Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Are There Enough Children in the World?

(Special note: Today Candice Watters will be LIVE blogging on our comment blog below if you have any questions or comments.)

Leslie Basham: A lot of potential parents don’t want to bring children into a troubled world.

Candice Watters: What are we going to do with these kids? This world is falling apart.

Leslie: Candice Watters provides perspective for that fear.

Candice: And yet, if you look to Scripture, you realize it was at the very worst moments that the very best babies were born.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, November 9.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I got an email this past week from a gal who used to be an assistant in the Revive Our Hearts office. She came to our ministry just straight out of high school. She was a young, gangly teenager at the time and was a great blessing to our ministry. Then she left and went to college and got married.

Recently she turned 30, and I sent her a birthday greeting, and she wrote back to update me on her life. I love this paragraph. She said,

The greatest of blessings has been the gift of marriage and becoming a mother. I loved the single years and have no regrets about how I spent them, but the meaning and significance and burden and eternal weight that comes with the marriage relationship and propagating more little souls and intentionally raising them for Christ has been so sanctifying and joyful for me. I don’t ever want to go back.

I can’t imagine doing anything but this, and I’ll embrace this calling with vigor as long as God has it for me.

Then she let me know that she and her husband, who is currently in med school, entering five years of residency, that they are now expecting their third little munchkin, as she called them.

I was so thrilled to get that note. It reminded me of the book we’re talking about this week on Revive Our Hearts called, Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies. It’s co-authored by Steve and Candice Watters. Steve and Candice, welcome back to Revive Our Hearts.

Steve and Candice Watters: Thank you, Nancy.

Nancy: I just want to say, again, thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this book. I could hardly put it down. I found myself on email and on the phone within minutes of having finished reading it this week, letting other people know, “You need to read this. This is a great book.”

I’m not married. I don’t have children. Yet I loved this book because it so tapped into God’s kingdom purposes and thinking about this very counter-cultural subject in a very biblical way. I loved the balance and engaging and biblical way that you addressed this subject—sharing very transparently out of your own journey.

We heard some of that journey in the last program. For those listeners who didn’t get a chance to catch that, you will want to go to ReviveOurHearts.com and listen to that program, or you can order a CD of the entire series from our ministry.

As I look around today, I see that many, many young couples, even in the Christian world, are delaying having children or avoiding having children altogether. Let’s talk about some of the reasons that it’s more the norm today to wait to have children, to put that off.

We talked yesterday about some of the reasons you considered that in your own marriage, but, as you look around and you look at the culture, what are some of the fears, some of the issues that young couples are facing that are making them say, “Ummm, I don’t think we’ll start that yet”?

Steve: I think a lot of it is this desire to start as strong as possible, which sounds very noble. You want to have the perfect timing to have all the stars aligned, especially the financial stars, because there is a different environment. The wages, especially men’s wages, are not what they used to be a generation ago. You are very much more dependent on two incomes than you used to be.

Nancy: Especially with so many going into marriage with heavy debt.

Steve: Exactly. The average consumer debt is around $20,000 when a marriage is formed and the average educational debt is around $25-30,000. Here recently we have seen surveys that have shown just in the past few years that the proportion of people who say that it is school debt that’s causing them to delay their family has doubled. So we know that’s a very real issue. It’s a challenge that even our parents and grandparents didn’t really have weighing over them.

But then when you add to that the sense that technology is going to help us to live forever and to help us have babies whenever we want them. It’s much easier to start thinking, “Because we know there are things out there that make it possible for us to wait a little longer, then let’s make as much of the time we have now.”

Candice: There’s a lot of pressure, too, culturally for why you shouldn’t have babies. There’s no ad campaign out there saying, “Hey, start your family. Let’s get going.” There are so many reasons, though, on the flip side of that to say, “You shouldn’t have babies because . . . look at the state of our politics, or look at the state of the newspaper.”

