Ask a Pastor Ep. 39 - Infertility

Welcome to Ask a Pastor, a podcast from Orchard Hill Church! Have you ever had a question about the Bible, Faith, or Christianity as a whole? Submit your question and one of our pastors will answer on the program. New episodes every Wednesday.

This episode our Senior Pastor, Dr. Kurt Bjorklund, talks with Director of Kids' Ministry, Emily Roberts.

Question - "In 1 Timothy 2:15, Paul shares with Timothy that "a woman will be saved through childbearing" how does this apply to someone who is infertile and does not have the ability to "bear children"? I understand that saving grace only comes through Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. Is infertility God's answer to generational sin? Rather than allowing a sin to continue to cultivate and damage a family’s line, a woman's womb is “chosen” to be barren in order to end the family's cycle of destruction and sin."

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Transcript

This is an auto-generated transcript. Please excuse any errors.

Kurt Bjorklund: Hi, welcome to our Ask A Pastor Podcast and content that we deliver through different means. If you have questions, send them to askapastor@orchardhillchurch.com, we'd be happy to interact with them.

Kurt Bjorklund: Today I am joined by Emily Roberts, who serves as our director of kids ministry here in Wexford, a very pregnant Emily. Tell us about when your baby is due and what your plans are.

Emily Roberts: So I am 30 weeks, 31 on Tuesday.

Kurt Bjorklund: Okay, so when people here this, it'll probably be a little sooner. So when's your actual due date?

Emily Roberts: June 18th.

Kurt Bjorklund: June 18th, you're going to be having your first baby.

Emily Roberts: Yes, a boy.

Kurt Bjorklund: Congratulations. That's wonderful.

Emily Roberts: Yeah. Thank you so much. We got two checks, so we're pretty sure it's a boy.

Kurt Bjorklund: Okay. All right. Generally, from what I understand, when you think it's a boy, you're right, you can be fooled by the girl. Sometimes, it's what I've understood.

Emily Roberts: Yeah.

Kurt Bjorklund: Well, great. We have a lengthy question, it's kind of a follow up question to a question we dealt with in a previous podcast, but you don't need to understand all the back story to that. Here's how this question reads: "I know that there's already been an episode on this, however I have a question that didn't get answered in Joel's answer in Episode 7." And this is around infertility and some issues like that.

Kurt Bjorklund: And this person says, "I'd also like a lady to answer this rather than a man." So we are a fully cooperative podcast here. We have Emily to answer that. "Just saying it's a completely different viewpoint, not that Joel did not do the question justice, nor that the question wasn't answered, it's just hard to relate to the answer from a man about a woman's issue. I understand that infertility is rooted in pain, mistrust, and shame. However, as a young adult, is there a different level of those emotions that someone who is married would have? That being said, 1 Timothy 2:15, Paul says to Timothy that a woman will be saved through childbearing. How does this apply to someone who's infertile and does not have the ability to bear children? I understand that saving grace only comes through Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on the cross."

Kurt Bjorklund: So there's probably at least two different questions there and that is kind of this emotional question about the idea of infertility rooted in pain, mistrust, and shame, how do those different emotions play if I'm married versus not. And then the 1 Timothy 2, so, Emily?

Emily Roberts: Yes. I'll start with the emotional response.

Kurt Bjorklund: Yeah.

Emily Roberts: Obviously it's easy for me to go personal here, a personal response because of just my experiences. So I'll be 34 this year and this is my first child. So I do not know the feeling of infertility, of that. I do not know the feeling of knowing I will never be able to have a child. I do know what waiting feels like, and I do know what pain of is this ever going to happen feels like.

Emily Roberts: I was trying to, I don't want to be insensitive to the infertility issue, but I also know that there is an element of waiting, pain, that sort of thing. I remember being 25 years old and being at a baby shower, no boyfriend, nothing really in sight, wondering if there was ever going to be a time when I would have a family. And that was a desire of mine. And crying as I'm leaving this baby shower with this deep desire that was just painful and wondering is this ever going to happen.

Emily Roberts: Now I'm almost ten years out, having my first child, really. I remember the shame, the pain, thinking, "Oh, gosh, I must have it. I must not be the wife material. I must not be the mom material. Maybe God ..." It does become a question of, does God see something that I don't see about myself? Asking all those kinds of questions and wrestling with that.

