The Bible calls debt a curse and children a blessing; but in our culture, we apply for a curse and reject blessings. Something is wrong with this picture.
Something is wrong indeed!
Over the past year or so, I have started to come across more and more people – families – who would align with, or define themselves as “Quiverfull.” If you have access to cable television, you have probably been introduced to one such family through the show “18 Kids and Counting.”
If this term is unfamiliar to you, Quiverfull is a movement, or philosophy, based on Psalm 127:3-5, which says “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them…” (As many of these families also tend to be from the KJV-only camp, I am quoting this verse from the good old King James Version, but it is basically the same in any other translation.) Basing their convictions mainly on this passage, these families choose, and rightly so, to view children – expected or not – as blessings from the hand of God. In many of these families, this conviction leads to the complete abandoning of all forms of contraception (including natural family planning and sterilization).
And, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I agree with them!
Surprised? Maybe it is because I am a the mommy of only one child. Most that align themselves with the Quiverfull philosophy have more than one child – many more! But, I firmly believe that God is sovereign and that He is the ultimate authority over every area of my life. (And, as hard as His ways are to understand sometimes, I believe that sovereignty includes the size of my family – large or small.) And, my husband and I firmly believe that children are a gift from God.
But, I think that a truly biblical view on the blessing of children goes beyond simply viewing your own children as blessings. That is the easy part. In his book When You Rise Up, R.C. Sproul, Jr., says that if we actually believe that children are a blessing from God “we not only will pray, ‘Lord bless us with many children, fill our quivers, increase our territory…,’ but we will likewise say of our children and to our children, ‘I’m glad you’re here. You are a joy in my life. I miss you when we are apart.’ This is an important part of what it means to see children as a blessing. Note, however, that while this may be most true of your own children, it is true of others’ children as well.” (pg. 66, emphasis added)
But… (Oh, you knew it was coming!)
While I agree with the basic tenants of the Quiverfull philosophy, and the scriptural foundation on which it is based, I am often hesitant to publicly adopt that label for myself, and my family. As I have read more about this movement, I have observed that “…sometimes those who see [children] as a blessing take this promise of God into their workshop and with their lathe fashion out of it a baseball bat, so they can whack around other folks who won’t (or, worse, can’t) have children.” (pg. 65, When You Rise Up)
The ability to plan or prevent pregnancies and family size (seemingly) at will has become the norm for most Christian couples today. Leaving a pregnancy “to chance” (and, by that, I mean in the sovereign hands of God) is virtually unthinkable to most young couples on the brink of marriage. And because birth control (of any method and variety) is readily available, most people assume that the number of children a couple does or does not have to be intentional, and by choice.
That assumption is not always correct.
As our daughter gets older, I am finding that the “baseball bat” tendency R.C. Sproul, Jr. describes, is not exclusive to Quiverfull families. Even within most mainstream (conservative, evangelical) Christian circles, there is a pre-determined amount of time in which it is acceptable for a couple to have only one child. But, beyond that unspoken limit, the comments and questions start…
- “You’d better get her a little brother or sister!”
- “When are you going to have another one?”
Or, my (least) favorite…
- “Do you (or, worse, Why don’t you) want more children?”
Well, I am only capable of giving the answer to one of those questions. And, that answer is a resounding “Yes.” Yes, I do want more children…more than words could possibly say. But, as to when – or if – that desire is fulfilled, that answer is not up to me – it never was. I agree with those who follow the Quiverfull philosophy, that it is God who “opens the womb.” But, what if He doesn’t?
There are some within this movement (though it seems to be a relatively small minority), who imply that if a couple has only one child (or none), then they are somehow ungodly, or inferior Christians, or defiantly disobedient to Scripture! (My husband was told that it could potentially hinder his fitness for ministry!) Some will even go so far as to say that “barrenness” (infertility) and/or miscarriage(s) are a curse from God – a sure sign of divine punishment for sin. While I believe that these things are a result and consequence of living in a fallen and sinful world, calling them a direct and active curse for some unknown sin is taking it too far.
