It was a relatively common, simple medical procedure designed to help her get pregnant. Although it was somewhat uncomfortable for her, I was not prepared for Sarah to begin crying as soon as we were done. But I soon realized her tears had nothing to do with her physical discomfort.
“Are we doing the right thing?”, she asked while wiping her eyes. “Is this meant to be?” Sarah was wrestling with whether her inability to get pregnant was God’s message to her that He did not want her to have a baby. And she was concerned that taking medical steps to help her conceive might be stepping into an arena that would displease Him.
At heart-stopping moments like this I step out of my doctor roll and address the matters of the heart. It’s one more area where our spiritual lives and our physical lives impact each other greatly. One can’t ignore the deep places in our souls that such issues touch.
I told Sarah that ultimately any decision must be made between her, her husband, and God. Their relationship together and between them and God was the most important thing to maintain.
Being a physician in this field, I’ve had to wrestle with these questions myself. Big infertility clinics offer high-tech treatments including donor eggs and sperm, surrogacy, and all various combinations thereof. Using such treatments offers some the chance for a child they would not have otherwise. But just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should!
There is a place where we human beings can play God. I don’t believe the intervention Sarah was undergoing was playing God, and I told her so. Here’s my position, as I explained it to her that day:
- The desire for a child is something God has planted within our human hearts. Children are a blessing from Him. Trying to have a family is working toward a goal God honors.
- We can expect God’s blessing in taking medical steps to maximize one’s chance of pregnancy as long as we remain within guidelines that respect His principles. It is no different than looking for God’s blessing, for example, in our efforts to work hard and earn money.
- God honors the marriage covenant highly, and it is within that context that He can bless our efforts to have children. Bringing third parties (such as donor gametes, surrogacy, etc.) into the equation is treading on dangerous ground.
There are many in my profession who strongly disagree with me on this position. But as we get close to matters of life and death humility is critically important. The value of human life is too great to risk placing our own wishes above moral and ethical principles. We may argue about the exact placement of the line where we “play God.” But if we ever lose our sense of wonder in the face of new life we have lost something most precious.
As I say to new or hopeful parents whenever I can, and to Sarah that day, Every new life is a miracle from God.
Your turn: Have you faced decisions where you struggled to know whether you were playing God? How did you come to the conclusion you did? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
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