Sarah is 39 and has always wanted a family, but she’s single and her dating prospects are slim. Tim adores children and would love to be a dad, but he struggles with same-sex attraction and has courageously chosen a life of celibacy. Christy desires a home full of kids, but she suffers from a chronic illness that’s left her physically unable to bear children or even care for them. Mark’s wife doesn’t want children and will not budge, leaving him depressed and disillusioned as one of six children who wanted to be a father to just as many.
What do Sarah, Tim, Christy, and Mark have in common? They want children, but God has said no. At least for now.
I’m a married man who would also love to have children. But God has said no. He has said no to biological children, adoption, and foster care. I have battled with how to move forward. And when I say “move forward,” I don’t mean “trudge along begrudgingly with a twinge of anger at God for depriving me.” I mean “thrive as a faithful and joyful servant of God.”
How do I do it? How might you do it? How might you counsel somebody else to do it? There’s no formula that fits every person in every set of circumstances, but here are a handful of practices that have helped me along the way.
When the Lord “closed Hannah’s womb” (1 Sam. 1:5), how did she respond? She mourned. She cried out in distress. She “wept bitterly” (v. 10). But here’s the key—she did so to God. She did not hold inside her pain, but instead lamented directly to the One who caught her tears (Ps. 56:8).
Will you do the same? Your loving Father wants you to be real, raw, and authentic with him. He wants you to grieve with him. He wants you to cry out to him. He will catch your tears. He will hold you in his arms and comfort you (2 Cor. 1:3–5).
If you desire children, don’t be afraid to ask God for them. After all, he is in charge of every biological birth, every adoption pairing, and every foster-care match (Eph. 1:11). Hannah pled incessantly for a son, and the Lord graciously gave her Samuel.
While I cannot promise God will grant your request for a child, I can promise he wants to hear your request.
While I cannot promise that God will grant your request for a child, I can promise that he wants to hear your request (Phil. 4:6). So pray. Ask for children. Ask boldly. But ask with open hands, surrendering your future into your loving Father’s hands. Trust that if he says “no,” it’s for good and loving reasons beyond your comprehension. Trust that his answer is the answer that you would desire if you knew what he knows. Trust that a “no” is just as much of a blessing as a “yes.”
Reject the Lie that You’re Inferior
If you’re like me, you will be tempted to feel inferior if you are childless. Sadly, the church has not helped in this arena, often making singles and childless couples feel like second-class citizens. You aren’t.
After all, Jesus was single and without children. Paul was single and without children, and he exalted singleness as a noble and ministerially advantageous lifestyle (1 Cor 7:8). Being childless doesn’t make you inferior. Link arms with Paul and reject the lie that it does.
Redefine Your Mission
Confession: When I realized that Abby and I wouldn’t be having children, I didn’t handle it well. For years I felt anger toward God, toward myself, and even toward others with children. But eventually I realized I had a choice to make. I could either spend the rest of my life bitterly pouting, or I could, with God’s help, redefine my life mission—one that excluded raising kids.
By God’s grace, that’s what I started to do. I poured more of my time into counseling those who are suffering. I pursued further theological education. Abby and I started a small group at our church for singles and marrieds without children. In other words, I decided to use the time and energy that I would have used to care for children to care for God’s children who were not my own.
I decided to use the time and energy that I would have used to care for children to care for God’s children who were not my own.
Would you consider doing the same? Perhaps you can lead a prayer group, Bible study, or small group in your church. Perhaps you can take regular short-term mission trips or even consider long-term missions. Perhaps you can volunteer at an adoption center or foster-care facility. Think about using the time you would spend raising children to grow your relationship with Jesus and seek out opportunities to serve him.
Set Your Sights on Heaven
In your most challenging moments of childless despair, take a moment to reset your vision. Peel your eyes off this childless life—a “mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14)—and place them on the eternal life to come.
Set your eyes on the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 21:1–7), where none of God’s children will be parenting and all will be joyfully praising him. Everything will be new. Everything will be glorious. God will be our Father, we will be his children, and we will all be one family. Nothing else will matter.