Yes, in some cases, Scripture does call barrenness a “reproach,” or a “disgrace,” and even records occasions where it was intentionally inflicted on a person or nation as the result of sin or disobedience. But, stop for just a moment and consider Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, and Elisabeth. Scripture gives us a glimpse into the lives of these godly women, who, at various points in their lives, were (humanly speaking) inexplicably denied the blessing of a child. I could name other godly couples whom I have the privilege of knowing, who desperately long for children, but whether by miscarriage(s) or an inability to conceive, they have not been blessed in that way. While others, it seems, easily conceive children as a result of sinful behavior (whether a one-time lack of discernment, or a lifestyle characterized by sinful choices) and carry them to term without a problem.
It is often assumed that larger-than-average families are part of the Quiverfull crowd because they have more than 2 children (or 6, or 10, or whatever the magic number may be). But, simply having several children does not make a family “Quiverfull”.
“As long as someone has a lot of children, they may appear to embrace the call to train up more children for the Lord; we assume that they are “quiverfull.” But by doing so, we are looking at outward expressions (which can be deceptive) and assuming deeper, spiritual attitudes. Just because a woman has given birth to many children doesn’t mean she’s quiverfull. Likewise, there is no way we can assume that a couple is not quiverfull, simply because they have no children; and we should not make any such assumption.
We believe that a couple can be quiverfull with no children at all! In fact, a single person can be quiverfull! It is a Scriptural mindset. When we welcome children into our families; when we are grateful for the precious gift of life, then we are quiverfull!
Perhaps we should define quiverfull as having a sovereign view of God’s gift of children. That being said, I think we can prove ourselves to be NOT quiverfull by being obsessed with having MORE children, when God has closed the door.”
I have always wanted several children. And, if that were the Lord’s plan for us, I would welcome it with an open heart and willing arms! But, what if it isn’t?
Children are a gift from God. We live in a culture that seems to have forgotten that. But, as Elisabeth Elliot often reminds her readers – we do not choose gifts. And, contrary to what modern medicine, technology, and society would have us believe, we also do not get to choose how many gifts we are given. Frankly, if the Lord chooses to bless a couple with a child, no form of birth control is going to prevent it! And as the source and giver of all blessings (including children), is He not fully within His rights (as God) to withhold those gifts as well?
But, this side of Heaven, we may not be granted to understand just how being denied such a blessing has a purpose in God’s plan as well. If we truly believe that our fertility, and the ultimate size of our “quiver,” is in God’s hands, then we must trust Him to determine the final number – large or small. God is just as in control, just as sovereign – just as much God – over the godly husband and wife who willingly and joyfully welcome one little child into their home, as He is over the godly family who welcomes 10 (or more) little ones!
Regardless of how many children the Lord ultimately gives me, my job is to rejoice, to be content, and to rest in His sovereign plan.
**Updated on July 29, 2011 to add:
Our desire has always been that God would give us the family that would best glorify Him – large or small.
He has faithfully, and sometimes painfully, spent the past 5 years teaching us to trust Him in this area, and to be content with what He has seen fit to give. Some of these lessons have been easier than others…as we have sought to patiently and graciously respond to the well-meaning questions and comments…not fully knowing the answers ourselves. We have struggled with joy, contentment, and confusion as we wondered what His plan for our family would be.
But, today, we are even more convinced that this is not ours to control…it never was. Children are a gift…given from the sovereign hands of the the all-knowing Giver. It is His, and His alone, to determine how many gifts He will give, and when those gifts are to be received.
Even so, it has been our family’s constant prayer that He would, someday, bless us with more children…
And, in direct answer to these prayers, we are thrilled to announce that we are expecting another little blessing to join our family…on, or around, February 6th, 2012!
Truly God is gracious.
(Taken from this post.)