Just pick up a newspaper. It’s a little bit frightening, I think, to think about bringing an innocent baby into this world and to be so responsible for the next minimum 18 years, but really for the rest of your life to be emotionally linked to this person.

Nancy: And what kind of world are they going to grow up in?

Candice: Absolutely.

Steve: Well, I’m going to use a phrase that we say. It’s almost like trying to raise a flower in the crack of a New York City sidewalk. Not only do you look around and see wars and economic changes and political change, but also people looking around and saying, “Do we really want to add another human to this planet that’s already supposedly overpopulated?”

Nancy: Let’s just talk about that one. Let’s debunk that myth of overpopulation.

Steve: Well, Paul Ehrlich had a very popular book about the population bomb back in the 70s. He was warning people what was going to happen as the world just kept exploding in population. What actually has happened is that so many westernized countries have hit the brakes on having new babies, the world population continues to grow, but it’s more from longevity.

In fact, Nicholas Eberstadt, the demographer, said that, “It’s not that people are breeding like rabbits. It’s like they’ve stopped dying like flies.”

You’ve got a graying population, but you don’t have this pipeline of new babies coming in. So the world is actually beginning to slow its population growth, and now what most westernized countries are dealing with is a graying population where there’s not enough new people coming in to support an older population. As the population gets disproportionately older, they don’t want to innovate. They’re a lot more conservative. There’s not new life and new hope and all the regeneration that comes from new babies.

Nancy: And not enough new population growth to sustain current levels.

Steve: Exactly. That’s Europe; it’s Asia. They’ve got schools in Japan with one kid in the class.

Nancy: And shutting down schools.

Steve: Exactly.

Nancy: I’ve got a sheath of articles here in my hand of all kinds, from all kinds of papers and writers and intelligence briefings. They talk about what they call the demographic winter, the consequences in our culture and economically of not having enough children.

Steve: That’s right. 

Nancy: I just had to get on my little soap box for a minute.

Candice: It’s a key soap box. It’s a reminder that we are people of the Word, of the Book, and we need to look to God’s Word and say, “What is the biblical perspective to counter this fear?” That fear is real.

Having been expecting our firstborn during Y2K, having been pregnant with our second when the planes hit the Twin Towers, and now our fourth with lots of political upheaval, I was tempted and often did give in to some serious fear. I thought, “What am I doing?” I’ve got to stockpile formula. I’ve got to . . . I’m thinking, “What are we going to do with these kids? This world is falling apart.”

Yet if you look to Scripture, you realize it was at the very worst moment that the very best babies were born. Moses was born at a time when his parents had to hide him to keep him from being murdered. The same with Jesus, and he foreshadowed Jesus with Herod killing all the babies.

God calls us not to fear. He calls us to be fruitful, not fearful.

Steve: Yes.

Nancy: He’s wanting to raise up out of Christian homes a godly seed who will be able to promote the kingdom of God and take the gospel into this world that so desperately needs it.

Candice: That’s right, absolutely. If Christians stopped having babies, then I would say we really should be fearful, because where’s the hope? Babies are the hope.

Steve: I think what we’ve lost is the sense that we look around, and we see these problems, and we think, “Why would we want to bring babies into a world filled with these problems?” We forget that often it’s going to be those babies who are going to be the solution to those problems.

We love Mike Mason’s book about . . . He’s got one on the mystery of marriage, but he’s also got another about the mystery of children. He says, “So often when God wants to do something new in the world, He does it through babies.”

There are so few holy books in the world that spend so much time talking about babies.

Nancy: As the Scripture does.

Steve: That’s right. In the Bible, so many of the stories—not only of Moses, but also of Samuel and of Samson and, obviously, John the Baptist preparing the way, then the story of Jesus—and you realize that was part of God’s plan. He could have just come in and done something miraculous and turned the world order upside down, but from the beginning He designed babies to be a part of this continuous process of redemption and new life.