Emily Roberts: I also know that I had to work really hard again and again. I don't know that it got easier, but I got to a place where I was able to say, I'm waiting, I'm wondering, but I also know that there are other ways that I am serving God. Sometimes I think we uphold this standard of wife and mother as the ultimate, maybe more so in the church where we say this is when you have arrived and your calling as a woman, or something like that. I've heard that from people.

Emily Roberts: And so I had to get a place where I was saying that my calling is a lot of different things. And I know, for instance, that pouring myself into other friendships in the community and serving in different purposes did help to reorient some of my focus, rather than on I don't have this one thing.

Emily Roberts: So again, it's like I wrestle with I don't want to minimize the pain of infertility because it's different than what I went through.

Kurt Bjorklund: So what would you say to somebody who is dealing then with infertility?

Emily Roberts: Yeah.

Kurt Bjorklund: From addressing the emotions, I mean I know you can identify personally with some of it, but obviously now you're about to have a baby.

Emily Roberts: Exactly.

Kurt Bjorklund: So what would be your counsel, your wisdom, your hope for somebody in that situation?

Emily Roberts: Yes. So I would really encourage women to find other women who have gone through this at first. I think that there is something so unique in this experience that you would probably drive yourself crazy in conversation if you don't have someone who has walked through it.

Emily Roberts: I also think that it would be important to have people who are going to encourage the other things in your life that God has uniquely gifted you with, you know, is your beautiful contribution to the kingdom of God. Because I think it can come to a place where it just becomes disparaging and discouraging.

Emily Roberts: And so I think finding people who have walked that road, really seeking those people out, hearing from them and seeking counsel in that way because it is, I imagine it's just a painful road and if you don't have folks who get it, it could be very frustrating.

Kurt Bjorklund: Right. Absolutely.

Emily Roberts: Is that fair?

Kurt Bjorklund: That is. So speak for a moment about this 2 Timothy 2, which is kind of a weird text in that it says that women will be saved through childbirth. What do you do with that?

Emily Roberts: Well I was telling you, Kurt, just before this that I have never given this passage a ton of thought. So this was good for me, a good exercise for me to walk through.

Emily Roberts: At first glance it's like, "What?" So we really have to understand the context of the passage. We can't just pull that verse out and figure out what it means on its own. And so, as I dug a little deeper, I was learning the context of the passage. It is around male and female roles in the church, right?

Kurt Bjorklund: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Emily Roberts: Leadership and those sorts of pieces. And then I came across three different interpretations really that were understanding this passage in different ways. So, of course, we also have the context of Eve being mentioned here, Adam and Eve. I know that some folks would say, well, Eve, the original sin was there. Childbirth became terrible, Lord help me, just looking towards that.

Kurt Bjorklund: We have drugs now that help that.

Emily Roberts: We have drugs.

Kurt Bjorklund: Epidurals make it much easier.

Emily Roberts: Lots of women through history have much more suffering in this way.

Kurt Bjorklund: Not to minimize, but, yes.

Emily Roberts: It's a different ballgame these days. So Eve, we have to consider Eve here. And folks would say, okay, and what's verse 15 again? How is it stated?

Kurt Bjorklund: So let me just read a portion of this, verse 12, it says, "I do not permit a woman to teach or assume authority over a man. She must be quiet," which you are saying again is a reference to church context. Verse 13, "For Adam was formed first, then Eve." Verse 14, "And Adam was not the one deceived, it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner." Verse 15, "But women will be saved through child bearing, if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety."

Emily Roberts: Yeah, this is one we don't want to take out of context, 'cause we'll have a lot of angry ... I mean, I think of folks who are not Christians would be like, "This is so old school." But I think that, okay, so the context. And understanding Eve first of all, some folks would say that a woman will be saved is referring specifically to Eve and then Mary. Okay, am I understanding that correctly?

Kurt Bjorklund: Yeah, that's one of the views. Absolutely.

Emily Roberts: One of the views, okay. Eve was the original sinner who brought this upon us as women. And then Mary would be the one who would bear the Savior, one interpretation. Maybe common in the Catholic church?

Kurt Bjorklund: Yeah, and beyond, but yes.

Emily Roberts: Okay. And then I got into some language, Kurt, that you're going to have to help me with. Through, we'll be saved through childbearing. And there's different understandings of what that word means. But then I think where I might land with my understanding of this passage is one of the interpretations that states that, not implying that all women will be mothers, but for those who are, that is one of the means of making us more like Christ. Motherhood.

Emily Roberts: So there was some talk of sanctification. Not that my child will save me, we know from the whole story of scripture that Christ is the only saving element. But that childbirth, like other things, motherhood, marriage, our vocational callings, maybe different spiritual disciplines, there are ways that God uses to sanctify us, to make us more like Christ.

