Has anyone ever told you "We are trusting God with the size of our family"? Did you agree? Did you feel a little shamed or confused?
I love being a mother of eight kids. I always wanted a large family. My husband loves having a big brood. But we're not "trusting God" with our family size. Here's why.
We are Pro-Large Family
Don't get the wrong impression. We're big supporters of those who choose to have a large family. If you tell me ...
We're open to having more kids.
We're not using birth control.
We prefer natural family planning.
You'll find that I am a big supporter. And you won't be hearing any judgement from me, even if your choices lead to struggles and hardships.
I firmly believe that some of the most worthwhile things we can do in this life come with their share of trials, and those trials might even be part of what makes them worthwhile.
Hey, I get it. Birth control is a touchy subject. And it's weird to discuss your sex life with random people at church and the grocery store. (Why do folks feel free to make that a topic of conversation, anyway?)
So maybe you're just looking for a family-friendly (hehe) way to say "We have sex whenever we feel like it and we aren't currently using anything to prevent the sperm from getting to the egg." If you want to share that with folks, but you want a different way to say it, that's cool.
And maybe it goes a little farther than that. Maybe your reason for desiring a large family isn't just your personal preferences or because it's your hobby.
Maybe the reason you want to have more children is that you see it as a kingdom-building activity. You want to have more children as an act of serving the Lord. And so this really is about wanting to do what God calls you to do.
Amen. I'm totally with you on that. But please don't describe what you're doing as "trusting God" with the size of your family.
Even if you don't intend it, your word choice is damaging. You are suggesting that anyone who takes a different approach to family size is not trusting God.
Are You a Control Freak?
I've heard this same idea phrased in another, equally troubling way. One mom said,
We've decided to give God control over my womb.
That sounds so lovely and good. God should be in charge, right?
But here's the rub: it's actually not a rational statement to make.
Communicating that you've decided to give God control over something is like saying that you're allowing the sun to shine or giving the wind permission to blow.
Whether or not you use birth control of any sort, control (over your fertility or any other area of your life) wasn't yours to begin with. So you can't take credit for giving to God what wasn't in your possession in the first place.
And it creates that same troubling dichotomy as the "trusting God" expression. It suggests, somehow, that those who are making decisions to delay or avoid pregnancy are "taking away control" from God.
If your conscience is troubled with worry that you're hijacking control from God, let me reassure you - you aren't. You didn't. You can't.
You can try to be in control. You can think that you are in control. You can realize and admit that you're not in control. But you can't decide to be in control, or decide to let God be in control.
Equating Trust with Inaction
This isn't just an issue of hurt feelings. It's actually a question of sound Biblical theology.
God clearly calls us to trust him. But nowhere in his word does he equate trust - inextricably - with inaction or abstinence from intentional decision making.
Sometimes trusting the Lord means waiting. Sometimes trusting the Lord means moving forward. Sometimes trusting the Lord means changing courses.
I cannot think of another single area of life in which we speak this way about what it means to "trust the Lord." What if someone said to you ...
Oh, I don't use an alarm clock. I'm trusting God with my sleep.
It's true, sleep is a good thing. It's a gift from God, in fact. God even says in one place in Scripture that it's vain to rise up early. (Psalm 127:2)
So yes, enjoying the God-given gift of sleep is a wonderful thing. Sleeping until your body naturally awakes is a wonderful blessing. And it's a good thing to do. Sometimes.
But God gives us other principles as well. You'd have to rise up early in the morning to search and read all the passages about people who, for one reason or another, rose up early in the morning.
Jesus woke up early in the morning, while it was still dark. Jesus woke his disciples from sleep because, even though they were very tired, he wanted them to be praying instead.
But this isn't an article about sleep. My point is simply that just because something is indeed a good thing, is given to us by God, and often ends naturally of its own accord, does not mean, therefore, that to make a positive choice to influence the outcome is a mark of "not trusting God".
Selective Trust Tests
As I mentioned above, I have no objections to practices like natural family planning, or ecological breastfeeding as a means of spacing or avoiding pregnancies. I warmly support those who choose to use these methods.
I do think it is odd, however, that these intentional practices are still considered to be under the umbrella of "trusting God" while other intentional practices of influencing the chances of pregnancy are not.
Certainly, at the very simplest level, couples choose when to have or not have sex.
I certainly wouldn't accuse a couple of "not trusting God" because they abstain from sex during a woman's fertile period. But I would question why that intentional choice is considered "trusting" while others are not.
A Helpful Perspective Shift
After our second child was born, my husband and I read several books about childbearing, the "Quiverfull" movement, birth control, and other such topics. Truthfully, they were helpful in some ways.
I recognized that I had unconsciously considered having children as something we were doing for ourselves. A boy, a girl, brick rancher, nice family photos. I had dreamed of being a mother since I was a little girl.
But having children - like marriage, church membership, and so many other areas of life - isn't primary about my personal satisfaction. It was healthy and helpful to refocus the purpose of child-rearing to that of serving and glorifying God.
We realized that having children wasn't something we should do for our own comfort. In fact, there might be times when it would appropriate to sacrifice and be uncomfortable for the sake of having and raising children for the Lord.
