Infertility: A Word For Pastors, Counselors, & Those Who Struggle

by Donna Gibbs

The wedding was beautiful. Lifelong hopes and dreams became a reality as the vows were spoken and the couple was introduced to those in attendance. The bride and groom started down the aisle, full of aspirations for a hope-filled, joyous life together. They pictured themselves living the American dream, with a beautiful home, a Volvo in the garage, and 2.4 children.

Time passed. One year turned into two, then three, four, and five years. Family and friends began to question, “When are you two going to have a baby?” “You know, you’re not getting any younger.” “Isn’t it about time you started having a family?” 

For this couple, infertility was soon becoming a harsh reality. They considered the time, energy, finances, and emotional strain involved in medical interventions or adoption. It was all so confusing and overwhelming. They prayed, questioning God, asking “Why?” Why were relationships becoming strained? Why was walking down the baby food aisle of the grocery store becoming unbearable? Why were announcements of pregnancies and baby showers so painful? Why was Mother’s Day such a sad occasion? Why?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 11% of reproductive-aged women experience challenges in getting pregnant and/or carrying a baby to term. This is probably a low estimate of the many isolated, hurting couples with few places to turn with their grief. Infertility is a disease that creates significant grief, bombarding its victims with intense, inexplicable emotions. The grief process can be experienced from one extreme to another, all within a cycle of 28 days. Infertility attacks an individual’s sense of self-worth, tempting them to compare themselves to peers who seem to have no difficulty achieving or maintaining pregnancy.  Certainly, infertility can place great strain on relationships among family and friends who often, with no evil intent, have painful questions and expectations. An unresolved plea for pregnancy can also create stress and tension in the marriage relationship. Without question, undesired childlessness shakes our faith in a God who describes children as a blessed gift.

Yet, there is hope! For we serve a God who makes promises. The promise for someone with infertility is not that they would necessarily have a biological child (though approximately 85-90% are able to conceive). The promise is that even this difficult trial will be worked for good. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). “All things” is an all-inclusive phrase: even infertility can bear fruit! 

In all likelihood, if you are a counselor or a minister, you have encountered couples who are experiencing the trial of infertility. Below, I’ve listed a few tips for working with these couples and hope that these assist you in providing a supportive and effective atmosphere for them. 


*To be well versed regarding the emotional, relational, and spiritual challenges of infertility,  as well as reproductive treatment options. Just as we would want to be aware of cultural differences that can impact our clients, we need to be aware of the life and challenges of the couple experiencing infertility. 

*Normalize and validate the common struggles at each phase of infertility grief (see “Processing Infertility Grief”. 

*Educate regarding gender differences in infertility grief and assist the couple in processing their grief without divisiveness. 

*Refer couples to support groups if available, at minimum mentors who can relate in a non-threatening and supportive manner. This is particularly important due to the isolation that generally accompanies infertility. If no resources are locally available, advocate for the development of these resources. 

*Educate couples regarding stress management techniques. Infertility is known to be as stressful for individuals as a life-threatening condition. 

*Assist couples in making deliberate, well-processed decisions regarding their treatment options, taking into consideration spiritual convictions, financial obstacles, family dynamics, stress-levels, etc… 

*Assist clients, through role-play, in communicating their struggles, needs, and hurts to family, friends, and co-workers as it relates to infertility. Assist couples in determining what they are comfortable sharing with others and in explaining what they prefer to be kept private, how they will respond to announcements of pregnancy, invitations to baby showers, etc… This type of rehearsal assists couples in overcoming isolation and resentment. 

*Have couples journal their experiences and emotions and process in session. 

Processing Infertility Grief, taken from Water From the Rock, co-authored by Donna Gibbs (these are expected experiences of grief related to infertility) 

*Denial/Shock: “I can’t believe this is happening to me.” 

*Desperation/Panic: “I’ll do whatever it takes to have a child.” 

*Anger/Resentment: “What kind of God would allow me to go through this?” 

*Sadness/Depression: “Why me?” 

*Inadequacy/Guilt: “What is my purpose now?” 

*Hope/Peace: “I’m OK.” 

