March 26, 2014

What Does the Bible Say About Having Children

I received the following email from a dear friend.  This is a question I get rather often both from ladies I encounter and here on my blog.  My friend has given me permission to share it here.  I hope it is thought provoking and helpful to someone else.  As always I encourage your input.  Keep in mind before writing or leaving a comment, this is my close friend and a real person with real feelings.  Don't say anything you would not want someone to say to you and likewise make sure you say it in a way you would want to receive it.  Secondly, these are my beliefs and opinions.  You have chosen to come here.  You do not have to agree but you do have to be kind.
Kathleen,
I have a weird question that I'm not even sure exactly how to ask so I'll just sort of send you my thoughts about the matter and ask for your response. 
I am wondering about having more children.  What does God expect?  I know Scripture tells us children are a blessing and He wants us to multiply, but I don't remember seeing anything about if you have the freedom to stop multiplying intentionally.  I would like to have more children but am terrified of doing so (reasons including my crazy hormones we've talked about before and if I can really handle more, my back, the fear of a C-section, and frankly labor and delivery.)  
But more so I am fearful that when I stand before God in heaven one day that He'll say something to the effect of "I wanted to give you more babies and had them ready for you, but you said no.  And now they don't exist and aren't with me because you were selfish." 
While I don't believe it's a sin to prevent further pregnancies (so long as they don't end in accidental miscarriage), I don't know if it's right, if that makes sense.  And while I know I'm not "old" yet I am 34 and so time is not on my side anymore so it's been weighing on my mind.  I do want more children but do not trust myself; yet I am also content with my [children I already have].  Another thing that is on my mind is that I feel like if I choose not to have more because of the reasons I listed, that it makes me a bad Christian and pathetic mother. 
and then in a second email... 
So in the past week I have realized a few things trying to pray and sort this out in my head, and here's what I've discovered: My 2 biggest things that convince me in either direction are: 1. If I ever do end up with a C-section that is detrimental to my back and I don't know how well I'll realistically be able to care for the [children] because my abs are what keeps my back in check.  [It] has confirmed that a C-section would be very difficult on me in that way.  So I feel like why risk it?  But then I feel like that's me not trusting God for that situation.  2. My biggest reason to continue having kids or at least releasing the control is that God has more for us and I'm not trusting Him and that by my selfishness other children won't be born to have the opportunity to love Him.  
Does He already plan out who He wants to make, and hopefully we as parents say yes?  Or does He base it on what He knows we will ultimately choose?  This is where free will and sovereignty paralyzes me.  Please tell me there's a black and white on this. 
I'm not sure how to sort through this besides praying and am seeking some counsel.  I welcome any and all!  Thanks so much. 
Dear Friend,

Knowing you as I do, I know you have agonized over this.  And while I am sorry for your suffering, I am grateful for the way you are always willing to put yourself out there and evaluate your position and consider what it is God wants for your life.  We could all do well to put so much time and thought and toil into seeking the will of God in our lives.  You are a blessing to me!  

So I get this question a lot.  I know, to some degree, you and I have discussed this before.  As you know, I have very strong opinions when it comes to what I believe.  This is definitely one of those topics.  If most people asked, I would give them a little answer, just enough to appease them, and then let it drop.  My beliefs on this topic get many people riled up and some people are even offended.  Because I do not believe it is an issue that pertains to salvation nor an issue that should define our fellowship, I don't typically see any reason in pursuing the topic to the point of others being upset.

I do very much believe, as in all things, that your decisions in this area should be made on your convictions from God with the Holy Spirit leading you.  We can not and should not move ahead on your opinion or mine.  You have known me enough years to know this is my stance.

However, I know you very well, too.  And I know 1- when you ask you really want an honest and complete answer 2-  you truly are seeking for God's will in your life 3-  you are strong enough to hear what I have to say and accept it in the love it is given.  I apologize in advance if what I say hurts you, you know it is never my intention.  Although, I know my black and white way of speaking does have such an effect sometimes. Just in case, I will just start off with an apology, not for my beliefs, but for my delivery.    