We agreed at the time that we were not convinced that birth control was a sin, or that there was never an appropriate use for it. We simply felt that, for that season, we didn't need it.
What if I had health problems? What if I suffered postpartum depression? What if we couldn't handle or afford more kids? We decided it was best to cross those bridges if/when we came to them.
When the Bridges Came
I had my first bout of postpartum depression after the birth of my fifth child. My seventh pregnancy was riddled with depression from conception until well after weaning.
After our seventh baby was born, we began to wonder if seven was enough for us. Should we stop?
I spent months in tears and prayer. One thing I prayed over and over "Give me clarity, Lord. Please. Give me clarity. What would you have me to do?"
After seeing some improvement in my health after I began taking a Vitamin D supplement, we decided to try one more time. My eighth pregnancy immediately plunged me back into a deep depression which only deepened after delivery.
One night after my husband had drifted off to sleep, I tossed, restlessly in the bed. I cried into my pillow. Worn out, exhausted from years of physical and emotional strain, I was desperate for relief.
I wanted to turn my attention to enjoying and investing in the eight children we had. And yet, my conscience was trouble about the idea of being "done".
It's one thing to believe you have freedom in Christ to do something when you aren't imminently faced with that decision. But when the day comes that you look that decision full in the face, sometimes you find that your conscience was burdened in ways you didn't realize.
My husband rolled over and saw that I was crying. He held me as I poured out my heart to him. This wasn't new territory. We'd had this conversation many times before. But then he said something that stopped me in my tracks.
Honey, I don't think you're trusting God with this.
My heart leaped into my throat. Certainly he could not be on the verge of saying what I thought he was going to say??
He said, "You're not trusting that God loves you. You're not trusting that he's good and tender. You're acting as though he's out to get you. But, honey, he'll be pleased if you have another baby. And he'll be pleased if you stop and raise the ones you've got."
We are Trusting God
And so, we are trusting God as concerns the size of our family. But that's not code for "no birth control". Instead, this is what it looks like to trust God in this matter.
Trust His Blood
We trust that we are righteous in Christ, saved by grace alone, received by faith alone, apart from any works on our part. God loved us before we loved him and definitely before we had any children.
Trust His Sovereignty
God is perfectly in control. Though we believe our family is complete with eight children, we know that he is no less in control of my womb. Should he choose to send us another, we will trust his decision. And we trust that he will give us grace and resources for the challenge.
Trust the Sufficiency of His Word
We trust that God is capable of conveying all that we need to know in order to love him and love our neighbor. We believe that his Word, completed nearly two thousand years ago, is sufficient. He included all that he intended, didn't forget to add anything, and leaves much open to choice and wisdom.
Trust the Goodness of His Creation
God made man and woman unlike any other creature in his creation. He made them after his own image. He gave us souls. He gave us reason. And he urges us to call on Him for wisdom which he promises he will give generously and without reproach (James 1:5).
Making use of our faculties of reason and decision making to apply Biblical principles to the specific situations in our lives isn't a failure to trust God. It is living in accordance with his design for us as unique creatures.
Trust that Children are a Blessing
As my mother wisely reminded me, if children truly are a blessing and a gift from the Lord, then they are worth investing in and raising well to adulthood. Belief in the goodness and blessing of children extends far beyond birthing and, therefore, must the factors that influence how many we have.
Trust His Tenderness
Man looks on the outside, but the Lord looks on the heart. He knows our weakness. He knows that we are but dust. And he loves us with the tender love of a father.
Multiply and Be Fruitful
A faithful and wise pastor once spoke about the phrase "be fruitful and multiply". Before the fall, he said, these tasks would have been one in the same. Simply the act of bringing children into the world would have resulted in perfect, holy, God-worshipers.
In our fallen world, however, these are two related but separate tasks. Both are important. It is good to multiply. But raising those children to be fruitful is an even greater task. There is no shame in wisely apportioning resources to both tasks.
Thank you for this. I love how thoughtful you are with choosing your words.
You’re welcome, MG. I’m glad it was a blessing to you.
I wish you had written this back when I was in college! So many girls in my dorm were engaged and asked the questions about birth control.
I LOVE the balanced writing you present on both sides of this VERY emotionally charged issues. Well written and connected back to the REAL issue of trusting God.
Each of us is an individual, and our GOOD Father treats us as such. We are like need to stop looking at one another’s decisions and judging and/or being afraid that our decision is wrong and God will be disappointed with us.
Thank you for writing this article!
So true, Karyn. That is one of my biggest struggles: worrying that God will be disappointed with me. For me, learning to trust him has been largely about learning to believe in his goodness and tenderness.
Yes, and aMEN! I always thought I would have a large family (I’m one of 7, so no big deal… the more the merrier;). When I met my husband, he thought one would be good. So I told him why I thought two was imperative and three a better replication of, and training ground for, “real life”. But I reassured him that we would take it one at a time and see what God put on our hearts. Four kids now, and we both know that this is the end of the road for us, for a very many reasons, nothing is simple. But a big reason is that babyhood is a very big marital challenge. It is time to invest most in raising the children we have and in developing our husband/wife relationship without those babyhood factors continuing to be a stumbling block. It’s an odd place to be as many think we are a large family and “don’t know HOW we (I) do it!” At the same time there are all those ideas about “trusting God” that you’ve so thoughtfully addressed. It’s nice to hear from someone about this middle way. We trust God, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t own, or use, an alarm clock! Thanks for sharing. I’m sure it wasn’t easy!