*Reconciliation/Integration: “May Your will be done.”

by Donna Gibbs

Clean Spaces and Clear Minds

by Donna Gibbs

Imagine the stereotypical teenage boy’s cluttered, stinky, disorganized bedroom. Most moms of teenage boys (I have three myself) cringe at the discussion of their son’s living space. Fortunately, my boys are capable of maintaining a reasonably clean space, but it still sometimes requires a reminder. Those nudges are typical for the season that is adolescence. 

But what if a cluttered and unkept space characterized all of your living and working spaces? Your entire home. Your office. Your yard. Your neighborhood? What if you lived your life in and out of seasons in a chaotic space? How might that impact you? 

For years, I’ve argued the point that our living space can positively or negatively impact our mental health. (If you’ve ever walked into the home of a hoarder, and then experienced anxiety, you understand this concept.) I remember years ago meeting with a young woman who was moderately depressed. After learning more about the chaos of her living space, and sensing that this was further oppressing her emotionally, I gave the homework assignment of the gradual decluttering of her home. She took the assignment seriously, enlisted the help of some friends, and made arrangements for a dumpster to be delivered to her home. She began the journey with the smallest room of her home, and then persevered for weeks with the support of her friends until the entire home was complete. The outcome? A measurable degree of relief from her depression. 

A few days ago, a friend emailed me the results from a recent study conducted in Philly. This study looked at the impact of dilapidated and vacated city lots on the mental health of nearby residents. After clearing trash, regrading, and landscaping 206 of these lots, they discovered an impressively positive impact to the mental health of those residents. I can believe it. These results are consistent with the results many of my clients have experienced over the years as they began the process of decluttering their own living spaces. (For more information about that Philly study, visit:–happened-when-206-vacant-lots-were-landscaped.html

The lesson? You don’t have to love HGTV to enjoy the benefits of a clean, clutter-free, and organized space. While the decluttering of your living space can’t ever be a substitute to appropriate mental health treatment, it can most certainly be a helpful supplement! So put on some music, roll up your sleeves, pick a room (or your yard), and start digging in. You might even decide to help your neighbor do the same! 



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by Donna Gibbs

A few months ago, I received the disappointing email that (for the second year in a row) I had lost the lottery for the Blue Ghost Fireflies Tour in Dupont Forest. I had so looked forward to this outing for my family. You see, for just a few short weeks, the Dupont Forest floor is covered by gorgeous blue candlelight. The blue fireflies have brought such fascination, and so many people, that they had to enforce a lottery in order to limit the number of guests. Why? Because the females can’t fly, and many of them were being squashed on the forest floor as guests trampled off the trails to get a closer look. There is something about a light in the darkness that draws us. We just can’t get enough. And these blue fireflies are a beautiful example of that truth.

Now to introduce the word, bioluminescence. What in the world does that mean? It is simply the emission of light by an organism. Blue fireflies are living light

That word strikes me. I too want to be a living light. You probably do as well. But we can’t be a living light unless we experience darkness. Struggle. Pain. Suffering. All of the challenges that are promised as being normal this side of eternity. We all wish for an easy road. A road that is full of light and laughter. But how would you ever see a beautiful blue firefly on a light-filled path?

So let’s accept that pain will be an inevitable part of life. Butlet’s also accept that God has created us to be a living light. Shine brightly my friend. Your light will be a fascinating and encouraging sight to behold to others in a forest of darkness!

Bouncy Ball: A Word About Resilience

by Donna Gibbs

Some of you heard about last fall’s book release, Becoming Resilient. You may wonder what it’s all about. What resilience even means. So I’m going to sum up resilience, and the book, Becoming Resilient, in one image: a bouncy ball. I’m simple minded. I grasp concepts with images like these. And when we’re suffering, we all tend to be a little more concrete in our thinking, so hopefully this will be helpful to you as well. 

Here goes…. An excerpt from Becoming Resilient that will put a dose of encouragement in your life today! 

When I hear the word resilience, I immediately think of a bouncy ball. I knowthat’s not a very sophisticated image, but hear me out. When you throw a bouncy ball onto the floor, it bounces back higher than its starting point. When the ball first hits the floor, it is compressed and changes slightly in shape. Then it springs forward with power and restores its shape. The harder you throw it down, the higher it bounces in reaction. The resilience of the ball defies gravity.