I count you as one of our most precious friends, but also in many ways I think of you as one of my girls.  So your question gave me two interesting perspectives to consider.  To avoid confusion I am copying and pasting bits and pieces of your original email below.  
"I am wondering about having more children.  What does God expect?"  
Scripture has already answered this question.  The very first command God ever made, in fact the very first time he spoke to man directly both face to face and in His word was to answer this question.  We see it in the very first chapter of the very first book of the Bible.
  
Genesis 1:28  "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."

That makes me think this multiplying business is rather important to Him.  He doesn't really give an option or a question about it.  He states it clear as can be.  No where in the Bible does he rescind this command.  In fact in Genesis 9:7 we see God has just wiped out all man and Noah and his family have just left the ark.  Immediately before giving the Noahic Covenant what does God do?  He repeats this command.

"And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein."


But God knew man in our sinful state couldn't obey simply because he told us to do something.  He encourages us on this issue further on in His word by giving us incentive and by letting us know children are our blessing, our inheritance, and our legacy.

Proverbs 17:6 Tells us children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers.

Proverbs 31:28 Her Children arise up, and call her blessed;

Psalm 127:3-5  Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.  As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.  Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

Psalm 128:3-5 Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table.  Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord.  The Lord shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life."

Furthermore, if we look back at Genesis 1:28 you will note the command to be fruitful and multiply was part of the blessing God gave to Adam in the garden. Many other verses reiterate this same blessing.  For space and time's sake I will leave it to you to study it out in more detail.


Let us consider something else.  This fact of children being a blessing was never questioned in the Bible.  In fact, it was so accepted as truth when a woman did not bare children she was looked upon as being out of God's favor.  A study of the lives of Hannah, Sarah, Rachel, Elisabeth, Rebekah... and others will help you to see what I mean here.  It was a women's shame to not have children.

(I do want to make it clear I believe God has many reasons for not giving children to some couples and it is not necessarily because a woman is out of God's will.  Oftentimes it is because God needs a couple to focus on something else or even because as I know in the case of a number of dear friends it is for a couple to provide a family for children through adoption.  But this is a big topic for another time.)

This idea of blessing goes even deeper if we look further in scripture.  The more children a man or woman had, the greater the blessing.  Take a look at the Abrahamic covenant.  This was such an amazing blessing because the number of children were too great to even count... as the stars, as the sand, as the dust of the earth.  No where do we see Abraham saying, "But Lord, I can't afford to feed all those kids."  or "We don't have enough bedrooms for them."  or even "All those kids will make us nuts."  No.  The patriarchs and kings just worshiped and praised God for the blessings as each was received.
  
And, this idea was the general belief among all religions and all nations until this near modern day.  In fact, even in the United States, as recently as 1873, birth control was illegal.  I don't want to go too much into the idea of birth control because it is really another very involved topic which ultimately does not apply to this discussion about God's will and our hearts.  However, it might be interesting to note, this idea of limiting our blessings through children did not come around until the last century.  When it did come on the scene, it might be sobering to understand the idea of limiting children and birth control came about as part of planned parenthood, the eugenics movement and Darwinism.  Yikes!  
"I know Scripture tells us children are a blessing and He wants us to multiply, but I don't remember seeing anything about if you have the freedom to stop multiplying intentionally...  While I don't believe it's a sin to prevent further pregnancies (so long as they don't end in accidental miscarriage), I don't know if it's right, if that makes sense. " 
Many people suggest the Bible only addresses the idea of abortion and not the idea of limiting children.  However, I think it is debatable.  Consider Matthew 19:14 

"But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven."  


The apostles were forbidding the children to come and sit with Jesus however, do we forbid children to come to Jesus by not allowing ourselves to be the vessel of God in giving them life?


And in considering this idea of limiting our children one might reflect on this question.  If God were heaping financial blessings on us would we attempt to limit him?  No!  Actually, I can think of no other blessings a person would intentionally choose to limit God in giving.  Christians have given Satan much ground on this issue.  We have tried to make it look noble in many ways... I can be a better parent if I have less children... I can do more work for God if I have less children... I will have more money to give... etc... but I think the real truth is in receiving the blessing of children we have to give something of ourselves.  And we don't want to do so.  When you ultimately come down to it, people limit their children for one reason and one reason only... selfishness.  Receiving such a blessing might actually require something of us... our time, our finances, our freedom...  So we say, WOAH!

