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When God Withholds Babies

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Date February 23, 2015

What daily anxieties of spirit are there in some because of the lack of children. They have many other comforts, but the not having of this embitters all. Abraham himself was much troubled about it:

Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus . . . Behold to me thou hast given no seed; and lo, one born in my house is mine heir (Gen. 15:2, 3).

But Rachel’s passion rose very high: ‘Give me children,’ saith she to her husband, ‘or else I die’ (Gen. 30:1). Children are very great blessings; they are promised as such in Psalm 128:3-4, and in other places. Indeed, they are one of the sweetest flowers that grow in the garden of earthly comforts. Hence, it is hard for persons contentedly to bear the lack of them. But whoever you are upon whom this affliction lies, labour after a contented mind under it. And in order thereunto, consider:

1. It is the Lord who withholds this mercy.

He gives it or withholds it as seems good to him. Providence is not more seen in any of the affairs and concerns of men than in this of children; that there shall be many or few, some or none, all falls under the good pleasure and disposal of God. When Rachel was so passionate under the lack of these, Jacob rebuked her sharply: ‘Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?’ (Gen. 30:2). ‘Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward’ (Psa. 127:3). ‘He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children’ (Psa. 113:9). Now if this was duly thought of, would it not quiet the heart? When God orders the thing, shall we dislike and fret at what he doeth? May not he dispense his blessings where he pleaseth? O, if he will give, we should be thankful in the owning of his goodness; if he will deny, we must be patient in the owning of his sovereignty.

2. Sometimes this mercy is denied, but better are bestowed.

God doth not give children, but he gives himself; is not he ‘better to thee than ten sons?’ as Elkanah said of himself to Hannah (1 Sam. 1:8). There is ‘a name better than of sons and of daughters’ (Isa. 56:5) promised. They who have that ‘better name’ have no reason to murmur because they have not that which is less. They who have God for their Father in heaven may well be content to go childless here on earth. If God will not give me the less, yet if he gives me the greater good, have I cause to be angry?

3. Children sometimes are withheld a long time, but they are given at last, of which we have many instances.

The case is never desperate, so long as we can submit and wait. It is to be hoped that God designs to give us that comfort, under the lack of which we can be contented.

4. If children are given after froward and irregular desires of them, it is to be questioned whether it be done in mercy.

And it is to be feared that this frame will very much spoil the mercy! What we get by discontentment, we seldom enjoy with comfort. How many parents have experienced the truth of this! They were not quiet until they had children and less quiet after they had them; they proved so undutiful, stubborn, and naughty, that there was much more of vexation in the having than there was in the wanting of them.

5. Children are great comforts, but they are but mixed comforts.

The rose hath its sweetness, but it hath its pricks too; so it is with children. O the cares, fears, distractions, that parents are filled with about them! They are certain cares, uncertain comforts, as we usually express it. We eye the sweet only of this relation, and that makes us fretful: did we eye the bitter also, we should be more still and calm.

6. Had we this mercy in the height of it filled up in all respects according to our desires and expectations, it is a thousand to one but our hearts would be too much set upon it.

And that would be of fatal consequence to us upon many accounts! Therefore, God foreseeing this, it is out of kindness and love that he withholds it from us.

These things being considered as to this affliction, they should very much dispose the heart to contentment under it.

Thomas Jacomb (1622-1657) was a Puritan minister.

This article is taken from ‘How Christians May Learn in Every State to be Content’ in Puritan Sermons, Vol. 2, Richard Owen Roberts, Publishers.

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