When Empty Arms Become a Heavy Burden: Encouragement for Couples Facing Infertility by Sandra Glahn & William Cutrer, MD

I initially read When Empty Arms Become a Heavy Burden: Encouragement for Couples Facing Infertility to enhance my knowledge of infertility as I support people navigating through it. I was pleasantly surprised by Glahn’s open honesty regarding her own experiences and insights and Dr. Cutrer’s compassionate contribution from his medical perspective. In this invaluable guide, Glahn and Cutrer emerge as a reliable source for couples navigating the challenging infertility journey from a biblical perspective. With millions of Americans grappling with fertility issues, the authors address, in a concise way, not only the medical aspects but also the emotional and spiritual challenges that often accompany this challenging path.

What sets this book apart is the discussion of the spiritual struggles individuals and couples may encounter during this trying time. The authors also tackle topics such as “Is infertility a punishment from God,” “Why is God allowing me to suffer, and “What does the bible say about infertility?” My favorite chapter was What Do We Do with Our Anger, in which Glahn discusses the importance of expressing feelings of anger and grief to God through lament. She states, “We need to let our emotions take us to the Psalms, where we pray the time-tested prayers that move us from lament to praise” (p. 111).

Each chapter concludes with thought-provoking questions encouraging further reflection and discussion, such as “What, for you, is the hardest part about not having children?” While the book is a bit older (2010), the case histories and personal testimonies add a human touch, making the factual information relatable and timeless. One hindrance for me is the chapter on the grieving process set forth by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kesler. We at Reproductive Loss Network, and many people today, observe the grieving process as an individual journey rather than experienced in stages as one time observed. RLN also offers grief training using a biblical grieving model.

In summary, Glahn and Cutrer’s book explores a wide range of infertility topics from medical, biblical, and personal perspectives. It is a must-read for couples seeking guidance and understanding in pursuing parenthood and a profitable resource for those desiring to help those impacted.

Held by Abbey Wedgeworth

We at RLN are compulsive readers, especially books on reproductive loss and grief. A large part of this is because we want to refer to rich, Bible-based books that will give you tools to help comfort others during seasons of grief. This week, I found a gem of a book I just had to share.

If you are looking for a book offering encouragement for a friend or client who has experienced a miscarriage, Abbey Wedgeworth’s book Held is a beautiful choice. Having experienced the sorrow of miscarriage, Wedgeworth offers small glimpses into her own story and those of others, encouraging sufferers that they are not alone. However, the most helpful aspect of the book is how Wedgeworth gently guides the sufferer to the endless grace of God through the gospel message.

Wedgeworth uses Psalm 139 to produce a Word-saturated, accessible, and thoughtful gift. Held offers a brief reflection for the day, followed by additional passages to read, a reflection prompt, and an opportunity to respond through journaling. The book’s simple, short, and insightful structure makes it a hopeful and relevant gift or resource for giving to a hurting friend. If you’re looking for an opportunity to learn more about Wedgeworth, she discusses her book on The Good Book Company podcast here.

God’s Healing for Life’s Losses by Robert W. Kellerman

At RLN, we encourage churches to offer care and compassion to people experiencing grief, especially those who are often overlooked, the men and women hurting after reproductive loss.

In 1998 GriefShare, a video-based support group formed by Church Initiative was released to come alongside grieving individuals within the church and community. Today, over 20,000 churches are equipped with one or more Church Initiative ministry programs (griefshare.org). We are thankful for the men and women who tirelessly serve others by leading these groups and sharing their own losses for the healing of others.

Although GriefShare does not include specifics for reproductive loss, we can most definitely learn how to grieve and support others through their materials. I have found their book, written by Robert W. Kellemen, Ph.D., “God’s Healing for Life’s Losses: How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting,” a beneficial supplement to my resources, especially when teaching a biblical grieving process.

Dr. Kellemen fills eleven chapters with robust theology and practical application to grieving well. He begins his book with the verse John 16:33:

 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Kellemen explains how to live abundantly with life’s losses in the context of God’s healing. He breaks down this verse to write in beautiful detail Jesus’ words about peace and taking heart in God’s promises. There is hope in Jesus.

On page 10, Dr. Kellemen includes a very helpful guide to “Biblical Sufferology,” laying out descriptions of how we grieve internally and externally, and process through stages of hurt and stages of healing. The remainder of the book is full of explanations of each concept depicted in this guide, offering grace-filled and truthful instructions for readers who are hurting and for those who want to support others well.