When really what we ought to be saying is:  Do I trust God when he says He will give me what I can do through Him?  Do I trust God to raise up these arrows for His glory?  Do I trust God to make financial and material provisions for as many children as He chooses to give me?
  
And so we limit our blessings.  It is interesting to note in those families where couples have told us they limited their children because they couldn't afford it, they struggle financially.  Yet in families where we see no realistic way of supporting a large number of children I see God providing for every need in ways no one can understand.  People often say to me, "You have such a large family and your kids are always dressed nicely and you have a lovely home and property and you take vacations each year.  How do you do it?"  The fact is, we don't.  God does it.  I will never understand how we manage financially but somehow God has always stretched our means to support what He has given us.  Not only does He meet our needs, He often gives us the desires of our hearts and he allows us to minister to the needs of others.  One of the things that was very important to my husband is to be able to give to others and when we see a need around us God has always put the finances before us to do just that.
  
But God's provision isn't just financial.  As a young mother I struggled with patience but as I trusted God to help me in that area He gave me more and more children until I realized one day I don't struggle with patience at all!  
"But more so I am fearful that when I stand before God in heaven one day that He'll say something to the effect of "I wanted to give you more babies and had them ready for you, but you said no.  And now they don't exist and aren't with me because you were selfish... "
While I hate to agree with you, I do believe not having more children is selfish and self centered.  But the thing is, the one you are hurting most by making this decision is yourself.  These lives will indeed never have the opportunity to live and know the honor of serving our God because of your choice, but nor will they suffer because what does not exist can not know sorrow.  However, you are denying yourself and your family the joy of knowing the full extent of God's blessing.  You are limiting the work God can do through you.

Consider our family can do a lot with what God has given us.  But what if we had decided to stop after Carmella?  We could still do a whole lot.  But wow!  What amazing blessings we have reaped this last year in the life of Addison!  We have seen so many lives touched.  Almost everyday someone writes, or stops me for the only purpose to tell me how their lives were enriched because they know our son.  You, and most Christians, agree aborting him would have been wrong, but look at how much work God wanted to do with Addison which would have been prevented if we said 8 kids is enough!  Don't you think something is wrong? 
"I would like to have more children but am terrified of doing so (reasons including my crazy hormones we've talked about before and if I can really handle more, my back, the fear of a C-section, and frankly labor and delivery.)  If I ever do end up with a C-section that is detrimental to my back and I don't know how well I'll realistically be able to care for the girls because my abs are what keeps my back in check.  So I feel like why risk it?  But then I feel like that's me not trusting God for that situation. And while I know I'm not "old" yet I am 34 and so time is not on my side anymore so it's been weighing on my mind.  I do want more children but do not trust myself; yet I am also content with my [Children I already have]"
In general to this I would say:

God does not give the spirit of fear.  Fear is of Satan and giving in to fear is giving ground to Satan.    

Second, it is not about what you can handle but about what you can trust God to handle.  By using your fears as a reason to limit your children you are really saying you don't trust God to care for your health, or to help you overcome your sins in the area of your emotions. Third, I will illustrate with an example from my own life.  After I was diagnosed with diabetes in 2005, Allen was very concerned having more children would be more than my body could handle.  We chose to trust God.  And I am so glad we did.  I can't imagine our life without Elisabeth, Carmella, Henry or even Gussie.  Furthermore, it is interesting to note, although my pregnancies have grown progressively harder, God has given me so many blessings through those hard trials.  And even though diabetes was Allen's greatest concern, my non pregnant glucose continues to be well controlled without any medication.  This is something which can only be explained by God's intervention.  Doctor's are always impressed at the level of control I can get without medical intervention.  And while we take the standard precautions for diabetics in pregnancy and newborns of diabetics none of our children have ever shown one side effect or complication of diabetes.    