Can it be so with our hurts in life as well? Is it possible for our tragedies to propel us to bounce back? Could we ultimately spring back in better shape than we were before we were slammed to the ground? Absolutely! And I’ve seen evidence of this resilience thousands of times within the quiet walls of my office. Friend, you too can bounce back. I know you can, because I know the God who can lead you to resilience!

Of course, God works according to His timeline, not ours. He is a process-oriented healer, walking us through our hurts and our healing rather than around them or away from them. Will you trust Him to begin taking you through your pain? It’stime to bounce back. Give yourself the privilege of that opportunity. Just becauseyou’ve been stuck doesn’t mean you have to stay there.

Your hurts do not have to define you or dictate your future. Maybe your hurt occurred years ago, but you’ve lived with the residual effects for much of your life. You don’t have to wait for eternity to find healing. Restoration can begin today, starting now. When we are stuck in our sufferings, we cannot move beyond survival mode. We don’t have the chance to fully live our lives. But it is time now to live! To thrive! To heal! It is time to take our lives back. Perhaps God has led you to this book for this very reason. He desires for you to bounce back from the hurt that has been robbing you and shrinking your world. Indeed, He has good plans for you (see Jer. 29:11). He desires to use your suffering to create something amazing. To benefit you. To propel you to even greater heights. Because He loves you, he wants to strengthen your resilience. Like the incredible transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly, he desires to use your hurts to create something beautiful in you.

You do not need to fear suffering. You can abide in the One who promises the strength to endure. If you’ve been thrown to the ground, get ready to stand. Get ready to rise above your pain. Your suffering doesn’t have to cripple you anymore! In fact, it can propel you to the heights of joy and purpose.

I hope you have already started your healing voyage, and I cannot wait to hear your story of resilience. You are becoming a hero in suffering. And Lord knows we could sure use some more heroes.

Your homework assignment? Go find a bouncy ball. Take it outside into a parking lot, and throw it down onto the pavement with the same amount of power you feel your trial has thrown you down. And then watch what happens to that bouncy ball. Be refreshed with the comfort that God can also defy gravity in your life, allowing you too to bounce forward from your hurts! He can propel you to rise above your pain!

For an encouraging video from Donna regarding this blog:

Set Free: Reflections on Independence.

by Donna Gibbs

(Originally published on July 6th, 2018)

This week, we had the privilege to celebrate our independence. Independence Day marks the anniversary of the birth of America, and our gift of freedom. I wonder sometimes why I was awarded the unearned privilege of being born an American. I did nothing to deserve that gift of citizenship. I consider those who struggle as a result of their unearned birthing into a third-world culture. And, I wonder why I should be so blessed to live what I perceive to be an easier life.

With that said, I don’t know of anyone, on the left or the right, that doesn’t have concern about present-day America. With each day that passes, it seems to appear a little less like the America I was born into. My children do not experience the security of a terror-free country. The America they see has conflict. Chaos. Fear. Financial instability. It’s a country that no longer respects the God that got us where we are. It’s utterly heartbreaking.

So while I celebrate the fact that I still believe I live in the greatest country on earth, I still mourn. As I celebrate Independence Day, I will pray for America, the land that I love. And, while I am incredibly grateful to have been born with this citizenship, I will also praise God that my hope is in Him, and not in America. My freedom today, and my freedom for eternity, is not based on my country. It is gifted by my God. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery” -Galatians 5:1. (If you wrestle today with the oppression of an addiction, a debilitating depression, or an abusive marriage, or any other emotional struggle, I want to encourage you that you can have independence from that trial. You can be free. You don’t have to be a slave to an unworthy master. Remember, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free”.)

America’s freedom has never been bought by politicians. It’s been bought by the bravest people of America – those who gave their blood so that we could keep ours. We did nothing to deserve their gift. They gave it anyway. And, today, there continue to be soldiers standing in the gap for us, willing to give their lives for the good of America. I am so grateful for these heroes, and their sacrificial families!

