By Sarah Smith
Hearing God’s voice and discerning His will can be challenging. Yet, even in a loud, distracting world, His voice is persistent, as He speaks to us through the whisperings of the Holy Spirit during prayer, scripture reading, dreams, and visions. However, God doesn’t just speak to us during our individual moments with Him but also when we gather together as the body of Christ (Matthew 18:20).
He reveals and confirms His will for us as we gather to fast, pray, and worship among other believers. God called Barnabas and Paul out of the church at Antioch after they met as a body of believers, fasting and praying. The Antioch church confirmed this calling and laid hands on Paul and Barnabas and commissioned them for God’s work ahead (Acts 13:1-3). God uses the body of Christ, the people who sit in the seats next to you every Sunday, through the discipline of corporate guidance to impart His will for our lives.
It is easy to feel lost and confused when we are not in a community, praying, worshiping, and vulnerably sharing with other believers. My husband, Michael, and I experienced this confusion during our struggle with infertility. We had always talked about having a big family built by having biological children, and possibly adopting later in life. We started trying to get pregnant after a few years of marriage, but the months of trying eventually turned into a year and then two years without result.
When the topic of having children came up, we became experts at deflecting. Isolation seemed easier than vulnerably sharing our personal infertility struggle with others. What seemed effortless for some couples started to feel like it would never happen for us, and I slowly began to doubt God’s plan that we would ever become parents.
We took the obvious next step and saw the fertility specialist that summer, almost five years into our marriage and two years of failed efforts. I was officially diagnosed with infertility, and bloodwork, x-rays, medication, ultrasounds, and office visits became the norm for the many months that followed.
Our original hopefulness was slowly replaced by a gnawing anxiety and feelings of loss. . . loss of predictability, favor, and control. Until this point, when I worked hard and trusted God, He answered in a clear way. No matter how hard I tried or how fervently I asked God for this gift, it didn’t seem to matter. I couldn’t hear His voice or understand the waiting. We felt helplessly stuck.
That fall we took a break from our fertility treatment and both went on separate missions trips with ccdelco. We both grew close to a diverse group of people at church. When he returned, Michael continued being mentored by a few of the men on the trip that he had known for several years. I was also meeting regularly with some women for small group. Several of them began getting pregnant and building their families, and I shared our struggle to conceive and realized that several of my friends were also struggling. We were able to join together in unity and ask for guidance in building our families.
During this time, other friends and mentors proclaimed Romans 8:28, explaining God’s plan to use our trials for good. This concept of beauty somehow coming from my sorrow was hard to hear, and I began meeting with a Christian counselor. She led me to study God’s character, and I was reminded of His goodness, even when everything seemed wrong. This counselor became a spiritual director of guidance in my life during a time when I needed clear direction from God and helped me realize that I am not defined by my performance at work or school or by having a house with three kids and a picket fence. God doesn’t want perfection. He simply wants to love me and for me to trust Him with everything, including my desire to be a mom.
Michael and I felt peace about ending our fertility treatments, and around that time we began to think about adoption. It seemed like a wild idea at the time, as we were only in our twenties, and most people we knew adopted later in life, after having biological children. We began to hear stories of adoption everywhere. . .at church, on the radio, even at work.
We realized that God had surrounded us with friends and family struggling through infertility, considering adoption, and also those who had already adopted. These were people that we had known for a while, but God brought them closer during this stage of our journey to pray for us and confirm His calling for us to adopt.
We cautiously began paperwork for an international adoption and, with our application ready to submit, we met with a couple from church who had a mix of biological and adopted children.
Michael knew the husband from work, and we had respected this couple for years. We went to dinner with them and left feeling encouraged and confirmed in our decision to adopt. Two days later, Michael received an unexpected call while at work from another close ccdelco friend, one whom we had met while on a mission trip in Nepal years before. He just happened to be a local OB/GYN physician, happened to know our story of infertility and was praying for us, happened to have adopted children of his own, and happened on that very day to have a woman in his office who was looking to place her baby for adoption.
Too many impossible coincidences aligned to show us the exact next step God was calling us toward. This was God’s voice through the body of Christ. Over the course of years, He had provided us with necessary experiences and surrounded us with just the right mentors and friends to offer guidance and confirm God’s will in our lives.
The confirmation and guidance we received from the body of Christ, and the knowledge of God’s everlasting love for us, the birth mom, and this baby in need of parents led us to say ‘yes’ without hesitation.
When we engage in community through fasting, prayer, and worship with other believers, we really do receive guidance and confirmation of God’s will. It’s truly a discipline that makes us vulnerable though, which is why it is so hard to take the risk of revealing your true state of affairs with God and man and asking for guidance from above and from the ones He has put in our path.
I have to remind myself of this fact every time I want to retreat and hide and figure life out for myself in my own way. His ways are perfect and so right for me.