“I hope someday,” our parents said, “that you have children just like you!” This mild form of parental revenge gave them a small measure of satisfaction in their frustration at our behavior. Someday, they assumed, justice would be done. Had we thought about it, we might have agreed: “I hope that my children are like me.” Certainly, most of us assumed that we would have children and that they would be like us.

Life for many of us didn’t turn out that way, and yet, within nearly all of us is the desire to leave part of ourselves behind. We desire somebody like us (only better) to see a future that we will not. This desire to nurture and teach our child (by birth or adoption) is a God-given instinct. Fulfilling instincts is a basic human need that, when denied, causes emotional and spiritual turmoil.

There is a plethora of information available advising couples how to start a family by various methods of infertility treatments or adoption. On the other hand, very little information is available advising couples how to cope with the unique emotional and spiritual challenges of infertility.

FamilyLife in Slovenia, led by Dani and Vilma Siter, recognized this need and organized the first special conference for childless couples. The conference was Friday night through Sunday at an old ski resort in the Alps. My wife Kit and I felt privileged to lead that first conference. The topics we shared were:

• The pain is real (acknowledging the feelings of hurt, disappointment, and fear)

• Unfortunate Responses (identifying choices that can make the situation worse)

• Our Deeper Need (dealing with doubt about God’s goodness)

• Your Partner in Adversity (supporting one another in mutual difficulty)

• A Life Well Invested (discovering God’s special purpose for each couple)

The biblically-based materials were taken from our unpublished book, The Children of Our Hearts. The book is available from FamilyLife’s Global department for personal use or for help leading a similar conference.

The Slovenian couples were greatly encouraged by this conference. They decided to form a special branch of FamilyLife in Slovenia called “Unintentionally without Children.” They plan to organize additional conferences and regular meetings to reach out to others with this difficulty.