Thank you for sharing your story as well, Erika. I completely agree that the health of the marriage is another big (and right!) factor to consider!
*Deep breath. Thank you for writing this. Two families of my in-laws are in the “trusting God” category with many babies in a short period of time. That is their choice and God has blessed them with many, but I often feel like I am being selfish or less faithful for only having 3 kids over 7 years… and not being sure we should go for another. Our family and circumstances are completely different, but when people with many children frame their choice as one of faithfulness – well, it’s hard not to feel like they are implying that maybe we just aren’t trusting God as fully. I appreciate this perspective.
Marie, I so understand. Even as a mother of eight, I understand. There’s always someone out there who has more than we do! The thing is, we can acknowledge and appreciate ways in which others are serving God while being confident and comfortable that it’s OK for us not to do that. I think of missionaries we know. I can confidently say to them, “I am so thankful to see how you are serving and sacrificing for the Lord and obeying him in this way,” without having to consider myself “disobedient” because I’m not on the mission field. We are a body. We all have different gifts and callings. We can rejoice in the ways others are serving without needing to feel shame or fear about our own gifts and callings. But I agree – this is a super touchy subject and one where I still wrestle!
Would another way of saying this be that GOD TRUSTS US with the size of our families?
Ooh! I like that way of putting it!
I think there was a book with that title. I failed to understand how using NFP was really trusting God. Isn’t that still a method of birth control.
I’m love your post, but I think the most impt. part is what your husband said. Are we really trusting God? How he calls and leads us to obey is a different matter, but what he did for us on the crosss is either enough or we have to add children as extra pennnance.
Yep. Exactly. I am so prone to sliding into Christ +. And that is not what it looks like to trust God!
You have such an amazing way with words! Beautifully written, love you!
Thank you, friend.
Well Lynna, I think we agree and disagree. I see the actual comment of “we are trusting God with our family size” as truthful and sometimes really good to share. Sometimes our life choices offend people, but we aren’t trying to offend. Personal convictions should be allowed to be discussed….as personal (meaning God didn’t convict everyone else in this way, so don’t go trying) but also as conviction (we cannot-at least in this time-move from this stance because the Lord is the one who told us). Birth control is the idea that we can at least try to control the timing and number of the children God gives us. I have told other women in a moment that felt very Spirit-led “you will never regret the children you do have”. I believe your story Lynna and I know God wants to free us from any legalism we hold on to. The idea to “let God decide” is a radical one in our culture today but one I have not regretted. I think you make a very valid point that we need to see all of the growing up years of our children as valuable, not just giving birth to them. I feel like I’m all over the place but basically it boils down to…I agree with pretty much everything you write but I don’t think we need to be hard on those who aren’t using birth control and are trying to dance around people’s questions who are just a bit too curious as to why we have so many children! Thoughts?
Korie, yes! I hear your heart on this. I feel the same way about homeschooling and having lots of children. It is a conviction. It isn’t just a hobby or a preference. I do it because it’s what I believe God has called me to do, much as a missionary would be following God’s call to go onto the mission field. So yes, I agree that some folks using this phrase just as a way to express “we’re just trying to do what we feel the Lord is calling us to do right now, even if it’s hard, even if we’re a little frightened.” I don’t mean to undercut that faith at all. But there are definitely those who use this phrase to imply far more than just what they are doing or what they feel is right for them. That is the use that concerns me and that I think has burdened the consciences of many a tenderhearted mama. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and perspective here!
GREAT POINTS. I would add that God created the reproductive cycle in such a way that in general, if unprotected sex occurs during ovulation, a pregnancy will occur (obviously barring fertility/health complications). So when a couple CHOOSES to practice unprotected sex on a regular basis, they are actually CHOOSING to get pregnant. That’s not “trusting God,” that’s making a choice to let God’s biological processes run their course. I could CHOOSE to step in front of an oncoming bus and say that God is capable of stopping it, and I’m trusting Him to either stop it or not as He sees fit — but the fact is that He’s set up the world so that chances are that the bus will hit me. It would be silly to think otherwise. I REALLY dislike the guilt trip involved with “trusting God with our family size.” My husband knew I was struggling with the decision to stop having children, even though I had complications with pregnancies — so he made it for us. I was obeying God by submitting to him in this decision. I was TRUSTING GOD to work in my husband’s decision-making process. Also, conservative Biblical interpretation means that not everything that was commanded in the OT applies now. Adam needed to populate the earth, so he was told to be fruitful and multiply. He was also told that through painful toil he would eat food from the ground — does that mean we all have to be farmers? This has been a hot button for me for many years; it’s great to see a wonderful woman such as yourself take it by the horns and bring some sense to the topic. Thanks, Lynna!!
