“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 paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

God sees you.

I remember the surreal joy of meeting our babies for the first time after all the years of loss and infertility preceding their births. Our joy was always mixed with immeasurable gratitude because we had struggled so greatly to meet our children. What came so easily to others had been the fight of our lives to obtain. We had no idea that God had used that time of barrenness to prepare us for the journey that lay ahead. We had learned to live peacefully with uncertainty, trusting that our lives were in God’s hands. We had learned to live with repeated heartbreak. Most of all, we had begun to understand that the story of our lives was God’s to write, and we had to surrender our hopes and dreams in favor of His good plan.

Mother’s Day can be a very difficult day for many women. As much as it is meant to be a day of joyful celebration, it is a day that marks grief and absence for many. I cannot speak to all the ways that Mother’s Day is painful, but I can speak from my own experience. When we were struggling with infertility, we would stay home from church and restaurants on Mother’s Day. It was too painful a reminder of what God had not chosen to give us. In those days, we did not understand what God was doing. We did not know the journey He would take us on. We had no idea how much we would need the lessons learned in barrenness to walk the journey He had chosen for us.

During our years of struggle, we had learned to live peacefully in the face of uncertainty. In my younger days, I had a tendency to obsess over details when things weren’t going as we planned. Are we eating the right foods? Is this a punishment for sin? Is the house clean enough? Are the cleaners we’re using too toxic? If we do everything right, will it be enough? How can we continue to live and laugh when we are walking through such pain and heartbreak? The central lesson in all of it is that we cannot and could not control this season of our lives.

Much of our lives are out of our control. We are not in the driver’s seat. God holds that position. “Our flesh and our hearts fail us in the wilderness” (Psalm 73:26). As we did, can you choose to “make Him the strength of our hearts and your portion” (Psalm 73:26)? That would mean letting go of worry over all those details. It would mean choosing that He is in control, and we are not. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). We had to take our troubled hearts to God to receive His peace in return, again and again and again. Through our infertility journey, we learned that obsessing over every detail will not bring us through our time in the wilderness faster. Rather, it will simply create more anxiety during the journey.

Mary and Chad LandisDuring this time, month after month of failure enveloped us. We had to learn to live and walk and breathe with the uncertainty that not only had our time not yet come, but that it might never come. Did that change who God was? Was He less good when He said no? Was He less present? How was His “no” what was best? That repeated “no” was somehow for our good and His glory. We did not know how many times in our future we would need to be able to live peacefully again with uncertainty, to trust Him and calmly and peacefully continue on.

I remember the very moment when that learning crystalized for me. It was in a song on the radio. A song that God used to show that He had chosen this barrenness for our lives, and it was not punishment or a mistake. He was in control of this journey, and we could not rush it or stray from it. God used that song to show me how to walk peacefully in uncertainty. To simply trust that “as heaven is higher than earth, His ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts than my thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). He is concerned with what is best for all eternity, not just with what I want in the moment or season. He is and always was the perfect parent guiding us through learning how to walk with Him in the wilderness. “And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15). If He had chosen this for us, I came to simply know that I could live in peace with His choice and trust faithfully in His plan.

Learning to live with repeated heartbreak during our journey with infertility was something foreign to me. As we faced month after month of failure, heartbreak, desperation and despair were constant companions.

Our doctor was largely positive at first. We were young and healthy and nothing serious seemed to be amiss. But God’s repeated no in the face of our desperate pleas for the gift of children broke our hearts. Allowing the heart to harden is not an option for the godly person. How could we live with our heartbreak? We had to remain sensitive and tender to the molding God was doing in our lives. We had to maintain our faith and trust God’s plan, even though we did not understand it or have any idea how long this journey would last. “For those that trust in the Lord will renew their strength; They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). We had to continue to hand God our heartbreak and trust Him to bring us endurance and peace. To keep our hearts tender and sensitive to His leading as we walked through this dark valley.

This was one of our first hard tests as adults and as a married couple. “Never will I leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). God has woven assurances all through His Word, but it didn’t feel like God was with us. We didn’t know how to be still before the Lord and wait. Instead, we kept up a restless moving, and it left us feeling like He was distant and withholding something vital and precious from us. How could we reconcile this, keep our hearts tender, and continue to walk this journey? It was no easy task. God brought this lesson about in a way that we will probably never fully understand. Our closest college friends let us know that they were expecting their first baby. That was exciting but hard news. However, mere weeks later we discovered we were also finally expecting. For a joyous six weeks, we and our friends journeyed through early pregnancy together. We were so excited. My college roommate and I have the same birthday down to the year. How fun would it be if our babies had the same birthdays, too?

Unfortunately, it was not to be. We were about to journey much deeper into heartbreak. At just ten weeks, we lost our baby. I have not yet lived through a more devastating moment than seeing that still image on ultrasound where I knew we should have seen movement and a flickering heartbeat. We couldn’t breathe or eat or sleep, let alone comprehend God’s purpose. Even now, almost 19 years later, God has brought fruit from that heartbreak. He has used it to teach us compassion and understanding and empathy we could never know otherwise, but I still miss my baby. A part of the lesson of repeated heartbreak is deep empathy. Another is that only in Christ can we bring our broken hearts to Him and receive peace and comfort again and again and again. The lesson was to continue turning to Him with the pain. In the words of Psalm 143:7, “He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.”

God does not announce the future fruit of pain or explain His purposes and plans using three bullet points and a neat outline. Life unfolds without our foreknowledge, and we have to learn how to sit down at the feet of His throne and remain there in the unknown, broken but trusting. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need” (Hebrews 4: 15-16).

The story of our lives was God’s to write, and we had to surrender our hopes and dreams in favor of His good plan. My plan was to work jobs and have beautiful, successful children who would also sail through life and do well in everything they attempted.

After we lost our baby, we decided to take a break from treatments. We took time off work, but there was nowhere to go and nothing to do to escape the pain. It resided in our souls, and we could not set it aside. We tried to travel, but it didn’t help. Nowhere could we find comfort but at the throne of God’s grace. I remember laying on the floor crying out to God in despair. As Hannah cried out in the temple, so I cried out too in the presence of my great high priest. In time, God’s comfort began to assuage our pain along with an assurance that He would give us children in His time, not ours. We had no idea when that would be. Our plans had to be set aside in favor of His. This was not an option, but a requirement.

We began to pray and walk and continue the treatments, assuming that one day His plan for our journey would be fulfilled. The journey continued, but the intensity, fear, worry, and heartbreak lifted. These things were set aside in favor of what He had chosen. Time passed, and we continued to walk. The emptiness remained, but not the depth of pain or fear or need to control. We met our friend’s son, born the same month we should have met our baby. That was a hard meeting, but it was part of the surrender. Not our plan, but His. More time passed. More treatments failed. We faced an interstate move I did not want to make. We packed up our boxes and left the townhouse where we had both grown and lost so much. We moved nine hours away from home to Maryland. I went for my first day of new employee orientation, and my job covered in-vitro fertilization. My job. I knew this was God’s gift to me…to us. I did not know if it would work, but I did know that it would bring the end of our infertility journey. Our plans, surrendered to His, had yielded a gift we could never have afforded on our own.