Nancy: So much a part of our calling as women is the bearing and nurturing of life. That’s why I love your emphasis on fruitfulness. This is not just about making babies.

Candice: That’s right.

Nancy: This is about being bearers and nurturers of life, and it brings to mind that young teenage girl to whom the angel appeared that day and turned her world upside down and said, “You’re going to have a child.” And to see Mary say, “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be to me as you have said” (see Luke 1:38). 

I love that heart attitude of saying, “Yes, Lord. I’m willing to give my body up to You for Your kingdom purposes.”

As a result of that young girl saying, “Yes, Lord,” we have a Savior who was born.

Steve: Yes.

Candice: That brings up such a key reason that I think couples delay, and it is this birth control mindset. It starts with the engaged woman who goes to see her doctor, and he hands her, as a matter of course, as a matter of habit, the prescription for the pill.

Our book doesn’t get into the pros and cons of different forms of birth control, but we do talk about the inertia. When a couple is not intentional about how they’re going to plan or not plan for babies, what the birth control mentality does is lead young women—primarily women, but also men—to think, “I can control my fertility. When I want to I can turn it off, and I can flip the switch when I want to turn it on.”

Tragically, lots of couples are finding that they waited too long, and that switch isn’t working anymore. They’re trying to flip the switch, and they’re not fertile anymore. So there’s a habit you get into when the medicine you take to keep your body from being fruitful is so far removed from the act of intimacy that God designed to be fruitful.

The other thing that it does is it changes our attitude from one of “Children are a blessing to be received with joy” to thinking, “Children are a consequence to be avoided.” So it really is a mindset. Are we going to look at children as a blessing or as a consequence?

Our encouragement for young couples is whatever you decide to do, don’t just do it because that’s what the culture does or because someone told you that’s what you should do. Be intentional about it. Put as much time and thought into how you’re going to approach having children as you do, certainly, your wedding.

Steve: There are a lot of theological implications. There are some couples who think deeply about it, who really process what it means to be a believer and think differently from the world and how do we bring that to our choices about birth control. But there are a lot of couples who just flip the switch—the doctor gave me this, and that’s what we’re going to do—and don’t even think about it.

Nancy: It’s just assumed.

Steve: Yes. They’re not trying to come up with the perfect theological response. There are people who have better answers for that, but we do encourage couples: Don’t just do what everybody else is doing. Think deeply about it. Bring your faith to bear in this area.

Nancy: Ask the Lord about this issue. This is something to pray about.

Steve: Absolutely.

Candice: It is. It does have an inertia of its own, and once you head down that path, it then becomes very difficult to shift into a different path. You have to really go out of your way to change your course. I think that’s one of the downsides of doing something that is so disconnected and so removed from intimacy.

Steve: Well, that inertia is alongside the other inertias in their life, just the routine of their jobs, the lifestyle that they know. As soon as they start thinking about any change to it, they’re thinking, “Oh my, this is going to turn everything upside down.” And it is.

Nancy: The more their lifestyle becomes dependent on two incomes, the more disruptive bringing children into that family is going to be.

Steve: Yes. In fact, we were amused by some of these articles about these really nice designer homes that people then brought kids into and were surprised to see that kids acted like kids.

Nancy: And then the homes didn’t look like designer homes anymore.

Steve: Yes, exactly. It wasn’t like our parents and grandparents went out and got these big theater rooms and then were frustrated when the 2-year olds came along and smeared jelly on them. They lived simply on the front end and then usually accumulated the nicer things later.

Now, couples want all the standard of living their parents have right now, on the front end, and that’s a big clash with the child-raising years.

Nancy: Okay. I want to go back for a moment to this thing about flipping the switch on and off and mistakenly thinking that can happen just any time.

After you already had three children, you came to a startling realization that you couldn’t just turn that switch off and on as you thought you could.