Ann, my husband knew he needed to step in on this one, too. It was one of the most loving things he’s ever done and I am so thankful.
Wonderful post, Lynna. This is a great position about an issue we all deal with 🙂
Thanks, Lisa. 🙂
Thank you so much for your wise words on this subject. We have 4 boys and though I would love more my health became a factor in being able to raise these boys how God has called us to. The wisdom God has spoken through you confirms what He has laid our hearts. Seeking His wisdom in making decisions is trusting Him. I always find your posts encouraging and helpful. Thank you for sharing!
Thank you Megan, I am so glad to hear that this has been helpful to you. I have journeyed through some very difficult days wrestling over this issue and I would love for those trials to be of use to encourage someone else. Four boys! What a blessing!
Thank you so much! This is probably the best written and balanced view I’ve read! I’m ashamed to say that when my husband and I married 20 years ago, we prayed more about what home to buy and car to drive than how to start our family. We just went right along with the trend around us that used birth control until we “felt ready.” To our surprise, when we were “ready, “ nothing happened for years. We journeyed through infertility and in that pain, God showed us our need to trust His sovereignty whether or not he opened our womb. And, to seek Him about His plan for our family! He was gracious, and blessed us with twins after having fertility help ( which is another big journey of allowing God to speek for or against each step). A few years later, we adopted from China.
Not thinking we were fertile, we’ve raised these three to teen hood so far without having to consider any birth control. Imagine our shock in our 40’s when God decided to surprise us with a baby conceived naturally. Our fourth is 20 months and we are at the place where we really need to seek the Lord about whether or not to permanently prevent pregnancy. I greatly appreciate your wise words! My heart and mind has struggled with both sides of the argument. Your post is freeing for me!
Oh Lesli! What a journey. It’s always amazing (and beautiful) to see how, though our paths may look different, God is often teaching us the very same things along the way. I think the fact that you have wrestled with both sides of this issue shows that you have a heart for the Lord and wanting to know and do his will. I really do think that there are times, however, when we do all the “homework” and there are still two (or more!) perfectly acceptable answers left on the table, and God allows us to choose with a free conscience! He is so good. So unimaginably good and tender!
Love this post!!!
When we were trying to conceive our first child, we struggled with infertility. When we finally had our miracle baby, I felt so much pressure to just keep trying for more and more kids. Our wonderful and good Christian friends were all having baby after baby and just “trusting God” for the size of their family. I felt so guilty because we lived in a one-bedroom basement apartment, had very little financially, and having a baby after so long of trying was an emotional roller-coaster I didn’t want to take again.
Thankfully, God WAS in control. Our second little girl was a big surprise, and we felt that two little ones was enough to raise in a tiny little apartment. Fast forward 7 years, and I really felt the tug from the Lord to try one more time for a baby. My husband agreed, bu together we prayed and decided to give up after 6 months and not stress about it. (In other words, leave it up to God, ha) We were able to conceive within 2 months, and it turned out to be twins!!!
Even though it was another huge miracle, the twin pregnancy was very hard on my body and I know that I can’t go through that again and still be healthy enough to raise my four precious girls, much less any more children. Both my husband and I know that our family is complete for that reason alone. We are both very happy with our family and almost relieved that we are done having kids. There is a little part of me that will always wonder “what if”, but I know God blessed us with the family He wanted us to have, however we got it. 🙂
Oh Jen! What a precious story. Thanks for sharing that hear. This issue is so challenging because it’s so close to our hearts! I know some women say they have a sense of peace when they are done having children and that is beautiful! But I think for a lot of us, there will be a sense of loss, of grieving, an emotional transition of moving from one phase of life to another. I keep reminding myself that everybody has a last baby! Blessings, friend. Four girls! Hooray!
My heart goes out to anyone who struggles with the difficulties of pregnancy. I certainly have not have had an easy road myself. It has cost me dearly and tested my faith on many levels. Much of the Christian life does not follow the easiest path. You have to look at the history of birth control and the theology of birth control. Birth control has been around in various forms since early in history as women have sought “freedom” of the drudgery of motherhood and men wanted “free” sex but all this was rejected by the church until recent times. Egg+sperm does not = baby. Only egg+sperm+God’s will=baby. A life. An eternal gift from above. Nothing touches our lives and no life comes into this world apart of His perfect will. We need to very carefully seek truth in every area of our lives. He really is sovereign whether He gives you one or a dozen. We really can trust Him even when it is hard -in any area of our lives. Beware of the “Angel of Light” Satan wants us to grow weary, to falter in our faith, to take the easier road. Walk by faith not by sight. Our adversary is slick. Be on guard against his devices and pray to God for discernment in a world where everything is a free-for-all.
In her first newspaper, The Woman Rebel, Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood) states “Birth control appeals to the advanced radical because it is calculated to undermine the authority of the Christian churches. I look forward to seeing humanity free someday of the tyranny of Christianity no less than Capitalism.”
Praying for faith for us all to press on in our most noble and holy calling.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lisa. It’s definitely a topic which requires much wisdom and discernment.