Emily Roberts: So that was my sort of-

Kurt Bjorklund: Kind of where you came down.

Emily Roberts: -leaning.

Kurt Bjorklund: Okay.

Emily Roberts: But I'm still really trying to wrestle with that a bit.

Kurt Bjorklund: Yeah, no, it's definitely a verse that has spawned a lot of debate over a lot of years. And certainly some will say that this is a reference to the birth of Christ, even, and that that's how humanity's saved. The problem with that is women are no more saved through that than men, so that doesn't necessarily answer the question.

Kurt Bjorklund: There are some who would kind of argue what you've argued, which is the idea that it works for your growth. But the word saved there is the same word that's used often for ultimate salvation and it seems to also deal with this idea of propriety, holiness, and something you're doing. Which that actually adds to what you're saying in that you are brought closer to Christ through the experience.

Kurt Bjorklund: I've heard it said and I've joked about this at times, but getting married is like Miracle Grow for character defects. Some of the things that were already present when you get married, all of a sudden they get bigger. I think parenting is similar. When you have a child, you're forced to confront some things that you would not confront without a child.

Kurt Bjorklund: Now what's hard about that is for somebody who's dealing with infertility is they say, "Well, will I not have that same experience?" And I think what you said earlier is, is there are other ways you can have that experience. So it isn't saying that this is the only way, but it's saying this is a way that God can do that.

Kurt Bjorklund: Now, again, what's hard is, is that really what that text is saying? Certainly in that culture of that day, what would happen is a lot of times women were ... they had a harder time making a life without being a mom. And so that was a way that women made a life. And so maybe there was a cultural element to it.

Kurt Bjorklund: But either way, that verse is not an easy verse to understand or apply to this, other than what it seems that is happening is that God is saying through this text, on a whole, motherhood is something to be esteemed and to be valued and to be cherished in the church and beyond. But like anything, there are always exceptions. And so infertility is generally an exception where it says, okay, even though that's esteemed and valued, that may not be something I get the chance to experience. Which that's hard.

Emily Roberts: It's hard.

Kurt Bjorklund: And there are other things like that, again, some people would long for a marriage, never get married. And that doesn't mean that we don't say marriage is good. Some of us would say health is good, some of us don't have good health. We would say-

Emily Roberts: Work is good. Some of us have lost our jobs.

Kurt Bjorklund: Or had never found a job that was fulfilling and that we enjoyed doing.

Emily Roberts: Yes.

Kurt Bjorklund: And so you still say something's good and right, even though it may not be universally experienced. And that's part of what's hard.

Kurt Bjorklund: Now the question that follows this is, "Is infertility God's answer to generational sin?" How do you answer that?

Emily Roberts: I honestly really struggled with this part. Because I guess I wanted to find a way to answer it biblically and not just say ... 'cause my personal or my guttural instinct would be no. But we've talked in the past about, you know, God is at work in all things and yet there is an element too of we live in a sinful era. So not saying that this woman did something to deserve, or did something that God said, "Okay, well I'm just going to take this privilege from you to bear children." But that sin is the era that we live in and it affects all things. It affects our bodies, it affects our reproductive systems.

Emily Roberts: So I guess I'm hesitant to say yes or no. Yes, this is because there was some sin that has been in your family. Or no, because I know that God sees all things and we've talked about this before in a podcast. He knows what's really good for us and for our life's path, so, Kurt, how do you reconcile that?

Kurt Bjorklund: Yeah, well here's where this idea comes from. If you're not familiar kind of with the idea on a whole, Exodus 34:7 says that God will visit the iniquity of the fathers upon their children and their children's children to the third and fourth generations.

Kurt Bjorklund: And so, some people have heard that and they've basically said, "Well, that's an indication of this idea of generational sin." Which means if I'm experiencing something, maybe it's because of my parents or my grandparents or somebody else who's done that and God's breaking a cycle.

Kurt Bjorklund: There are other verses and I probably should have looked these up ahead of time and we'll see if we can include these in the show notes at the bottom. But they seem to indicate that we take our responsibility and God won't revisit the sins on future generations.

Kurt Bjorklund: And so it's one of those instances where the Bible says two things that appear to contradict. Where on one hand it says there are some things that are going to be passed on and there are some things that you shouldn't have any reason to correlate. And at least the way I understand that is that it means not ... our typical way of thinking about things is to say it's an either/or, it has to be one or the other. In other words, if I'm experiencing something, it's generational sin and I've got to break generational sin. Or there is no such thing and everything's up to me.

