Friday, April 15, 2011

Advice About Sterilization, Birth Control, & Family Life

The following letter was written yesterday to a friend who had asked me about family planning and sterilization. They live in another country and were getting ready to welcome their next child into the world. But they were facing pressures from doctors and others about sterilization and wanted to hear my advice about these matters. I sent the letter this morning by internet and received a quick reply in which he encouraged me to publish the letter for others to read. "Denny, I do think it would be a very valuable counsel to many-many-many people in _________. And in America too. I really appreciate your answer. It is quite authoritative..." So, here it is.

Dear R-------,

Regarding your questions about family planning, let me say at the beginning that making decisions about possible pregnancies certainly should NOT be made when you’re experiencing those last uncomfortable, tense and sometimes agonizing weeks of pregnancy. Such decisions should be made when you can look at things more objectively and without time pressure. So be careful as to when you make such decisions.

Make sure you’ve considered every angle, taken in the wisest counsel, and had plenty of unpressed prayer. Also make sure you’re not making a decision based on someone else’s opinion or timetable. Beware too of doubting God’s sufficiency or His wisdom. Investigate honestly and as thoroughly as you can your motivations. Keep things in the proper perspective – and that means remembering that all aspects of our life must be under His Lordship.

I may be wrong but your questions certainly seem to reveal some doubts about sterilization. For instance, you admit that the “pressure” is coming especially from “secular” doctors. You mention your wife has a “big trouble with it." Be sure and look ahead to what "big troubles" she might have after taking such a permanent action. And you’re honest (and wise) enough to be concerned about testing God as opposed to passing the tests He gives to us – including the challenges of raising a large family.

Remember too, my dear friend, that raising a large family represents a large blessing too. The Scriptures teach (in many places) the honor and pleasure and spiritual rewards that go to parents of children. And beyond your personal blessing, your faithfulness in the ministry of parenthood is a tremendous blessing to the cause of Christ that will keep on reaping rewards long after you guys have left the scene. Yes, I know the Church doesn’t recognize this as it should but there is no ministry on earth as honorable, as visionary and as critical as faithful parenthood. It is the crown of all of your service for the Lord Jesus.

With these things said, let me now say that I do have substantial problems with sterilization, especially those that are performed for a perceived convenience. This conviction is based on the Bible’s teaching about the blessings of children and the sanctity of family life. But I must admit, it’s also due to my life being so enriched by people who happened to come along at number 6, 7, 8, 9 and even 12 in their family!

Also sterilization is such an unnatural act and, as I suggested earlier, oh-so-permanent. I’ve known of so many people who have made decisions of this sort (tubal ligation and vasectomy) and then repented of those decisions later in life – sometimes only months afterward. There are actions of spacing children that are not permanent – and which do not in any way pose a danger of aborting a child conceived through breakthrough ovulation. And alas, every birth control drug and every I.U.D.-type of device does contain at least the potential for acting post-conception. Those are to be strictly avoided by God’s people. (You can read more about this subject at Vital Signs Ministries’ web site.)

In summation then, I encourage you guys to go slow in making the decision and to be unswayed by any ignoble pressures. Keep the Lordship of Christ as your priority. Remember God’s great pleasure in your ministry as godly parents – as well as the marvelous rewards you’ll enjoy for all eternity for a faithful stewardship of that ministry.

And, one more thing, remember the joy and pride and sheer fun all the other kids have brought into your life. Yes, children bring tears and worry, frustration and disappointment too. And if the Lord has other children in your future, they will bring more of the same things. Wonderful highs and anxious lows – such is life on this fallen planet. All we can do is receive with gratitude all He has for us and invest our lives wisely for the rewards of the other side, the forever side of life with God.

I write in humility and love and deep appreciation for you both.