But, watching my three girls grow and change and talk about Jesus, I also wonder what my other children will look like and be like and who they will become. So my heart is still seeking to know what God's plan is for the number of children we will have.
One of my friends sent me an email that I thought was helpful. It was helpful to take a glimpse into another couple's struggle with this very thing. I hope you find it encouraging in your own journey. I've added some helpful links to her message.
... this is a huge issue for us as well and one that has been unsettled for the entire five years of our marriage. :) ... I'm not willing at all to be prescriptive, I will just be descriptive of the road we have traveled and where we are at now.
When we got married we used the pill. After a year in seminary, we were so convicted we couldn't continue using it. A month later I was pregnant.... We had gotten pretty hard core into trusting God to decide the timing and size of our family. We continued in this thinking after L's birth, and K was conceived when L was just 7 months old. I only had one cycle in between the two of them. :)
After K was born we moved [overseas] with L at 18 months and K at 8 weeks. We were so overwhelmed with language learning, cultural adaptation, all things new, that we were seriously stressed with the thought of another child. Language goals wouldn't be met, etc... already I was barely scraping by, keeping clothes clean, figuring out how to cook. We definitely wanted more kids, we just started feeling like we wanted some more space. We began to re-search the issue in Scripture, in what others had written like Piper, Mohler, Baucham, others.
We really wanted to come to a position on it instead of continuing to say "for this season, we will________." We were constantly reevaluating our position on it and never could have complete peace in any camp. I think really thinking through it and praying through it together was what we needed to do, instead of listening to people in the quiver full and saying, "That sounds the most Godly. We'll do that." :) Even in that, I think I almost felt pressure to "prove" my trust in God by giving him our fertility. Like if we didn't do that, we didn't truly trust him. I'm not sure that's Scriptural...
We did a study on what else is called "blessing" in Scripture. Turns out quite a lot. Two in particular that helped us were these: Matthew 5 talks about being blessed when we are persecuted. Acts 20 [vs. 35] says Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive. So persecution is a blessing. But in practice, we see Jesus and Paul purposefully avoiding it for a season, because they felt the Holy Spirit or just knew it wasn't God's plan for them at that moment. They hid themselves from it in order to avoid it, knowing that it would come later, in order to bring more glory to God. You can apply the same analogy to giving and receiving. We felt like we could appropriately apply these same treatments by Jesus and Paul to other blessings. Knowing that we are called to a life overseas where we do not have much community around us, no access to babysitters or those who could relieve us when we need it, so much travel that is taxing on little ones and mom and dad too... not to mention the increased difficulty and work on a mother in this kind of life. We felt like, in order to bring the utmost glory to God, it was not sinful for us to give ourselves some space between our children.
Additionally, I have come to think that God did not give us a predictable cycle in order to give us the ability to becoming pregnant every month so much as to give us a measure of understanding in our reproductivity. It is easy to use the knowledge of our cycle to regulate our fertility. Even bush women in Africa who can't read do this. So I don't buy the argument that "back in Biblical times" people had no option for birth control. They did. They could use the knowledge of their bodies. And I'm sure they did!
Last, knowing myself like I do, I feel pretty certain that if we had had an open womb, we would naturally conceive every 16-18 months. I know that having 4 kids in under five years would bring me to burnout pretty quickly. I want to run the race of parenting well, train my children well, and glorify God in the process. We truly feel that by postponing pregnancy for 6-12 months after I'm done nursing will enable us to have more children in the long run.
So our belief now is that there is nothing wrong with using our bodies to bring children into the world when we feel our family is ready to handle another one. We just see God giving us so much freedom in other areas of decision making, like when and who to marry, what career to pursue, buying a home, etc... and it doesn't seem consistent for God to then say "This one you have to leave to me." We see him acting with us in all other major life decisions. I do have issues with hormonal birth control and will never use it again. Now we are using Natural Family Planning, the Protestant version. We do the charting and temperature taking, etc. It's easy to see when I'm fertile once you learn it. We just use a barrier during those times .... The fertile period is usually 7-10 days, so it's really only 2-3 times a month that we have to use something like that, which isn't that bad.
Many blessings to you as you guys sort through this. It is so difficult, and I feel that it is something each couple has to wrestle with the Lord about individually. This is what it means to work out our faith in fear and trepidation. :)