Monday, May 12, 2008

God bless you!

I've been thinking more about "life decisions" and our freedom in Christ and all that at times, confusing stuff. Being one who likes things black or white, as in, no, this is not right, and yes, this is wrong, I sometimes struggle with not laying a defining line. I need to remind myself that our God delights in each of us and is a very personal God. Areas not necessarily spelled out as "right" or "wrong" in the Bible can be a wonderful way for the Lord to reveal Himself in a personal way, in His time, to those who desire to follow Him.

That said, I would like to carefully, cautiously bring up the subject of children. Now, in the past, I would have privately labeled birth control "wrong". Key word, privately. I really do believe that this is an area where many believers could be more open to the will of God. We make our plans on this subject often without consulting the Lord, we decide when we will initially have kids, how many we will have, and how far apart they will be. Yes, sometimes God does let us know that our will is not His will - we wait for a child much longer than we were prepared to, or we have them far sooner than we would like. But I would say that the majority of believers (that I've talked with anyway) would say that they are perfectly open to God's will because God could decide for them not to have children, or God could decide when they would have a baby and work around such human "ploys" as birth control. Of course He can. But is this the attitude He wants us to have as followers of Christ?

Remember that in general, a good rule of thumb is that if the world is doing one thing, we're supposed to do the opposite (love your enemy, pray for those who persecute you, etc.).

It would be dangerous for me to label birth control as "wrong". I think this is a very personal issue, and one that the Lord delights in dealing with personally. But this I will say: Scripture calls children a blessing from the Lord. Who are we, His created beings, to refuse any of His blessings?

So those who choose to use birth control (ANY form) may be missing out on blessings from the Lord.

I'm hearing someone say, "The Lord can keep those blessings, thank you!"

Do you trust that God knows you better than you know yourself?

Proverbs 3:5-6
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your path straight."

*Italics are my own

**I do not always follow this verse either.

13 comments:

Sean said...

This post seems to contradict your _Who's in Control?_ post. How do you decide when to let God control the decision or not? Maybe I am just misunderstanding something.

Beckie said...

I also like things black and white, but what I've found is that when God doesn't break something down like that, we, as Christians, have freedom in how we choose to follow God's will (as long as we are truly seeking it, of course). I believe this is what you were getting at in your post on who is in control.

I've noticed over the past few weeks that scripture can point us in opposing directions. For example, we are instructed in Matthew 7:1-3 to avoid judging others. However, in James 5:19-20 we are told to turn a sinner from the error of his ways, which is hard to do if we aren't passing judgment on his/her sins (not final judgment or conviction, but we must, at some level, decide he/she is guilty of sin against God - otherwise we wouldn't think he/she had any error to turn from). I understand the difference in what these two scriptures are saying (it's not a clear contradiction), but I think this is an example of how God keeps us "in check" when we favor one piece of scripture over another. It confirms for me that it is necessary to be continuously asking God for discernment in areas of our lives where his instructions aren't black and white. And also that we need to be open to the fact that his "answer" may change over time and we need to be prepared to act on that.

God does allow us freedom as long as we're acting according to His law, but he is also a God of details. He has numbered the hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:30). For me, this fits into the category of things I can only partially grasp with my human mind and anxiously await full understanding of when I'm with the Lord forever.

I realize I didn't address the actual topic of this blog post, but maybe you can draw your own conclusion based on what I said.

Brian said...

@Sean,
You forgot that the first rule of Sarah's blog is that Sarah never contradicts herself. You are obviously misunderstanding something ;-)

Sarah said...

Sean,
I tried to keep that "Who's in control?" post very open. Could you be more specific with what you feel I'm contradicting?

Sarah said...

Beckie,
Thanks for the thoughts. Sounds like we're on the same page.

Sean said...

In this post you are asking for black and white, right and wrong. But in your "Who's in Control?" post you say that there are gray areas where we shouldn't hold out to hear a definitive answer from God. We should feel free to make decisions on our own as long as our life intent is to live by God's will. If God really wanted you to have kids it won't matter what kind of birth control you use.

