A few months ago we made an announcement about our pregnancy, our bun in the oven, our very own bundle of joy that we so longed to have. We are finally to have the privilege of becoming parents after 3 long and excruciating years of trying to get pregnant. This is not only a testimony of God’s faithfulness, but a journey that we will cherish for the rest of our lives.
It began on the 23rd of December 2015 when we finally decided to start our family. We talked about it and couldn’t stop smiling and bursting with excitement at the thought of having our little baby. However, months of trying went by with no success and we became utterly despondent.
By October 2016, 11 months later, we had begun to wonder if it was even in God’s plan for us to have a baby. Maybe he wanted us to adopt a child. Maybe he was trying to teach us something. Whatever the case was we wanted to know his will, so we started to seek him more earnestly. And then it happened…
“You will have a child and it will be a girl”.
At 3am on the 20th of November 2016, I heard a thunderously loud voice and I felt like someone grabbed me and sat me up in my bed, and I heard the words, “You will have a child and it will be a girl”. I sat there shivering in awe and fear. I knew I had heard God. I looked over to see the same reaction on my wife’s face, but she was fast asleep. How could it be? Was I hallucinating? Was it a dream? It wasn’t! I was wide awake.
The next day I shared what had happened with Roxanne and we prayed and thanked God for speaking to us. We even went to the shop and bought a tiny little dress as a sign of faith, a reminder of God’s promise to us. He said it, so it would happen.
But when seven more months went by after I had that encounter with God and we still had no success, our faith started to waver a bit. Almost every couple we knew was pregnant. At this point people who started trying after us were even getting pregnant with their second child. It was beginning to get very difficult and uncomfortable. Attending baby showers was unbearable and torturous. Seeing new happy families was hurting us.
Disappointment and doubt were beginning to set in. Did I really hear from God? I wondered as I looked at that little dress hanging on the wall. The sign of promise, it was beginning to annoy me. I put it away in the cupboard.
However, daily we encouraged ourselves in God. “God is bigger than our situation, we need to receive his grace and lean on his spirit and lean into our church family.” Very prescriptive but not effective because disappointment had taken root in our hearts. So we prayed again, we prayed harder, we fasted, we read through the Bible, we gave generously, we started focusing on “doing good” forgetting completely that it is not by good works that we are saved. We served hard, in fact we served harder, worshipped louder. We thought we could talk God into listening to us, force his hand to bless us. That just made us bitter.
That same month, while praying, this thought dropped in my heart that we should get checked out medically. Maybe something was wrong. I rebuked that negative thought to get thee behind me, but I couldn’t shake the feeling. It stayed with me the whole week. I shared it with my wife, but she seemed so full of faith that I dismissed it thinking it was my fear speaking to me. Then a very close friend sent me a message about a dream he had about us while he was on holiday in America. In the dream he saw that Roxanne was pregnant, but there was some science (IVF) involved. That’s all he could remember, but it caused Roxanne to be more open-minded about getting some tests done.
So that settled it – we had to get checked. We all see in part anyway, and in both my word from God and this friend’s dream, God was indicating that we would have a child. How we’d have it was irrelevant. We booked an appointment, had a whole panel of tests done, and awaited results. On the 7th of June 2017 we got the news that completely and utterly broke us.
In fact the doctor wanted us to do IVF immediately – her exact words were “tick-tock.”
Roxanne had a rare condition where she was running out of eggs much faster than normal for her age and was likely to hit early menopause, and my sperm count was super low. It was a double whammy. Time was not on our side. In fact the doctor wanted us to do IVF immediately – her exact words were “tick-tock.”
It hit us hard. It shook our faith. It all seemed unfair. We began to wonder if this was a punishment, it was too much to bear. Was it because of my sins? Was it because I was not good enough? Was this to shame me? Eventually it came down to one question – is God good? Because if he is then why is this happening to us?
Our church family at Joshua Generation loved us and prayed for us during this time. They never left us. They stood by us and walked this journey with us. The love and support from our church family kept us from falling apart.
IVF was expensive and we had no savings. In fact, we were barely making it. Even if we did manage to somehow arrange 50k, it was a huge risk. With both of us having issues with reproduction it was highly unlikely IVF would be effective the first time.
During this time, I had taken the plunge into freelancing full time. We were already walking on water financially and for IVF we would need a miracle. I would have to land a really big job.
Our church family stood by us during this time, they prayed for us and loved us, never did we feel alone. But we knew that this battle of hope, faith and perseverance we had to do alone, no one could do it for us.
And then the miracle happened. I landed a really big job. It was so shocking that the client even paid in full even before starting the job. Surely this had to be God? It was the exact amount for tests and round one of IVF.
But something didn’t sit right with us about IVF. It felt like we were taking control of the situation. We knew it was the right thing to trust God, but it was also the obvious thing to do IVF. Yes, God could use IVF to give us a baby, but he hadn’t specifically told us to go ahead with IVF. We were torn, so decided to get a second opinion and we booked an appointment with one of South Africa’s best fertility specialists, Dr. Kruger.
We had heard of many people who had great success with him. The new test results weren’t any better, but at least this doctor was prepared to start with a less invasive approach and potentially work up to IVF if necessary. He treated us for a year and during that time we tried a whole combination of vitamins and medications – Roxanne even had a small surgery – all without any positive result. With the best doctor we had exhausted all other options and because time was not on our side, IVF really was now the only way.
