I knew that I was opening the proverbial can of worms when I started this series of posts. May I just say thank you so much for the respectful, kind and gently worded responses I received through the comments? I did not have to delete a single comment, and I was so appreciative of the manner in which even those who disagreed expressed themselves. Ya'll are the best! And on with my thoughts...
I have discussed, prayed, thought and read about this issue much over the past 4-5 years, and this is what I (and my husband) believe to be the bottom line:
The issue is one of the heart.
Not legalism, not Biblical scholarship and interpretation, not our own desires, needs or struggles. In the comments on the last post, Kimi mentioned that she believes it to be an issue of Christian liberty. I would hesitantly agree (actually, I fully agree with Kimi because of what I know of her, I just feel that I need to explain myself a little as I say this).
My hesitancy comes into play for this reason: Many Christians take their "liberty" and use it to justify their own selfish decisions.
What do I mean by this?
We (by we, I mean Christians in general) decide that we will only have 2 children (or 4 or whatever number you choose) because of the cost of children, because we think having more would be too stressful, because we want to be finished with child bearing and have our children move into school age, because we want to get back to pursuing our career, because we want to be able to afford nicer homes and clothes and cars, because we find pregnancy uncomfortable and inconvenient, and so on...
Though we are having children and proclaiming them to be a blessings, a gift, a legacy (again, most Christians), some of our motivations (if evaluated honestly) may suggest that we believe them to be a blessing only as long as we have some say in the matter, and things go according to our plans.
But what if we conceive an "oops" Baby #4, and that baby turns out to be twins? Are those babies then any less of a blessing than were Babies #1, 2 and 3? Is their existence any less ordained by God, and therefore absolutely perfect and good in every way?
Conversely, the opposite can also be true. Our wicked hearts can turn what started as submission and a willingness to trust God and His plans for our families into a competition for numbers, a source of pride and self-righteousness in our hearts, and ultimately, having children can become an issue of idolatry.
This is a struggle I know full well. After giving up my plans (supposedly) to accept any child as a blessing, how often I try to take back that position of being the one who controls my own destiny. I become anxious, jealous and discontent when my "quiver" does not fill up as quickly as I would like (or as quickly as my neighbor's!).
At it's root, this issue is not about whether we have 1 child or 17 children, but it is about having a heart at rest in the absolutely good and perfect and sovereign will of God.
Do I believe it can ever be appropriate to use birth control? It may surprise you to hear me answer yes.
Occasionally, there are circumstances when it might be wisdom to take a break or potentially even close the door. A few scenarios come to mind. When the mother or father is going through severe illness. When a mother has had multiple difficult or very closely-spaced pregnancies and needs to be able to physically recover and replenish her body for the sake of both her own health and that of future children. Perhaps during a period of unemployment, when medical insurance is not available. Or in a situation of physical and/or sexual abuse. (These are just examples, not an exhaustive list, and I would say that one should not necessarily use birth control in these situations, only that I would think of these as examples of situations where it might be considered.)
In fact, this past year, my husband and I actually spent 6 months on birth control, despite our eager desire to welcome any children the Lord had for us. The reason was that both during and immediately after chemotherapy (as my husband went through cancer treatments for lymphoma, now in remission), it is highly likely to conceive a child with severe birth defects.
Though torn, through prayer and wise counsel, we opted to use a non-abortive method of birth control to prevent conception, knowing that if it occurred despite our efforts, we would trust in God's sovereignty and accept even a seriously ill child as a blessing from His hand. I also believe that God could have given us faith and peace to not use birth control, and trust Him with the outcome regardless, as I have heard many stories of God's miraculous provision and healing in scenarios such as the ones I just listed above.
I think the main question we need to ask ourselves in all of this is "What are our heart attitudes? What are our motivations? Are we fearful? Selfish? Proud? In who or what are we trusting in? Can we make this decision in faith?"
These are the questions that I must continually ask myself, as I walk out the decisions that we have made, and also as I am in relationship with others around me who may have different convictions on the subject. My role is not to be in judgment or condemnation of others, but it is most certainly to be encouraging, strengthening, challenging and sharpening my fellow sisters and brothers in Christ, as we all seek to bring God glory through the way we live our lives.
I know there are many strong thoughts and feelings on this subject, and I know that I have not covered every angle. Many of you mentioned specific types of birth control, which I didn't really address (short answer- only non-abortive forms are acceptable, such as barrier methods or Natural Family Planning). There are health issues to consider (any type of hormone-based birth control is a very bad idea, and is extremely harmful to your body).
There you have it. My stance, as humbly and carefully and honestly as I can attempt to share it (and trust me, I'm sure that my attempt was not without weakness and flaw!). I hope that, if nothing else, it encourages you to examine your own heart and invite God to speak to and lead your family, no matter what the outcome of that process may be. Blessings on you and your families!
Once again, I appreciate your respectful and polite opinions and comments. Thanks for allowing this to be a forum for challenging discussion, and not tearing others down! :)