Sarah said...

I think that my exploratory thought method of writing can be confusing sometimes. I did say that I like things black and white, but I didn't say that this was one of those issues.
And in the previous post, as I said, I was just throwing out possibilities, trying to keep things very open.
This issue can be lost so easily in semantics. And pretending like we know what we're talking about in terms of following God's will. So I'm hesitant to say too much in way of explanation.
One more thing - I hope you didn't get that last sentence of your comment from my blog. I think this is pretty much the equivalent of saying, "If God really wanted me to stop smoking, he'd make all the cigarettes I bought vanish before my eyes." or "If God really wanted me to help so-and-so, He would have that person come up and talk to me and introduce themselves."
I did use this sentence, but I was referring to the argument that many people - believers in particular - use to "excuse" use of birth control.

Sean said...

Those are my words not yours and as I re-read them I realize that I have over generalized. When I was writing that sentence I was speaking very specically of birth control I know a woman who became pregnant twice while using different types of birth control. This has put God's ability to do whatever He wants into perspective.

I have more closely read both of the aforementioned posts and come to the conclusion that they are not as contradictory as I once thought. I will admit that in an attempt to keep a high number of comments on your blog I sometimes stretch to make a conclusion.

Now what was I going to say about The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe?

Sarah said...

Sean,
Thanks for bringing in the comments! Appreciate it. Sometimes that "stretch" is good for me, because it causes me to go back too, and reevaluate what I've written.

Anonymous said...

Sarah,

I think your statement about possibly 'missing the blessings of God' via the convenience of birth control is an excellent point.
I would also have to agree that God alone knows us better than we know ourselves.
You also make an interesting comment about being at odds with the world, and I think I get your point to mean that we act in counter-cultural ways when the cultural norms are opposed to God and his Truth. I don't seek ways to be 'opposite' or different just for its own sake and expect that I've automatically followed a sanctifying path. But I don't think that's really your point, I think you're just trying to say that we take our absolute cues from God's Word and it often runs opposite to a fallen and rebellious world.

I'm prone to phrase the logic on this topic like this...If, and Sean affirmed this already, women have become pregnant in spite of medical birth control then that tells us something significant - some prescriptions don't perfectly prevent conception in every case. Therefore, it is also possible that a baby could be conceived without a successful implantation, and the embryo would die within the normal menstrual cycle. You don't know until after the fact.

Someone please correct me here if I've missed the facts.

While I don't claim to be an expert in any kind of birth control, I know there are several categories of contraception available with some being blatantly home abortion drugs. I would go as far as saying that a prescription accomplishing the destruction of a conceived embryo is not acceptable for us who follow Christ.

On a spiritual level, any other form of pregnancy prevention should be exercised under the realization that God is not going to be thwarted in his plans. We can really set ourselves up for bitterness toward God if we expect that our plans and motives are always in line with His. It is sad to hear when folks bad-mouth God for 'not giving' them children or for 'allowing' a child they weren't planning on.
And I know what that's like on a simple human level (or the level of a simple human like me). We didn't really hope or beg God for children during our first year of marriage (my last year in college) but we acknowledged that it could have still happened within His sovereignty (after all He's done bigger miracles, right?). But there was a different level of spiritual intimacy when we could honestly with each other and before God say that we were joyfully open to however and whenever God decided to grow our family. The short story is that we ended up being parents without much delay, and I wouldn't regret it for a minute (Although I won't speak for Jennifer though I think she would agree, because Jennifer directly bears a much higher proportion of the offspring-related stress and life change than I do).
We faced some practical anxiety and uncertainty about future provisions when we learned last December that we were expecting our third child in under three years. Those initial thoughts soon gave way through prayer to peace and an excitement over watching how God would meet our needs.
After our miscarriage in January we came to rest in the knowledge that God is our Shepherd and does what is right and best for His sheep.
In fact, He proved His love in depths I have never before known and I would say as I did at the beginning of this comment that apart from this experience of grief I would be missing a dimension of the blessings of God.
-Lance

Sarah said...