Candice: There was a point after we had two kids and then again after we had our third kid when I thought, “I really want to be done. This is a lot of work.” I get very sick when I am early in the pregnancy, morning sickness, and a lot of time in bed, and it’s a real strain on our marriage. Steve has to bring me breakfast in bed every day, and it’s just a real difficult time. I remember after the second baby and the third baby thinking, “I think I really want to be done.”

At that point I started having really weird symptoms and three different doctors told me, based on blood work, that I had achieved premature ovarian failure. They said, “You’re in menopause. You won’t have any more babies.”

Nancy: At the age of . . .?

Candice: At the age of 37. I was devastated. It was one thing for me to think I was controlling my fertility. It was a totally different story to suddenly realize I had no control over this. This was completely thrust upon me. This wasn’t a decision I made. This was a decision being made for me, and I was really depressed about that.

We told our kids, “We think we’re done. We don’t think Mommy can have any more babies, but we can pray.”

It was at that point when we started praying, and, ironically, started writing the chapter in the book about your fertility window that I found out I was expecting my fourth baby. Literally, Nancy, every doctor, to the word, said, “It’s a miracle.”

We know that, and the neat thing is our kids know that. They know that this little baby, Teddy, is God’s gift to us. Would that we see every baby that way, and would that we understand. We may call it birth control, but we are so not in control of this process.

Steve: Scripture reminds us that God opens and closes the womb.

Candice and I have only recently discovered these mom bloggers. There’s this whole community of women who are supporting and encouraging each other. We’ve been exposed to so many women struggling with infertility through these blogs, and it is heartbreaking. You can see the depth of frustration and emotion.

We can’t quite understand it, and can’t always get our theological arms around how God opens and closes the womb, but we realize that He’s sovereign and that He’s in control, and we’re not.

This reminds us both of our frustration when we realized that maybe God had closed our womb, but also reminds us of the miracle when He does open a womb. We get to see those stories on occasion and realize that God can still bring glory and do things that modern technology can’t do.

Candice: Another thing it made me wonder is, how often did I say, “No” to God? He opens and closes wombs. He’s not going to get in the way of the principles of the natural world that He set in motion. If I say, “My body is off limits to You, God, and I’m going to take chemicals to make sure of that,” I think He’s going to step back and say, “Have it your way.”

How often do we miss out on a blessing and another life because we weren’t open to what He had for us?

Nancy: How often is that the case with women who say, “I want to have children . . . later. And then get to later and find out they can’t? They’ve missed the season in which God wanted to give them children.

Steve: Yes. There’s actually a survey called “The World Value Survey.” In that survey, 2% of the people responding said, “I don’t want to have any kids.” But the reality is 20% of couples are unable to have kids. There were 3% in the survey who said, “I only want one kid.” But 16% of couples are limited to one kid. So there’s a gap between ideal and reality.

We recognized when we ran into this in fertility season that if we had stayed on our time line, the hopes that we had for how many maybe we could have had could have easily come right up against that point. We would have had a gap between how many we had hoped to have and how many we really could.

Nancy: You used an important word there, and that’s season. So much of life for the child of God is recognizing what are the seasons. There’s a time to give birth. There’s a time . . . God makes everything beautiful in its time.

I love in your book how you talk about spring being the season for couples to have children. What do you mean by that?

Steve: When Candice and I were born . . . We were actually born a day apart in the same year—1970—June 26 and June 27. So our moms were in the hospital right at the same time, and both of them were in their early 20s. We got married in our late 20s, and we had our first child just when we were about to turn 30. We noticed that’s pretty average. People in our age, especially people who had gone off to college, were getting married in what we would call summer time.

Then we started watching all the reports about people waiting until almost the autumn of their life and even seeing some of these extreme stories of mom having a baby at 60 and realize, okay, maybe some people are even finding a way to do it in the winter of their life.

