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The Words We Use to Talk About Our Struggles Matter

The Words We Use to Talk About Our Struggles Matter

I’m always quick to tell people that I’m not angry at God about my infertility. And it’s not a lie. I truly don’t feel anger. “I recognize that God did not do this TO me, it’s just a part of life,” I tell folks. I know that in my head.

But then I find myself saying things like, “What are you trying to teach me through this, God?” Trying. Through this. The implication is subtle, but it’s there. The implication that my hope has shifted from healing or a miracle and into the land of manipulation and accusation. That if I can figure out what the intended lesson is, I can fast track this along and my body will be fixed. That I actually do believe He is doing this TO me, in order to teach me something. It’s a different kind of victimhood that I wasn’t aware I was slipping into.

The normal approach to victimhood is a “woe is me” mindset, right? We’ve all been that person at least once, and for me, it’s been multiple times. But the type of victimhood I’m talking about is the opposite of wallowing, I think. It’s a determined, bulldozer approach to finding the root issue and fixing the problem. It’s the assumption that God would never let anything bad happen to me without there being a reason, so if I find the reason and correct the behavior or thinking pattern, I can right the ship. I am a victim, but I have the power to learn the lesson and regain control of the situation. It’s bossy victimhood, and it’s bad theology.

There’s a huge difference between knowing that God will use all things for the good of those who love Him, and believing that every hardship in life is intended and a lesson from God. The prior is a healthy understanding that while we live in a broken world, God will use our pain and our hurt for His glory. The latter is an unhealthy belief that any hardships I face are an intentional challenge to clear as I pursue Him. If I can clear this hurdle, I’ll get what I want and move on to the next. And suddenly, my life has become about performance over obedience. Performance over belief. Performance over trust. Performance over faith. Performance over everything.

When I type it out like that the difference is clear and obvious, but life is much more subtle than that. The lies that tempt me to make everything lesson-based are so easy for me to believe because lessons come with an answer. Lessons come to an end. Lessons, like a mathematical formula, serve a purpose and can be neatly written out with a step-by-step process to find a solution, and I find that to be soothing and assuring. I find comfort in thinking God works that way, but it’s a lie.

My pastor loves to talk about how easy it is to get off course in life, and how it starts with just a minor adjustment. Just three degrees here can put you hundreds of degrees off course down the road, but it happened so slowly that when you look back you won’t know where it went wrong. I think that’s the case here. Our words hold great power in enforcing what we believe about God, and just the slightest adjustment can quickly lead us into believing lies such as this. God can (and is and will continue to) teach me lessons through infertility, but that isn’t the reason we’re walking this road. Broken bodies are part of a broken world, not a hurdle to clear as I desire to touch and see the face of God.

Instead, learning to pray “what WILL you teach me through this” can change the position of my heart from manipulative and accusatory to trusting and obedient. A subtle shift back on the course of understanding that my God is a good, good Father who will use every opportunity to teach me of His love and goodness. That He weeps with me and walks with me, but never creates an obstacle course requiring me to prove my devotion.

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