Lance,
I so enjoy reading your insights! Two things:
Yes, you are correct - MOST birth control pills will abort a baby if a woman gets pregnant while taking them. And doctors WILL NOT tell you this.
You said, "Any other form of pregnancy prevention should be exercised under the realization that God is not going to be thwarted in His plans." I agree! We have not thwarted God, but we maybe haven't had the attitude of acceptance and willingness to do His will that God desires. Kind of like the difference between Sam arguing and complaining the whole time he's emptying the dishwasher and Sam emptying the dishwasher joyfully.
Here's a question for you (and all who read this): Just for fun. Do you think that it is ever NOT God's will for you to have children? Apart from when this is obvious, like when you're not using any form of birth control and still haven't conceived.
But - and putting all our humanness aside here - do you think that it is ever God's will for us to use birth control so that we will not conceive at that time?
Curious on your take on this.

lance said...

Sarah,

I've been mulling over this question and will continue because it's a good one and I have a lot of thoughts that don't all make sense yet.

I think that God, in His wisdom and understanding may decide that the Smorgaskins* are NOT to bear a child at a given time. Let's imagine the scenario you presented which I understood as the lack of either pills or a boring abstinence regimen. I believe God is entirely capable of temporarily disabling an otherwise functioning biological capability. Now, I can't prove that God WOULD do that and I don't know if He EVER HAS done that. I just file that under the mystery of His omnipotence.

I think you may be getting at more of a philosophical-theological question with your last point, "do you think that it is ever God's will for us to use birth control so that we will not conceive at that time?"
I guess if you mean pill (non-abortive type) birth control then I'd have to leave open the possibility that yes that may be God's will. I'll repeat that I don't personally believe it would ever be His will for us to engage birth control that could take the life of an unborn child. I guess my follow-up question to myself in that situation would be "Why are we so sure God doesn't want us to have a child right now?" And we really have to examine the reasons because it's easy to become convinced something is God's will or plan when it simply isn't.

If you're including rhythm or NFP birth control (i.e. selective abstinence) than I say, "I don't know." Maybe there is and maybe there isn't one absolute answer for everyone. My reasoning simply boils down to the fact that our creator God is beyond the comprehension of my mind (Romans 11:33ff), so if I say NO it's not possible that X or Y (or XX or XY) is in God's will than I must by definition be presuming to know all that God is and all that He does. That's absurd because I don't even know all there is to know about my job and I do simple, repetitive custodial work!
Personally, I'd love to say that my rational answer is right and biblical and everyone should agree. It's easy for me to say, NO I think God never wants any form of birth control because He's the author of life, etc. But I haven't really been given that authority.

Within marriage that attitude can easily cross territory into a power-struggle where one or the other plays the card for his or her own benefit. I want to stay in unity with my wife spiritually and emotionally and not just make demands. I think the exclusive physical union designed for husband and wife in marriage should never be a point for division but God-glorifying unity. I need to seek to understand my wife's needs and actually consider them ahead of my own. I've found that when I have a radically different view than my wife on some important decision then I better wait and not assume I have unilateral rights or a monopoly on hearing God's will for our lives.

Sorry that some of that was wordyand I hope I didn't cloud the issue more. Feel free to ask another clarifying question if I missed it or went a different direction than you were aiming. I'm not trying to sound intellectual either, but I just don't know if any kids could be reading this and I want to be respectful of the potential audience.



p.s. The Smorgaskins are a fictional couple with no intentional resemblance to anyone dead or living

Sarah said...

Lance,
Love the name (Smorgaskins)

Thanks, as always, for your response. You said all my thoughts pretty much, on the issue. It is a difficult situation to be able to say, no, this is wrong, or yes, this is okay. I guess we all just need to strive to live within His will and seek His will and not our own in everything we do. Be His servant. And thank Him for His grace and mercy.