It was October 2018 and we had spent quite a bit of cash on these treatments and meds, then our car broke and the repairs were horrendously expensive. We had a church conference coming up and we were hosting people from out of town for the conference. We were broke, we had no money, a broken car and really nothing much to feed our guests. We were emotionally, mentally and spiritually bankrupt.
We needed a miracle.
Every morning we would have a good cry and then get down on our knees and pray for our home group and the people that God would lay on our hearts. I had learnt not to fall apart during those times. I had to be a rock for my wife. I would often put on a brave face and wait for her to leave for work and then I would cry face down on the floor.
Roxanne had started to feel like she couldn’t reconcile the truth of the Bible – that God loves her – with actually knowing in her heart that he loves her. This realisation almost rocked her faith more than not being able to get pregnant, and she knew that she desperately needed a fresh encounter with God to be able to get out of this pit.
Because you know what, I’m done living for you and I want to live a little for myself. And if you’re such a big God then why won’t you just give me a child. But you won’t and so I won’t…
I went to the conference out of duty, my wife went out of sheer desperation, and the first song that played during worship was “One Way” by Hillsong. It goes like this.
One way, Jesus, you’re the only one that I could live for.
I couldn’t sing it. Because you know what, I’m done living for you and I want to live a little for myself. And if you’re such a big God then why won’t you just give me a child. But you won’t and so I won’t… I’m being dramatic now. That’s not what I said, but that was my attitude. And the chorus played again. And again, I couldn’t sing the words. And a third time. I couldn’t sing it.
I broke and I fell face down. I felt defeated. And an ugly cry rose out of me, a plea to God to save me. And right there and then I felt God’s love over me like a blanket. It covered me, it soothed me, it was more than enough for me. It was all I needed. More than a song, more than a feeling, more than a baby, more than life itself. He was enough. He was indeed the only one that I could truly live for. He gave his life ransom for me. I got so caught up in doing church that I lost sight of who he was.
My wife on the other had a totally different revelation. As the song played, she realised that yes, of course, God is the only one she could live for. She had tried living for herself and for things that bring temporary satisfaction and been left empty. Only God could satisfy completely. God had touched us both. He touched our hearts and realigned our focus, very uniquely and separately.
It became apparent to us that we had fallen prey to a twisted gospel. I’ll give you all my life if you give me this one thing I ask for. Because I’ve been good or done good, I’ve earned my way to getting the thing I want or believe I deserve. We became entitled.
We often surrender the process or situation into God’s hand, but not the outcome.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8
Though scripture is clear about this fundamental truth, we somewhere, somehow, through our brokenness unknowingly had adopted a different, horrid gospel and tortured ourselves instead of leaning on the Spirit. This lens not only distorted how we viewed and received God, but also the church.
With this new encounter and renewed faith, we did the one thing we’ve always done. The one thing that David did. We strengthened ourselves in the Lord. We remembered every time God came through for us and changed and shaped our life. Every victory and every testimony.
After we were full of faith, we began to seek God again. I decided to get off any kind of medication and so did my wife. We cancelled treatment with the doctor. God was big enough to heal us. He did it for Abraham.
We often surrender the process or situation into God’s hand, but not the outcome. It could be anything, a job, a spouse, healing, or in our case a baby.
We surrendered that into God’s hand. And though we had some very, very hard days, we chose to trust in his sovereignty.
We had come to the realisation that the most precious thing was not the baby but our relationship with God. Our hope was not in the miracle, but it was in the person of Jesus Christ. He saved us and that was enough.
So we did the next thing we were supposed to do. That was to go to India in January 2019 to visit my parents and do some pending admin work. We finally broke the news of our struggle to my parents after 3 long years of them asking us about it. On our way back from India on the plane, looking into the clouds, I wondered what God had in store for us this year.
In the last week of our trip to India, we were due to receive our monthly reminder that once again we weren’t pregnant, but this particular month our “reminder” was late. It had been late before, and international travel can cause disruptions in women’s cycles, so initially we dismissed it. But eventually it was later than ever.
Roxanne did a pregnancy test the day after we landed back home in South Africa, and against all odds, it was positive! We were pregnant. Without any meds. No IVF. We couldn’t believe it. We took the earliest appointment we could get with the doctor to confirm the results.
What! this is insane… To think of it, God did tell us we were going to have a child. And yes, it’s a girl. God said it. It happened.
We want to encourage you today. Our God is an awesome God. At the heart of this story I want you to know God is not defined by what he gives us. He is sovereign in all he does. We gave up several times in this journey. We questioned God. We questioned theology. We questioned the Bible, the church, our faith. But nothing, nothing could shake the conviction in our hearts. The Holy Spirit speaks to us. He affirms and confirms. He leads us with skilful hands. He spoke to us. He loved us. He enabled us. He made us strong in our weakness. And there is no other gift greater than this – that that he died for me and he loves me.
That is the most precious gift. Maybe your situation is desperate too. Seek his will. God will always show you the way. God did it. He said he would. Like so many other times in my life. After all, I’ve seen the man.
Now that’s a story for another time.
Some may trust in chariots, but we will trust in the name of the Lord.
Isaac Anthony is an active member of the Green Point congregation where he serves alongside his wife, Roxanne. An illustrator by day, Isaac also recently started a blog as a place to share his many thoughts about life and God.