God’s Plan?

I don’t know why so many people say the grief of childlessness is ‘God’s plan’.

To be fair, when Christians say devastating events are ‘God’s plan’, I don’t think they mean God is a sadistic old so-and-so who is detached from our suffering and rather enjoys inflicting pain.  (At least, I hope not.) Nor do I think they truly believe God plans every teensy detail of our most horrific moments. 

I don’t think they mean God is a sadistic old so-and-so who enjoys inflicting pain.

I think what most of my Christian friends mean is, ‘I don’t know why this has happened, but God does, because he’s in control. Isn’t that good to know?’ 


I’m sorry, but it is not good to hear God secretly knows what is going on in my life but chooses to withhold this helpful information from me when I need it most. In fact, a God who knows the reason for my suffering but refuses to tell me sounds more like the sadist at the beginning of our tale. I don’t for one minute believe my good and loving Father is deliberately that cruel.

Some say ‘It’s God’s plan’ to encourage me to look elsewhere for meaning and purpose in life. It is their way of saying, ‘God must have some other awesome plan for you, even better than kids.’ I appreciate the sentiment, but it’s just not helpful when I’m grieving. 

It’s just not helpful when I’m grieving.

I think the other reason Christians jump to the ‘God’s plan’ knee-jerk response is they’re saying even though things suck right now, God has a plan for better things in our future. They’re trying to comfort us with hope for things to come. 

This is well-meaning but once again unhelpful. After all, who knows what the future holds for any of us? Yes, things might get better, but things might also get a whole lot worse too. (Not being defeatist, just realistic!) No one really knows what the future holds—except God.

Instead of cold comfort and false hope, I would prefer people simply acknowledge there may not be an answer. There may not be a ‘better’ plan waiting in the wings. I would prefer they honestly say, ‘I don’t know.’ Shared uncertainty is better than religious clichés that echo with hollowness. 

I would prefer people honestly say, ’I don’t know’.

There is something powerful in admitting we have no idea why something bad happened. It’s liberating for us. We don’t get caught up in those pesky maybes, the panic-driven brainstorming of why God might not give children to wonderful Christian people: 

‘Maybe God wants you to become a missionary instead.’

‘Maybe the baby would have been unhealthy and God was sparing you.’ 

‘Maybe God will use you to help others with similar experiences.’

Those maybes are not the point. Grief, uncertainty and mystery are the point. When we admit ‘I don’t know’, we sidestep those maybes altogether. We can get on with more important things: empathy, companionship and solidarity. 

Grief, uncertainty and mystery are the point.

We don’t need platitudes or even words. We need people willing to sit with us in our pain, share our grief, and stay for as long as it takes. That kind of vulnerability does me more good than all the problem-solving and platitudes in the world. 

I’m pretty sure that kind of love and solidarity is part of God’s plan. 

Have you ever been told that childlessness is ‘God’s plan’? How did you respond? How can you lovingly let people know what you really need instead of platitudes: silence, a listening ear, a true companion? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation. 

2 thoughts on “God’s Plan?

  1. This is a challenge to me. So good when we can learn to say ‘I don’t know.’ Often we feel like we have to offer people answers or advice to be a comfort. May we all have the grace and humility to learn to say ‘I don’t know’ and to sit with people in their pain, sharing their sorrow. Thank you for sharing and being willing to be vulnerable about your suffering. Much love xx

    • Hi Jenny, thanks for your input! I totally struggle with saying, ‘I don’t know’, especially as a counsellor! However, I have to say it’s such a powerful thing to admit our vulnerability to others, especially when they are in great pain. It lets them know we are willing to feel that pain with them. When I am suffering, I appreciate that vulnerability from others more than words, more than advice, even more than prayer – and almost as much as chocolate!

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