Beautiful Babies is a book that I think all moms need to read especially those of us who have had more than 2! Babies drain so much from their mothers, we pour our very lives into them! Do you know your milk is your blood minus red blood cells! If you read the pamphlet that comes with birth control, you will read that it is an abortifaciant, it aborts babies. God forgive me the children I aborted. Only He knows the number. They may be a few cells, rather than a 7 month fetus but it is still life. If life is a gift from God, I believe we must protect it. There is a clear line between using birth control and NFP. One is refraining from sex; the other is a denial of who we are as women.
But how do we help moms who are suffering through fertility issues, pregnancy, post partum and beyond? We must eat nurturing food! Your food is either killing you or building you up…
Interesting thoughts. Thanks for sharing your opinion, Rebecca.
I regret using birth control, but have never regretted using NFP. I’ve learned so much about my body, how it works and the beauty that is being a women. I didn’t feel that with birth control. We could do what we wanted when we wanted. With NFP there is always the openness to life. We have 7 children, ages 19 – 2. Pregnancy is not easy for me. I have morning sickness from conception until birth. We’ve had 3 losses, including an ectopic that ruptured. My last 2 pregnancies I ended up on bed rest. Has it been difficult? Yes, of course, but my husband and children rally around me! We are team! At 43, my cycles are changing and I know that this phase of our life is coming to an end. My biggest regret is not being open to life sooner. How many blessings did I unknowingly say no to.
Paula, I’m glad you’ve been able to find an approach that works for you, as I would wish for each woman who reads this article.
Yes! God gave me a beautiful daughter then closed my womb for 5 years. At the time, I didn’t want to hear that it was God’s doing. After my 2nd child, again I was unable to conceive. My fellowship with God was not as close as it had been before and I put the advice of doctors over prayer. Doctor wanted me to try birth control to help me conceive. My periods have always been irregular in a consistent way and doctors wanted me to have a shorter cycle as most women do. Birth control made me a different person! I was emotional, moody and having unhappy thoughts. I gave up and God gave me my third in His perfect timing. Food and health played a part in my journey but not in a way most would think. I believe it goes beyond detoxing our bodies from man-made toxins. It’s about obedience in how we nourish our bodies as Temples of God. We’ve lived overseas for many years and we came back home shocked to see the vast decline of Christian families in the USA. I am so thankful to the Godly women populating our earth with Godly children.
Melissa, I’m glad that you were faithful to confess and turn from any motives that were not godly and to find choices that work for you. I think it’s important to acknowledge that someone may be struggling with health issues that have nothing to do with obedience or a lack thereof, though. If a person struggles with fatigue or depression and then finds a solution that helps them to feel better, that isn’t necessarily indicative of a turn from “disobedience” to “obedience”. It could simply be a physical solution to a physical problem.
I found this on Pinterest, and I can’t find a date, so I may be commenting late.
I just had my second baby after an extremely high risk pregnancy, another high risk pregnancy with her brother, two years of heartbreaking infertility, and 3 years of 3 consecutive losses. In the last 7 years I’ve been on fertility drugs, pregnant, recovering from pregnancy loss, or postpartum. I feel a decade older than I am, and everyone from my husband to my midwife has suggested I stop having children for the sake of my health.
I think I’m my case, trusting the Lord is trusting that my life will be wonderful without the large family I dreamed of. It’s hard, and it really hurts at times, but I’m just not myself when I’m pregnant and my family really suffers. Whatever happens, trusting the Lord means accepting that maybe two kids is His plan for me.
SJ, I think you are absolutely right and so beautiful that you’re able to identify what that looks like in your particular life and circumstances. I know it is hard to let go of what you imagined or hoped for but being at peace with that really frees you to enjoy the rich blessings the Lord has given you!
Lynna, Thank you so, so much for this post. As others wrote, it is definitely the most balanced I have ever read. We have 4 kids,-2 boys and 2 girls. In my heart, I would love another. I love big families. But as you said each family is unique, and due to some serious issues we are facing and my husband’s feelings/preferences, it might not be wise to have more. I will continue to pray about it, but thank you for taking the weight off my shoulders about this decision. God is good. I think I am going to pin this article to reread. Hugs
Rachael, that is exactly what I would have wanted – for you to feel released from unnecessary burdens! Motherhood is a big job. It doesn’t do any of us any good to pour emotional energy into unnecessary worries or guilt!
I am really thankful for and encouraged by this post. Thank you! I have three boys. I have desired another baby for right at three years. I prayed for God’s will. If not His will, I prayed He would take the desire away. I am currently pregnant with baby number four and I am miserable. I am constantly sick and depressed and feel guilty for being pregnant. I am having emotions I have never had. I truly feel that I never want to be pregnant again. This makes me so sad because I know my God is sovereign! I am thankful for the clarity in your writing.
Thank you for this article. It helped put into words my view, which I have been struggling with, having grown up surrounded by the “we’re trusting God with our family size” idea. I think we can trust God and make decisions about this area at the same time. However, I do think it is important to do extensive research on what kind of birth-control/family planning methods you choose. Many of the oral birth controls have at least a tiny chance of causing an early abortion (one doctor told me they all do, actually). And while I believe we can make choices about child spacing, etc, I hope no Christian would consider killing a baby to do so. (And there are other options that don’t have that risk or any of the hormonal-disrupting side affects!). I thought this was worth mentioning as an addition to your very excellent post!
