Some 18-19 years ago my wife and I were struggling with the secret pain of infertility. When everyone around seemed to be getting pregnant we couldn’t…and didn’t. Now, almost 2 decades later, the pain is a distant event in the past. I hesitate to say this because too often suffering people are patted on the back and given trite words of “encouragement”, but…I am thankful for the suffering because it has improved my sense of compassion for others and also my awareness of how God meets us in our pain.
But make no mistake, it wasn’t easy. And I don’t want to go through it again.
Some years ago we wrote about our experience and our spiritual struggles in an essay in the Journal of Biblical Counseling (CCEF’s journal). I mention all this because a friend of mine on staff at a church in NC wrote a short note about it (following a sermon on Zechariah and Elizabeth) and linked to the journal article. You can read my friend Brad’s intro here in their church blog.
Funny thing, this article seems to get more comments from readers than all of the other writings I’ve published put together. I guess it really touches a nerve. And not just with infertile couples. We’ve had comments from those who have had other kinds of losses as well.
Is the truth always helpful? Always the best option?
I think it is. But when we humans seek to convey truth, we never capture it all. As a result, what truth we do share may not be the truth that is most helpful. There are two things that have me thinking about this today:
1. On Monday night I shared with a class some of our experience with infertility. Some things said to us were downright stupid and wrong. Other things were true. In fact, God does have a wonderful plan for us. But it wasn’t helpful to tell us that when we were hurting. Scripture teaches us that when we sing songs of joy to the downcast it is like drinking vinegar or adding baking soda to it. Kaboom!
2. In recent weeks, CCEF has posted a couple of things on their website that need to be read together. This week they posted David Powlison and John Piper’s “Don’t Waste Your Cancer” to their homepage. This was written by both men when they were in the throes of Prostate cancer. I encourage you to read it from the perspective I am reading it. My wife has breast cancer. We hope to beat it. But we are in the throes of chemo right now. How does this sound to you. True? Helpful? Now, when you have read that, go read Ed Welch’s post: “What Not To Say To Suffering People.” He wrote a follow-up here. How does this sound to you? True? Helpful?
Seems the first could be seriously misused and does not address all of what you say for comfort in the heat of the battle. Surely we need to be a bit careful about what the person needs to hear. Yes, we can “waste” the cancer in a “woe is me” mentality. But be careful not to go there too quickly! Know your audience and what they need NOW from you.
What do you think? I’d like your feedback.
Some years ago, my wife and I wrote an article for CCEF’s Journal of Biblical Counseling entitled, “The Bible and the Pain of Infertility.” Of all my published writings, this article has garnered the most responses from readers. I don’t think it is because it is so well written as much as it touches many where they most hurt. Even though the article is about infertility, readers have commented that they found it related to their loss of a loved one, the unexpected loss of a career, a chronic disease.
Not that long ago I was asked to review a chapter manuscript on pastoral care of infertile couples. I was shocked to learn that he could find no serious work (than ours) attempting to think pastorally about infertility. Not sure he is right but it probably means we need more on the topic.
I say all this because CCEF has put the article up for free on the top of their homepage. Click here for their homepage. Click the image at the top of their page and it should take you to the full text article.
Enjoy. Pass it on to others you think might benefit, especially those who suffer in secret.
In my last guest post on the Society for Christian Psychology blog I give a brief review* of Mike Emlet’s new book: CrossTalk: When Life & Scripture Meet (2009, New Growth Press). I can’t say enough great things about the book. If you haven’t looked at it, you should. One of the big beefs I have with the Christian counseling world is that we either abuse or ignore the bible in the therapeutic context. Mike’s book does a world of good in rectifying two problems: (a) only using tiny portions but seeing most of the bible as unusable in ministry contexts, and (b) missing the big picture of how God connects to hurting people and how their hurts connect to God’s story.
Check out my blog post on the SCP site using the link above.
*I did receive a free copy of Mike’s book from the publisher but that did not influence my views of the book. More likely would be my friendship with him and any dinner his wife, Jody, might offer. 🙂
Today is the first full day of the CCEF annual conference in Valley Forge, PA. The conference is entitled, “Sex Matters” and so all plenary and breakouts are on said theme. It is not too late to drop by if live in the area and want to register. I believe they will still take walk-ups.
Besides the faculty-led plenary sessions, Lauren Winner (Girl Meets God; Mudhouse Sabbath, & Real Sex) will speak on Saturday. For those of you who can’t come, CCEF sells mp3 downloads on their website.
I will be providing an hour long seminar entitled, “When Sex in Marriage Doesn’t Work” at 4 pm today. We will focus on desire, arousal, technique, and relationship problems (whether perceived, physical or emotional) couples sometimes encounter. Slides and an additional home-grown sex therapy questionnaire is available here (#16 on the list, scroll to the bottom).
The best part is that after I’m done, Biblical Seminary is hosting a pizza party for current students and alums (5:30p) at our information table.
Those interested in taking an on-line, graduate-level counseling course might wish to consider this new joint offering from my school, Biblical Seminary, and the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF).
Counseling in the Local Church (2 credits)
The course is taught by Dr. Tim Lane, Director of CCEF and runs from 1/18/2010 to 3/19/2010. It is completely on-line with mp3 lectures, assignments, and threaded discussions with others in the class. You can register here for this class. If you have Internet access and an undergraduate degree, you can take this class.
Later in Spring 2010 we will offer David Powlison’s Dynamics of Biblical Change.
CCEF started Biblical’s counseling program back in the mid 80s and has continued to lend their faculty to courses here and there at Biblical. They have been offering on-line and residential courses (non-accredited credits) for 25 years. In my personal opinion, our joint venture brings together quality biblical counseling and theological expertise with practical and professional counseling expertise!
Now, we have a chance to work together to provide on-line students with quality teaching from CCEF but now for academic credit. (You must have an undergraduate degree already)
What can you do with these credits? Well, for one, you could apply them to a number of Master’s degrees at Biblical. They could count as elective credits in our MA Ministry, MDiv, or MA Counseling program. Second, you might seek to have them transferred to your own local graduate school program. Biblical Seminary is ATS and Middle-States accredited and so will be considered a legitimate institution. However, you should know that every school sets its own polices regarding transfer of credits. Usually they look to see if the course fulfills a course they would have required in their own program. Remember that it is up to you to find out if they will transfer.
Or, you can just take them because you want to be enriched! We’d love to have you as a student!