me, and the ongoing uncertainty of my situation would make the exposure that much more uncomfortable.  I took a deep breath, and with one click the story of my infertility was public.

In the year since I shared our struggles, I’ve heard from a handful of people in similar circumstances.  I’ve been asked for advice, thanked for my honesty, and received requests for prayer.  I’m so glad I didn’t scrap my original post altogether.

This isn’t a story about me, though.  It’s a story about a God who refuses to waste our pain.

For most of our battle with infertility, I assented to the theological truisms – at least intellectually.  God has a plan.  God is at work.  God can use this for His glory.  That third one really got to me, though.  God could be glorified through my infertility, but I really would’ve liked for Him to be honored by a pregnancy instead.

I resisted telling people about what we were going through because I didn’t want that to be my ministry.  In all honesty, I didn’t want to have a story of God’s sufficiency in the face of unfulfilled longings and unrealized dreams.  Rather, I hoped to share about God’s deliverance and physical healing.  I held off as long as I could – partially because I feared the vulnerability and partially because I was waiting to tell a different story.  Eventually, though, I couldn’t keep quiet.  Something – Someone – compelled me to share.

Had it not been for God’s prompting, I would’ve remained silent.  But because of His leading I’ve been reminded that while we don’t get to choose what happens to us, we can choose how we’ll respond.  Our circumstances may be beyond our control, but we can decide whether or not we’ll surrender them as instruments of ministry.

Choosing to surrender our stories to God for Him to use as He sees fit is not an acknowledgement that the pain has dulled or the crisis has been resolved or the answers have been found.  Many times, in fact, it’s just the opposite.  In their book titled The Life We Never Expected, Andrew and Rachel Wilson share “hopeful reflections on the challenges of parenting children with special needs”.  Rachel identifies the natural tendency to explain away suffering as an unhealthy pressure.  She explains, “We strive daily to make sense of the senseless, so that the pain we’ve experienced will not be in vain.  In other words, we write our own happy ending.  But we are not the storyteller.  We don’t have the power to resolve the twisted plot and bring triumph out of tragedy…So I have to remember: the story is not mine to save.  The pressure to write a story that makes sense of what has happened to us, as acute as it can feel, must be resisted; God is the great storyteller, the divine happy-ending maker; and I’m not.”

Of course,  not everything is up in the air.  God does reveal the ultimate happy ending in His Word.  He provides promises we can cling to regardless of our circumstances.  But as long as we’re on this side of heaven, our ability to “make sense of the senseless” will be limited, and the story may always appear to be unresolved.

As Rachel Wilson noted, the story is not mine to save, but it is mine to share.  When we share our stories in a way that acknowledges God as “the divine happy-ending maker”, we honor Him in a way we never could by trying to figure it all out or explain it all away – which is why the ministries we don’t really want are often the ones we most need to embrace.  

Sharing our struggles calls for wisdom and discernment.  It’s crucial to prayerfully consider the timing and the audience, how much to share – if at all – and in what way.  There are situations when it might not be appropriate to give others a glimpse into our pain, and sometimes we just aren’t quite ready to talk about it.  But we can’t let the desire for a different story be what keeps us from sharing the one God’s writing.  And we can’t stay quiet until we have all the answers, otherwise we’ll never speak.

For all the times people have told me they’ve been encouraged by my story, I’ve been blessed by hearing theirs.  Many of the people who reached out to me decided to share some of the details of their circumstances – some strikingly similar to my own, and others entirely different.  Each time, they ministered to me in ways they probably didn’t expect or even intend to – and it wasn’t because they tidied up their stories, but because in the mess of it all, they hope in a Storyteller who will eventually make “everything sad…come untrue”.

And because of Him, the ministries we never really wanted often end up bearing fruit we never could have imagined.

4 Comments on “The Ministry I Never Wanted”

  1. So true, Abbey! I have several places like this in my life, one being the infertility story that you know about already. Praising God with you for how He is redeeming your pain for His glory and your joy.

  2. Thank you for sharing! This is inspiring and a blessing to all of us who struggle in different areas of of our lives. We all do struggle someway, and indeed, it can be a ministry.

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