I love books that include homework or reflections after each chapter, and this book delivers deep questions for the reader. As I read the book, I took the time to answer the questions, and the Lord revealed deeper healing to my past hurts while lovingly displaying recent losses I haven’t yet processed. God is so good.

As a griever and helper, I encourage you to consider this book for your collection. It has served both Tricia and me well as we develop curriculum and workshops to encourage others to find rest for their hurting souls in Christ and invite others to do the same. And never forget…

Jesus is on the move. He’s speaking to you now. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). (Kellemen, p 7).

What Grieving People With You Knew about what really helps (and what really hurts) by Nancy Guthrie

You run into an old friend, and as natural as breathing, you ask how she’s doing with a smile. Then, panic strikes you as tears fill her eyes, and she struggles to tell you she’s had yet another miscarriage. Your mind goes blank. Your mouth goes dry – what do you say to show you care and not add to her pain?

Your women’s ministry has a steady stream of baby showers every year, but you notice one woman declines every invitation sent. You wonder why she isn’t excited to join the celebration of new life. Should you ask her why she is avoiding these parties?

You notice a man has been attending church and small group without his wife of only two years. You feel uncomfortable asking why she stays home, but you care and miss her dearly. You remember your husband mentioned a few months ago that he heard they were struggling with infertility. How do you show you care?

These are a few of the many stories we hear and have witnessed personally throughout our years speaking about reproductive loss. Every story is unique and filled with a multitude of hurt and often confusion. Grieving feels so isolating and those hurting need to know we love and care for them. But how?

Author Nancy Guthrie offers a deep well of wisdom in her book “What Grieving People Wish You Knew -about what really helps (and what really hurts).” Nancy dedicates this book to the thousands of GriefShare facilitators she has met over the years as they themselves comforted the thousands grieving sorrow upon sorrow.  

Nancy covers the much-needed topics that we often want to avoid of what not to say, typical things we do say, assumptions we make, and what not to do. Instead, we need to think deeply about our words and actions. Using Scripture and her graceful approach, she offers the reader suggestions on what to say and do and how to battle the assumptions that creep in so naturally. She also writes a beautiful chapter about Heaven and salvation.

And as I have often felt at a loss for words or knowing what to do for my hurting friends, I felt relieved within the first few pages of the book. Nancy writes in Chapter 1, “It’s not up to you to make the pain go away, even though you would love to. Grieving people are not expecting you to make the pain go away. They’re really hoping that you will be willing to hurt with them. That’s what makes a great friend in the midst of grief!” How freeing is just that statement alone! We are to simply come alongside those hurting, letting God lead and bring the ultimate comfort.

We at RLN can’t recommend this book enough as we see it as an etiquette book for all helpers, for any loss. Please read and be confident as a helper. And remember Paul’s words as he writes to the church in Corinth,

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.2 Corinthians 1:3-4

For hope and healing.

New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp

Wouldn’t it be great to believe today could be an invitation for a fresh start? What if there was a book that offered daily reminders of that possibility? I’d read it!

If you thought I was describing the Bible, you’re absolutely right. We should always start there for our direction, hope, and encouragement. But God gives some the ability to write great “helper” books, personal accounts offering the extra touch of humanity to the Biblical truths. And I offer a suggestion…

One of my favorites is “New Morning Mercies” by Paul David Tripp. I couldn’t help to think this would be a perfect addition to people’s libraries as they look for a new devotional for 2022. Or, maybe this is already on your shelf, and I offer a gentle suggestion to consider another reading this year. Either way, Paul writes 365 greatly needed meditations reminding us of God’s endless grace in our lives. Lamentations 3:22-23 is the basis of the book and reminds us:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

We need to be reminded, constantly, of God’s grace and mercy. I often find myself buried under timelines and tasks of my own doing, thinking I can do just one more thing for God. Other times, I’m so exhausted I wonder what difference it all makes to God or those around me. In both perspectives, I recognize I am serving myself and my expectations. I need a fresh start!
“New Morning Mercies” is a godsend as I read and am reminded of the transforming grace God gives to me and how my identity is not in this world but in Christ. If you choose to read, I pray you will find this devotion as much of a blessing as I have.