But we realized there’s something to this idea of spring. There’s an energy level that we don’t’ have anymore. We watch a neighbor who has kids, and she’s still in her 20s. She’s running circles around us. We’re feeling old and creaky here in our 30s.

It’s also reminding me of something my dad said. He said, “So many people do the math. They think, 'If we have kids at this age, we’ll be this old when they go to college.'” He said, “Do the math for the grandparents, too, because kids need grandparents in their life who can get down on the floor to play with them and still be able to get back up.”

Nancy: Now, we’re not trying to suggest something hard and fast about what years you should have babies. We’re not here to dictate that. We realize we have listeners who are at different seasons of life and may be thinking, “Are you saying that I shouldn’t have children in my 30s or 40s?” Can you help clarify that for us?

Candice: Well, I certainly wouldn’t say that because that’s what we did. We’ve had babies in our late 20s and up into our late 30s.

Nancy: So far.

Candice: That’s right. Who knows what God has in store. But that comes back to the point that God is sovereign. I think the most important thing for a couple is to be praying. Be praying for oneness. Submit to God your plans for your family. Say, “Lord, show us what You have for us.” If He blesses you with babies in your 20s, to God be the glory. If He blesses you with babies in your 30s, to God be the glory. If you’re still having babies in your 30s and 40s, and beyond, to God be the glory. Really, that is the point.

If you’re still young, and you’re just starting out in your marriage, don’t just go with the flow. Ask these questions. Have these conversations, be intentional, and don’t squander the spring. I think that’s the message.

If you’re in your summer and your autumn, by all means pray for God to open your womb and to make you fruitful and to bless you, but if you’re still in the spring, you might want to take advantage of it.

Nancy: And then, realizing that God is sovereign over all of this. I have friends who have wanted to have children, have not used birth control, and yet for years, maybe indefinitely, God has not blessed them with children. So we come back to surrender to the will of God—whatever that looks like.

Candice: Yes.

Steve: And also, God calls us all to be fruitful. But you see in the Bible, especially as we get into the New Testament, there’s a much larger dimension for spiritual fruitfulness. So whether we have children biologically, or we adopt, or we pour ourselves into a local church body and we’re growing the kingdom, God is calling us to fruitfulness, not to a consumer mindset of just, “What can I get out of life?”

God is saying, “What are you pouring out there, and what are you giving? You can trust your womb to Me.” But He’s also saying, “I want you to be a good steward of that, both your biological fruitfulness as well as your spiritual fruitfulness. I want to see you being fruitful as I am fruitful.”

Nancy: Well, whether you’re a young couple, newly married, thinking about God’s timing for you to have children, or you already have children and you’re feeling overwhelmed with the children you do have, this is a book, Start Your Family, that I think will be a great encouragement to you.

In fact, I’m encouraging singles to read this book because it will give you a heart of wisdom and understanding and compassion for those who are in their childbearing years. I’m also encouraging empty-nest moms to read this book because it will help you know how to encourage your adult children.

Basically, in every season of life, there’s so much value to be had from learning to think God’s way about yielding up our bodies as instruments of righteousness for God’s purpose in every season of life.

So Steve and Candice, thank you so much for writing this book. We’re going to come back on our next program just to talk a bit further and continue this conversation about some of the practical aspects of having children, starting your family in the spring of your life. I know our listeners will not want to miss that conversation.

Thank you so much for opening your hearts in this way and for the wisdom that you’re sharing on this subject.

Candice: You are so welcome.

Steve: Thanks, Nancy.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been describing a book called Start Your Family. Would you like to continue exploring this topic with our guests Steve and Candice Watters? We’ll send you Start Your Family when you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts.

The book will help you ask important questions. Don’t wait until it’s too late and wish you had thought through these issues. Ask God His will. This book will help you ask those questions. Just ask for the book, Start Your Family, when you call with your donation. The number is 1-800-569-5959, or donate at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Is it possible for a couple to continue life as usual while adding a baby into the mix? Find out tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

 

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