And, yes, I suppose you could have a C-section and you could have further back problems as a result.  But then again, you could get in your car and die on the way to my house, too.  Does that mean you stop coming to my house?  No, because if you give in to such a way of thinking eventually you will never leave your house or live life at all.  You make wise decisions like not drinking and driving.  You make sure your car is in good working order.  You drive carefully and stay alert to other drivers.  But in the end you trust God to get you from there to here and back again safely.  And if you crash on the way there, you know it is in His will and He will give you grace and help you rise to victory. As for labor and delivery and a C-section, I think that is a plain stupid reason for not having more children.  I am sorry, I know it likely sounds harsh and judgmental but there it is.    I've been through it many times and typically without medication so I feel I have earned the right to talk honestly on this topic.  It's not a walk in the park, but labor and delivery is certainly manageable or God wouldn't allow it.  Women make way too much out of it and I think usually it is because they feel it is an area they can trump men. 

Not to say it is not challenging and down right painful.  Just the same, it can be done.  God would never ask us to do something we are not able to do.  It only lasts for a finite amount of time and then it is done.  And look what you have to show for it!  A wonderful life to hold, to love and to mold for God's glory!  A small price to pay, indeed.  Quite frankly, there were times, like when Addison was induced,  I just didn't think I was up to it.  I was so sick for so long and so exhausted.  For that God has allowed us pain medication.  Of course, jokes on me, because as you know the epidural caused more problems than it did good.  But guess what, God gave me the strength to come through it and he has given you the strength to come through it.  And he will continue to do so.

Which is such a beautiful picture of the mercy of our God.  Let us remember the trials of pregnancy, labor and delivery are the direct result and judgement on women because of the fall in the garden.  And, yet, He gives us the grace to come through it.  If this is what keeps you from having more children I will tell you what I tell my kids... suck it up and deal with it.  There are far worse things in life.   

Probably the most disconcerting thing about this email, and the many other emails and conversations I have had with women on this topic, is the number of times the words, "I, Me and My" come up.  The greatest mistake any child of God can make is thinking this life belongs to us.  It does not.  Any decision centered around those pronouns or those ideas will always be wrongly decided because the focus is not where it needs to be, which is on the words HIM, our God, our Lord and our Savior.
"Another thing that is on my mind is that I feel like if I choose not to have more because of the reasons I listed, that it makes me a bad Christian and pathetic mother." 
You already know what I am going to say to this statement.  But just in case, I will say it anyway.  One of the worse reasons to do anything in this life is because you are worried about how it makes you appear.  While maintaining our testimony is important, we should never do anything if it is not out of the utmost love and obedience to our Lord and His ultimate will.  If you are doing what is right in God's eyes, but you are not doing it for the right reasons He will not bless it.  

2 Chronicles 25:2 says, "And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart."  

I have known many women who have large families because it seemed like the "Christian" thing to do or because their husbands wanted it.  But their hearts were not in it.  They had never surrendered this part of their life to God.  They are miserable and unhappy women.  They live their lives in obedience but not joy.  They are bitter and angry.  Oh, they may put on a smiling face because that's what they are supposed to do.  But if you are their confidant what you learn is their families are unhappy.  Their children are rebellious.  And the kids they supposedly bore for God's glory can not wait to grow up and get away from anything that has to do with God or the church.  

When I was a young mother and a young Christian, a friend of mine had just given birth to her 8th child.  She and her husband were big advocates of the movement to leave your child bearing to God.  Allen and I had wanted a big family and recently been told we would not be able to have anymore children despite the many therapies we had gone through.  I was so excited for this family.  Anyway, we were visiting and I was checking out her brand new baby.  My heart was rejoicing and breaking all at the same time.  I asked her if they would have any more children.  Do you know what this woman said to me?  She said she was praying God would not give her anymore children so she could just focus on training the ones they had.  It has been a long time but I can still hear her voice as clear as if it was today.  Do you know what such a statement said to me?  Even though she told women this should be up to God, she had never really, in her heart, given it over to the Lord.  This women was much like myself today, in that she had a newborn but also grown daughters.  Her grown daughters were close friends of mine.  One time we were visiting and one of her girls confided in me she wasn't interested in getting married because she didn't want children.  What does this say to me?  Her mother's attitude had rubbed off well on her.  