Kurt Bjorklund: And I would say the Bible often is better understood as a both/and, meaning there are instances where sometimes you have things that are visited on you from past generations. But yet you still are completely responsible and there's no reason to assume that anything negative is a generational sin.

Kurt Bjorklund: So, for example, if you have a grandfather who is an alcoholic. Well that may not mean that you have any greater predisposition to alcoholism, in fact, I would say if you say, "Well, my grandfather was an alcoholic, therefore I'm going to be an alcoholic," it's inevitable! It's generational sin. I'd say that's a really bad understanding of scripture.

Kurt Bjorklund: But if you say, "His disfunction crept into my mother's life, which now has crept into my life and if I'm not aware of it, then I can repeat patterns that are negative in my own marriage, in my own life, in my own parenting." Then that's an example probably of generational sin.

Kurt Bjorklund: I would hesitate to say that there's anything that is so definitive that was caused by past generations as your own infertility. And I don't, again, that's a hard thing because you can't point probably to verses other than what we just did in terms of references that would say, "Here's how this works."

Kurt Bjorklund: But if I were sitting with somebody who was asking the generational sin question, I would say it's an unanswerable question to you, so don't spend your time on it. What I would say is, ask what can I do now? What can I make right before God now? And how can I live my life to glorify him now? Rather than saying, is this because of something? How you answer that isn't going to change your current trajectory or anything about it, other than saying, well, now I have somebody to blame.

Kurt Bjorklund: And along with this, and maybe, and I don't know the context of this question, but sometimes what we do is we want to say, "Well, there's a cause/effect to everything. And so either I'm to blame because I did something. Or my parents are to blame and I'd rather blame generational sin because then I can feel off the hook, like I didn't do." And I'd say that's still not a great way to look at it.

Kurt Bjorklund: I don't believe that God, although I believe there are consequences to choices we make, I believe that they're usually within the realm of natural consequences. So, for example, if I smoke for 50 years and I get lung cancer, I'm not going to say, "Oh, my goodness, God gave me lung cancer." Did God give me lung cancer? In a sense, yes, because I violated my body for so many years that I had an outcome. But I wouldn't say, "Well, that was God acting in a vindictive way."

Kurt Bjorklund: So there are consequences, but I don't believe that God's consequences are typically God sitting around saying, "Well, I'm going to zap this person because of something they did over here and give them this hard thing." I think we live in a broken, fallen world. And the reason we have things that are so hard is because of the brokenness of the whole world.

Kurt Bjorklund: And in fact, if anything, I think we experience some of the brokenness. A lot of it, we don't because of the grace of God. Where we get ourselves in trouble, any of us, is we look and say, "Well, why I can't I have different brokenness that I experience than that person? Because this is the thing that I want most." And then we start to question God and question ourselves, put ourselves in a harder situation to respond.

Emily Roberts: Yeah. She asked the question about in vitro?

Kurt Bjorklund: Yeah, so the other question is this, if this taking IVF injections considered usurping God's authority and sovereignty in one's life. And we probably need to come back to that, because we're almost out of time.

Emily Roberts: Oh, got it.

Kurt Bjorklund: But go ahead and give a very quick answer that and maybe we'll deal with this again in a future podcast.

Emily Roberts: You know, in light of everything you just said, and just my understanding of scripture and even Christians in medicine and genetics and thinking through, 'cause this does get into science.

Kurt Bjorklund: A lot of issues, yes.

Emily Roberts: There's a lot of different things there, no. I don't think that that's trying to usurp God's authority. I think that if there are genetic issues, I've had friends who've had ovarian issues, uterine issues, and if there is a way that a doctor can help that along by using what you and your husband have to grow a baby, I think that that ... I don't see how that's contradicting with scripture and with our view as Christians. I think there's a lot of different roads we could probably go down with that conversation, ethically and things like that. But in vitro, in particular, no. That would be my quick answer.

Kurt Bjorklund: So, we're going to leave it there. We're going to give Emily the last word on that, but maybe what we'll do is try to come back and re-discuss that specific issue in a future podcast because there's a lot of dynamics and complexity to that answer. But thank you, Emily.

Kurt Bjorklund: And again, if you have questions that you'd like us to address, you can send them to askapastor@orchardhillchurch.com and we'd be happy to address them in a coming episode.

Kurt Bjorklund: Thanks for taking part of your day with us here on this content.