Our hope for eternal freedom was also bought with an ultimate price. And, that freedom is an eternal citizenship that we could never have earned. It’s not that we were born into it. We made a choice to accept it, and were “born again” into that citizenship. If you don’t know Christ, and your only hope for freedom is in your country, I’d beg you to seek Him. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).  America may not always be free. But, God’s promises never fade, and freedom in Christ can be had today, and for all of eternity. For that, I am forever grateful!



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No One Wants the Successful Outcome of a Destructive Goal

By Donna Gibbs

There is a day, week, and month for most any observance under the sun. And among many other observances in the month, January is National Be on Purpose Month. It’s quite fitting, don’t you think? We are all more aware than ever of goals and commitments for the coming year. And without intention and purpose, we’ll likely not meet the objectives that are in our sights.

But while we’re talking about purpose, there is another essential ingredient that we must address: wisdom. You see, we can work intentionally toward anything. In fact, we can work with great intention toward a destructive goal! Toward a goal that will ultimately harm! And who wants the successful end result of a destructive goal? But in wisdom, we receive purpose, which can fuel intention towards a healthy and God-honoring goal.

Solomon, who wrote much of the Proverbs, spoke of wisdom in the first chapter. Solomon makes a point to separate the foolish from the wise. And the distinctions are clear. A foolish person doesn’t seek instruction. A foolish person has their own agenda, and seeks that agenda very intentionally, but perhaps against the advice of a more knowledgeable consultant. To the contrary, a wise person is teachable, and constantly seeks learning. A wise person yearns for guidance and instruction, insight and understanding.

To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, 

in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, 

knowledge and discretion to the youth— Let the wise hear and increase in learning, 

and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, 

the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. 

Proverbs 1:2-7

So this month, Be on Purpose, as the observance declares. Yes, focus on your goals and continue your resolve toward your objectives. But don’t do so with blinders. Wisdom is the beginning of healthy purpose. Seek biblical wisdom. Be teachable. Reach out for competent and biblical help and coaching, rather than thinking you have it all figured out on your own. Remember, no one wants the successful outcome of a destructive goal. 

Be on Purpose, with godly wisdom. And thrive!

Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, and is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse.

Follow Donna’s author page at for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.

It’s a Tough Season: How Remembrance Can Help.

By Donna Gibbs

Life sometimes throws some tough blows, doesn’t it? Have you experienced a challenging season? Are you in the midst of a struggle right now? An all-out war? A crisis? Life this side of eternity is just hard sometimes. And, during those times, we often feel anything but tough. We feel broken. Weak. Defeated.

How do we cope when life gets tough? That question is second only to the question, “Why?” Here are a few thoughts that may direct you through the foggiest of times. They are simply areas of remembrance:

  1. Remember that life is hard for everyone at times. You are not unique. There is nothing different about you. Others really do understand what it is like to struggle (the enemy will lead you to believe that you are alone in this, and that no one else could possibly ever understand).
  2. Remember that this is just a season. According to Ecclesiastes 3, there are appointed times for various seasons of life. Some of these seasons are refreshing, wonderful, joyous times. Other times are tough times. Disastrous. Incredibly sad times. Tough times are a normal aspect of living the human existence. Even permanent changes do not have to lead to permanent struggles. Struggles are temporary – label them as such.
  3. Remember what you already know. When life gets tough, and there is a vast unknown ahead, everything feels chaotic and we can easily become completely overwhelmed. We must allow ourselves to be grounded by what we DO know, versus overwhelmed by what we DON’T know. Take a deep breath, and ask yourself, “Even now, in the midst of my pain, Who do I know…that I know…that I know….that God is?” Then ground yourself in simple, reliable truth until the fog begins to clear.
  4. Remember other times in your life in which you faced a storm, and you survived. Think back to how you coped. What did you do that made that tough time in your life even worse? What did you do that built resilience and allowed you to make it through that discouraging season? What did you ultimately learn through that trial that you desperately need to remember today, in this current season?
  5. Remember that God grows us through the tough stuff. Look with expectation for the strength and resilience that is being forced upon you as you survive your trial. Though you may not thank God for your struggle, be sure to thank Him for the strength to survive, and the growing experience you are encountering.

If you are in a tough spot today, I pray your season will soon come to a close, and that you will gain from this tough time all of the beautiful things that God can bring from it! 
There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
  a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-7

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