Marie, yes, I completely agree. While we have freedom in Christ to take a variety of approaches in terms of having or not having more children, there are definitely other factors that can and should affect our decision making on how we go about that. Thanks for sharing that perspective.
For what it’s worth, I found this talk from the Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference helpful on that topic: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/conference_media/sex-without-children/
Thank you for this piece and all the the elements that my brain is considering now. I do truly appreciate it and will think on this quite a bit (actually I already have been thinking on this topic for quite some time but you have just added to it).
I do want to give a word of caution though. You mention multiple times that people should not claim that they are “trusting God”, by leaving timing and number of children up to Him. While I think I agree with you that individuals might trust God without doing that because God directs our consciences in different ways (as a Father would direct different children with different “tasks” and so forth in different ways), there are many people who do make that decision for that very reason (“trusting God”) and it is not wrong to do so. Just as they should have grace for you “trusting God” by choosing to make a decision and trust that He is for you, you should have grace for them as well and trust they are making a decision and “trusting God” too.
I am one person that has felt convicted to walk in that manner and the words that I say are that I’m trusting God with my family. I do not mean in my heart that others are not and I don’t say that others are not either because I don’t know what is in another’s heart. I have many friends who do not hold my same conviction in this area and I don’t think they do not trust or love the Lord. But for me, this is MY way of walking in that trust even though it is hard for me. I don’t always “want” this so it would be a lie to say “I just want to keep having kids”, etc. But I too am walking in the knowledge that God is good, that He is for me, that He is a loving (with steadfast love), gentle, kind, and patient Father/Master/Lord…but the conclusion I have felt compelled to follow (at this point…but I’m not even saying that I could never change)….is that MY “trust in God”, is “giving this to Him” (yes I know you said it is not mine to give and I agree, so a better word for this would be “submitting”, which is what I think is in the hearts of most who say “giving” or other similar words. Now please don’t take that as I am saying YOU (or anyone else) is not submitting. I am submitting to what I feel at this point, God is calling ME to). So while I do see what you are saying, please don’t try to take that right from others to claim walking in “trust” if that is what in fact they are trying to do and the very reason they are doing it. Maybe we should just encourage one another to seek the Lord in truth through His Word and prayer and trust that He will give each of us our answers…to encourage one another on to good works of faith and smother grace on one another and not take personally the decisions of others. That is the full desire of this imperfect, majorly flawed, saved-by-grace, grateful, undeserving sinner….a sister in the Lord!
I do so thank you for your thoughts. I truly am going to meditate on and pray over them. Please know that my words come with a gentleness that I pray is evident, a kindness, grace, and understanding of your thoughts, a gratefulness that you shared them (truly), great humility that I am flawed and have much to learn, and also hope that we can be unified in the Lord by the power of the gospel and let THAT message be the ultimate one we all (that testify to being His) stand on.
The Lord be with you and give you abundant grace and peace as you continue to rest in His goodness!
Heather, thank you for this gracious and thoughtful comment. I completely understand where you are coming from and I think you and I are mostly in agreement. And that’s why I worked really hard in the set-up of the article to say that I truly understand the need for a way to express your thoughts about family growth.
It isn’t just “Hey, we like babies.” It’s more than that. It’s more on the level of conviction or calling than just hobby or preference, right? And I also completely agree that choosing not to use birth control is another valid way to trust God.
My only concern – and the reason why I wrote this post – is the damage this particular phrase has caused. I hear your heart through what you’ve written and I can clearly see that you don’t use that phrase to express judgement on others or their choices. And that’s wonderful!
However, it’s still very true that this phrase has definitely been employed by those who believe that to do anything else would not be trusting God. And because of that usage and because of the great potential for miscommunication, I think it’s a phrase we ought to use with caution or (as you did in your comment) with a lot of explanation and clarification.
I do extend grace to those who use this phrase to describe their fertility decisions. I don’t assume that they have wrong motives. However, I do think it’s important to have a conversation about the impact our words have on others, even if it isn’t intentional.
Thank you Heather for sharing my very heart on This as well.
Thank you for this post. Your insight is refreshing. I’m thankful Google pulled it up in my search results a few weeks ago. I would like to know if this decision has been “easier” for you as time has passed. I know how I feel right now will change as time passes… I guess I’m just looking for your wisdom as someone who is further in this journey of being “done” having children. Hugs to you. (I’m anonymous for privacy.)
Yes, I can honestly say that it has been easier as time has gone by. One of the most challenging parts of the transition was going from the known (hard, but familiar) to the unknown. It may seem silly to say, but I was suffering a bit of an identity crisis. I had spent my whole life either looking forward to or living in the childbearing years, and all of a sudden, they were visible only in the rear view mirror. I even struggled with feeling like with the close of a chapter in my life, I was just that much closer to death.
