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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
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What to Expect When You’re Surprised You’re Expecting

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Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. (Ps. 127:3)

Between deep breaths and tears, I mentally quoted this verse as I stared at the pink plus sign that had ominously appeared on the pregnancy test in my hand.

While Abraham and Sarah laughed in disbelief over the idea of having a child in their old age, I stood frozen in sheer panic, weeping. Our house was still covered in unpacked boxes from our cross-country move to plant a church in Maryland. With no family or friends around to support us, welcoming child number five wasn’t part of our church plant’s strategic-growth initiative. And yet, here we were, pregnant with a baby we hadn’t expected.

I’d prayed for plenty of potential Abrahams and Sarahs who would’ve loved the surprise of a late-in-life pregnancy, but I wasn’t one of them.

I knew what to expect from my past pregnancies: the extended months of “morning” sickness, bedrest stints, home health-care workers in and out while I homeschooled, premature labors, NICU stays, followed by postpartum depression. As thankful as we are for each of our children, pregnancy has never been a Hallmark moment in our family.

Pregnancy has never been a Hallmark moment in our family.

In theory, I knew my baby was a blessing and a life created by God. But honestly, facing this unplanned pregnancy terrified me.

Pregnant with Emotions

I dreaded making the announcement. I thought of all the times in the past five years I’d answered the “Are you done having children?” question, confidently (foolishly) assuring people we were. Everyone knew how difficult my pregnancies had been and how crazy it would be to add a baby. It was no secret; this baby was a surprise.

From the moment that little line turned pink, I knew I’d spend the next nine months answering a slew of awkward personal questions about how we’d arrived in this predicament and laughing uncomfortably at inappropriate birth-control jokes. Yes, I know how babies are made.

Then there was the unhelpful consolation I frequently received when I did choose to open up:

  • Maybe this will be your easiest pregnancy ever!
  • Wouldn’t it be wonderful, after three boys, if God were surprising you with a girl?
  • You’ve done this so many times before, this should be a cinch!
  • I’m sure God knows you could handle more. You’re so patient.

Nice thoughts, but they likely wouldn’t be reality.

It was also tricky to work through my feelings of grief within the church. Many of my friends had dealt with infertility and miscarriage, and I feared my news and hesitant rejoicing would cause them further grief and pain. Admitting that my blessing felt more like a burden would seem ungrateful to God and insensitive to others.

In those first months of processing God’s plan, I was desperate for someone to both understand the burden on my shoulders and speak God’s truth directly to the fear in my heart.

If you are facing an unexpected pregnancy, stuck in grief or struggling to rejoice, here is some good news.

He’s with You

In Luke 1:28, when the angel Gabriel appeared with an unexpected pregnancy announcement for the virgin Mary, he led with words of comfort: “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”

You don’t walk this road alone. Just as the Lord was with Mary, he will be with you. Take comfort in knowing God will not leave you or forsake you (Josh. 1:5).

He’s Sovereign over Your Life Story

Proverbs 16:9 instructs, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” When God interrupts your plans and establishes the course of your family’s life in a way you didn’t anticipate, remember that while your plans were rearranged, his were not. Avoid the temptation to consider the “if only” thoughts, blame circumstances, or fantasize about what could have been. Trust that nothing happens outside of God’s sovereign plan: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand” (Isa. 14:24).

He’s Strong When You’re Weak

As a Christian you haven’t been promised an easy road. So recognize—and embrace—the moment when you’re at the end of yourself. The Lord promised Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” and Paul responded, “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9).

Let your weakness lead you to Jesus.

Children Are a Gift and a Heritage

God gives life and breath (Acts 17:25), and in his wisdom he has given you this baby’s life. What joy to know he fills the womb with treasure and reward (Ps. 17:14; Ps. 127:3).

Don’t think only of poopy diapers, buckling car seats, and sleepless nights. The hard work ahead of you shouldn’t eclipse your eternal perspective or prevent you from rejoicing over the coming joy of teaching one more child about Jesus, seeing her first smile, hearing his first words, or delighting in all the laughter, hugs, and kisses to come.

Christ Is Bigger Than Your Fickle Feelings

In this fallen world, where there’s pain in childbearing and the ground fights back against the work of our hands, child-rearing is painful. No wonder we grieve the laborious trials ahead. But we needn’t be ashamed of our feelings of trepidation. Christ is sympathetic to our struggles (Heb. 4:15) and uses our fickle feelings to lead us to his throne of grace (Heb. 4:16).

Christ is sympathetic to our struggles and uses our fickle feelings to lead us to his throne of grace.

It’s been three years since the news of my coming baby rocked me. Without a doubt, baby number five is indeed God’s good plan for the Carlson family. (A blessing who is deep into the “terrible twos” and recently projectile-vomited on me.) Without hesitation, I’m grateful for his life. I never could’ve expected this curly haired, blue-eyed blessing would bring us such immense joy—and sanctification.

Behold, unexpected babies are a heritage from the Lord, too. Acknowledge your surprise, yes, but then press on toward faith-filled rejoicing.

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