I guess what I really want to point out in sharing this example, is if you are doing something just because it is the right thing to do, you may do more harm than good.  In all things, we need to really seek the will of God in truth and honesty and allow Him to mold our hearts, our thoughts and our opinions into what He wants them to be.  We can not just do what everyone else is doing, even if it is what is right in God's eyes, because that is not true love and obedience.  

If I ask one of my kids to do something and they put on a smile and do it with all their heart and their best ability while singing a happy song... well, it makes my heart sing.  But when they do it with a grudging heart, and I can tell the difference even if they do everything outwardly right, it brings me no pleasure and even grates on my nerves.  I imagine God feels the same when we don't have a right heart.  So to anyone who is reading this I would say if you are contemplating having more children because you think it is the right thing to do in order to be a good mother or a good Christian, but you are not really convinced of the will of God,  I would advise you to not do so.  
My biggest reason to continue having kids or at least releasing the control is that God has more for us and I'm not trusting Him and that by my selfishness other children won't be born to have the opportunity to love Him.  Does He already plan out who He wants to make, and hopefully we as parents say yes?  Or does He base it on what He knows we will ultimately choose?  This is where free will and sovereignty paralyzes me.  Please tell me there's a black and white on this. 
Well, sweet friend.  I just don't know if there is a black and white on this.  It goes back to long debated and age old questions where the will of God is concerned.  Unfortunately, until we walk with our Lord I don't know if we will be able to say either way with 100% certainty.  But you know, I don't know if the answer really matters.  Because the need to trust God and follow His will doesn't change, does it?  

Before I close this post, I want to touch on one more topic specifically with the young women who are not yet married.  This is an area of your life you need to seek God on now.  Before you consider marriage you need to know where you stand in your beliefs.  Before you ever consider anyone for marriage you need to know that you are both in the same place where children are concerned.  I am constantly shocked at how many couples enter into marriage with completely different view points on child bearing, contraception and how to train children.  It seems to me since this is one of the biggest parts of married life, couples would settle on these issues before they even begin courting.  Disagreement in the area of children can be such a strain on a marriage.  I can not tell you how many couples Allen and I have counseled where the husband and wife have opposing views.  It creates such much hurt within the marriage and I believe can also damage a person's personal relationship with the Lord.  It is hard to walk with the Lord when you feel you should be doing one thing but your spouse has chosen another route.  

And parents, while I do not think this is a topic we should decide for our young people, we do need to be having thought provoking, open and honest, God seeking, prayerful, Word searching talks with our young adults concerning children.  This is at least as important as teaching our daughters how to be a good wife, how to run a home or how to cook.

Well, dear reader, if you have not completely zoned out at this point, please take time to share your thoughts on this topic?  Let's have an informative discussion that will encourage and edify the many young women who read this blog.

Until next time,

Kat

5 comments :

  1. Thank you for this beautifully written, honest post. It is a wonderful venue of discipleship for other women. It is so easy to search the internet and find whatever "truth" you want to find, so it is wonderful to see women like you putting your beliefs out there as evidenced by the Bible. It truly helps younger women like me. Thank you

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  2. I love it! I wish I could write as well as you do, Kat. This is exactly what we believe, but I don't think I could have written it as tactfully and lovingly as you did. :)

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  3. Thanks for this. Sometimes when you are in the thick of it with only young children it is easy to wonder if it's all 'worth it'. That's why I love blogs like yours; they are very encouraging! I think it's so sad when people have 2 young children and then stop because it's 'too much work'. They are only little for such a short time (and even having only littles is fun if you look at the right way) and by the time you have a larger # of children the first ones are older anyway. (unless you have triplets ;o)

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  4. Thank you for this. I never tire of hearing about courageous families like yours! It is such 'food' for my heart!

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  5. Very well said. Thank you for opening up on this topic. Most of our Christian friends do not consider this to be important and handle it as the world does. So it's very precious for me to find good advice and examples here :)
    In our 5 years of marriage we have been blessed with 3 boys and I was happy to find out we are pregnant again. We are so looking forward to having as many as God gives :)
    Susanne from Germany

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