But in the past year or so, I’ve noticed so many people grieving the passing of phases – a young girl at church leaving for college and missing what had ended. A mother facing the empty-nesting years and grieving the loss of her children at home. And more. As a dear friend said, the goodbyes in this life remind us to hope for eternity when the good things never come to an end.
I suppose the main takeaway was that the grieving is normal. Hard, yes, but not a sign that you’re making a mistake. After all, no matter how many you have, no matter how the child bearing years come to a close, everybody has a last baby. Everybody has to make that transition. You can delay it, but you can’t avoid it.
Thank you. God bless.
After my comment here last summer, my husband finally had his vasectomy 2 weeks ago. Please tell me it gets easier emotionally. So far it’s only gotten more painful for my heart. He says he’s sorry I’m sad but that’s normal. I didn’t think it would be this hard for me to accept (which is why I told him I thought he should do whatever he felt he needed to do and not wait for me to want it too). I just can’t believe the heartache. 🙁
I can only speak to my own experience, but yes, it definitely did get easier over time. Grieving the loss of a phase is normal and like any grief, does get easier over time, though it may never totally go away. However, if you’re also dealing with guilt and shame about the decision or the things that lead up to the decision (like, “Why was this so hard for me? Why wasn’t I a more capable mom? Why wasn’t I stronger?”) then you may need some help processing those accusing thoughts.
This is an interesting article. It is also a heart-wrenching article for Christian women who have one child by God’s choice and not their own. My health has been ravaged since the birth of my first/only child. Marital intimacy was put on the back burner due to autoimmune disease. I was not (and still am not) healthy enough to bring a second child into this world. I never wanted just one child, and my child asked me just yesterday why I did not give her a sister. This tore me up inside. I do not have control how many children I do have in this life. I struggle with finding peace and joy with such a small quiverfull. 🙁
Rebekah, I’m sad that this article caused you pain. While nothing can take away the sorrow and longing for another child, I think the intent behind this article should be comforting to you in your suffering. You are right that you don’t have control over the size of your family. One of my points is that no one has control over the size of their family, even if we mistakenly believe that we do, and to speak as if we do can be a great burden and stumbling block to others (including moms who are struggling just as you are).
Oh my goodness, this made me sigh with relief. I’ve regretted putting off kids till 32 (God gave me fraternal twin boys), and I can’t stop thinking of one more, though it would change things completely (He’s also calling me into a writing career). It was such a relief to be told I didn’t thwart God in those 7 yrs before my boys were born. Thanks again for the encouragement.
God is good. We are learning as we go. Our views may grow and mature, we may recognize wrong patterns of thinking and repent, or we may not be able to make the choices we thought we would. But none of these things prevent God from growing and sanctifying us!
Do you think it even could be sinful to have as many children as possible..? I’ve been struggling with this, because I come from a big family, and I think that children are a blessing from the Lord, but I know one family in particular who have many kids who seem to make an idol out of it. They never take time between kids, and the mom even takes supplements to try to make twins more likely. They have a special needs baby who isn’t getting the help he needs, and there have been things happen like leaving small kids alone in potentially dangerous situations. It just seems like… the objective is to continued reproducing as much as possible, no matter the cost to the other children. Every time they announce another pregnancy, I’m obviously happy for new life, but so have this conflicting feeling of thinking they really should stop and help the kids they already have.
Sylvia, to address your question on a theoretical level, yes I believe it’s possible to make an idol out of family and children – whether you have one or ten. A family struggling with infertility can make pregnancy an idol and a family having many children can do the same. We humans are proficient at taking good things the Lord has given us and worshiping the created thing rather than the Creator. But I would be very slow to judge the motives of another family. Different families have different gifts and callings. Different families can handle different levels of sacrifice and challenge. If you have a close relationship with this mom, you can ask her more about her thoughts on the matter. You could also consider offering your support in her home. No matter how they came to have the family they do, it’s clear that God has called them to raise these children and he will give them the grace and resources to do so. Maybe you are part of God’s plan to equip and provide for them?
My husband and I are in a VERY challenging place with this… I agreed 100% with what you write, and he believes that using birth control (condoms during a fertile window) is an act against the potential of life and and therefore against the heart of God. His conviction on this has grown and changed since we got married. The Lord blessed us unexpectedly with twins almost two years ago, and I am struggling with life in many ways currently. I don’t see wisdom in pursuing pregnancy right now and his foundational beliefs on the matter don’t even allow for the exercise of “man’s” wisdom. We are both very distraught over the two very different places the Lord has us, and we long for unity. Any helpful thoughts or insights? All I know to do right now is pray, pray, pray! And cry out for God to fulfill His purposes through our situation quickly.
Mandy, I’m so sorry. I know it’s challenging to be on different pages on any issue in marriage but this is a particularly challenging one. I do know that God is good and that he has complete sovereignty – over your womb, over your heart and your husband’s. Is your husband comfortable with natural family planning – charting your cycle and abstaining from intercourse during your fertile window? That might be a way to proceed without violating your conscience or his. I also will pray that God will bring the two of you to a place of unity on this matter.
I was feeling overwhelmed and blue after having my 6th child. I was hoping for a boy so that I could be done. My baby girl is barely a week and I’m already scared to think about another child since my husband wants at least a few more sons. I’m facing an exhausting journey with a newborn who I have no energy to care for during those draining nights.
Thank you for writing this article so that I can learn to trust in God’s way even though I can’t comprehend him.
I’m glad it was helpful to you. Everything is overwhelming when you have a newborn, no matter how many times you’ve done it before. No need to make any decisions right now. Just rest as much as you can and focus on recovery and loving on that sweet girl.
Hi Lynna, you have a beautiful family and I am so happy to come across this article today! We are a young married couple (me 23, he 28) with 2 lively little girls who adore each other (2yr old & 13mo). The problem I find myself having is trusting my husband on when to have more children.
There is definitely a personal desire for both of us for at least 1 more (4 is ideal). And trusting him with our 2nd has definitely enriched ALL our lives in ways we couldn’t imagine!! We keep resources, future plans and practical wisdom in mind BUT he is leaning towards “sooner the better.” Considering: (1) I might need a c-section if vbac does not work out and; (2) we live comfortably/ temporarily in his parents basement apartment for the last 6mo since the pandemic started.
My Dilemma is: Staying here wouldn’t kill us and they don’t want us to rush out either. They live to travel and being grandparents brings them a lot of physical activity and soo much joy! This neighbourhood is nicer then we could afford and the schools are top notch too! Plenty of positives for the kids and practical help for us.
Cons: Unfortunately, I had postpartum with both although I am grateful for healthy pregnancies and easy enough recoveries… I never loved my children any less or lost too much joy taking care of them. Just regular tired and the dark cloud just lifted (praise God!) 1 year after baby2, so I know that fragile feeling is not forever!
My husband loves me, is a hardworker, great support, and even picks up housework and childcare w/out needing to be asked. I want to trust him but I feel he is just horny or wanting a son when he says he wants another baby sometimes, so i am still on the pill. Mother-in-law is about to retire in 3mo and we’ve grown close since living here. She is kind, loving and helpful with the girls also, and I need the help but can’t shake the idea that you shouldn’t live with parents (no matter how wonderful)–i am torn.
..How do you decide?..
💝 Thank you for reading 💝
The good news is that it seems there are many good and acceptable options in your situation and much to be thankful for! It can be a great blessing to have lots of choices open to you, but I know that also comes with its own challenges. Remember that you’re not on a scavenger hunt for God’s secret “perfect will” for your family. Rather, he’s calling you to know him as a tender father, to understand how he’s made you, how he’s made your husband, the gifts and resources he’s given you and how you can use those to his glory. Trusting your husband doesn’t have to mean that you believe he has infallible words from God. Rather it means to believe that what he says is actually how he feels (that he truly would like more children) and not an attempt to cover up something else. This is loving mutual respect in marriage – freely acknowledging and validating each other’s desires, concerns, and opinions, even if we don’t agree or don’t agree at the moment. If you are acting out of love to God and you and your husband reach an agreement, there are a lot of “right answers” here!
Thank you for being honest about dealing with postpartum depression. I don’t read/hear of many Christian women discussing the topic. I have struggled with PPD with both my children, but with my first child it was much worse. With my second I knew what to look out for, but it has still been a struggle. My husband and I always imagined having 3 children but now we are not sure. Part of me feels like a failure for struggling with PPD. But I want to be in the right place mentally for my children. I’m only 30, so I’m hoping to take a break from being pregnant, and revisit the idea a few years later. It’s hard to make such an important subject when you feel your mind isn’t clear.
Thanks! Great read. It stopped me in my tracks. We have been guilty of using that phrase…”Trusting God with our family size”. You’re right- not encouraging to others who decided to stop. Thanks. Great post.
This was a difficult post to read through, but not for the reasons you probably think. My husband and I have no living children. We tried to have kids, and lost four babies (two sets of twins) during out fertility treatment years. I have had to have a hysterectomy several years ago due to health reasons. As a result of this, we are now in our mid forties with a very adorable and sweet little puppy, but still childless.
I have a mild physical disability and my husband has Type 2 diabetes with some mild pain issues himself. We are not sure whether we should look into adoption or not. I would love to consider it, pray on it… and have been for several years, but my husband is unsure and feels more content with just our sweet puppy. He is worried about being the wrong parents to a child that may be beyond our capabilities. Where do we begin to pray for such clarity and should we even pray or just accept that we will always be childless not by choice? We miss our children…daily…but my heart and home sometimes feel so empty without a child in it… Oh what to do……..lol Thanks for listening at least. God bless
Rosie, I’m so, so sorry. I know the desire for children is something so personal, so close to your heart and it’s really challenging when you and your husband don’t necessarily see eye to eye about it. I wish I had some amazing wisdom and clarity to offer, but I know this is one of those things each person/couple has to work through for themselves. My heart is heavy for you! Praying the Lord gives you guidance and comfort.
Thank you so much for this. I couldn’t help but cry when I read your husband’s words to you. My husband and I are the midst of making the decision of whether to be done having children and your article is such a blessing to me at this time.
Oh friend. Yes! This is such a sensitive topic and connects with so many emotions. Praying for wisdom for you both now.