As I was doing my Bible reading yesterday it suddenly occurred to me that there are quite a lot of women in the there who suffered from infertility. Yet these women were not forgotten by God, and were eventually given a child in God’s perfect timing. I believe that everything that is mentioned in the Bible is something quite important to God if He saw fit to include it in His Word. As I’ve struggled with recurrent pregnancy loss I’ve often found myself longing for the God of Hannah, and Sarai, and Elizabeth to miraculously come through and bring us a child. I stumbled upon this article and it seems that I’m not the only one who has thought this way. I hope you enjoy this excerpt from Alysssa who wrote this article on the blog When you Rise. She has such an insightful way of looking at this topic. I hope you are blessed by this as I was.
The Bible and Barrenness — What does it have to do with Infertility today?
STRUGGLE #1: BARREN WOMEN HAVING KIDS. Have you ever noticed how many barren women are in the Bible? And they all miraculously have kids. Every single one of the Patriarchs has a “barren” wife: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel. Later we see Manoah and his wife, Elkanah and Hannah, and finally, in the New Testament, Zechariah and Elizabeth.
Let me tell you, after two years on the “trying for kids” roller-coaster my heart is raw to these miraculous stories. And at the end of each month my heart weeps as life pours out of me and my hope deflates. It hurts. Barrenness feels like death.
STRUGGLE #2: PROMISES OF CHILDREN. Have you ever noticed how many promises of children are in the Bible? I’ll quote just two:
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.
Behold, thus shall the person be blessed
who fears the LORD.
Now, I don’t know if I even want my children to be quite like “olive shoots” (that implies a LARGE number of kids), but really, where’s the love, God? You tell me that the person who serves and fears you will be blessed with children. With the grace of Jesus I strive to be that person, so where’s the blessing? Why haven’t you “visited” me like you visited the barren women of the Bible?
You shall serve the LORD your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you. None shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days.
And that Exodus quote was pretty fantastic, wasn’t it? Food for everyone. No sickness. No barrenness. Everyone lives to a ripe old age. Wait . . . that doesn’t sound like reality at all!
That’s because what we have here is a picture of restoration to how things used to be—a new Eden. When God brought his people out of Egypt it was a mini-new-creation. But because of the messiness and sin of our world the ideal went unrealized. In the Exodus, God may have created a new people for himself, but he had not yet dealt permanently with sin.
This helps me understand these “unanswered” promises. Everywhere you find such fantastic promises in scripture—like Psalm 128—it is God painting a picture of Eden. Of the ideal that was lost because of sin, but that will one day be restored. And in the meantime we get real-life glimpses of it!
Let’s jump back to the barren women of the Bible, because they offer a few of those “real-life glimpses.” What do they all have in common? It’s that when God finally blesses them with a child, it is a VERY IMPORTANT CHILD.
Sarah - Isaac (Patriarch)
Rebecca - Esau and Jacob (Patriarch)
Rachel - Joseph (his wisdom saves the known world from starvation)
Wife of Manoah - Sampson (delivers the people from the Philistines)
Hannah - Samuel (prepares the people for David)
Elizabeth - John the Baptist (prepares the people for Jesus)
Do you see what is going on here? Barrenness—death—is emphasized in all these stories to make it really obvious that God is doing something miraculous in the world. God is overcoming death. These stories give us glimpses of Eden—of new creation.
I believe that Elizabeth is the last story of a barren woman in scripture because her son prepared the way for Jesus. After Elizabeth, there is no more need for “glimpses” because the new creation has come. Jesus has dealt death a fatal blow. With poetic symmetry, God chose to cure the barrenness of the world with a little baby.
Already but not yet. Baby Jesus brought with him new creation. Yet Earth is not Eden. Jesus, in his mercy, is letting sin and messiness persist for a time so that more people might come to know him. So in the meantime, his people live in messiness too.
Do I still weep when I read Psalm 128? Absolutely! Do I hope for the day that God will give me a glimpse of new creation in my own life in the form of a child? Yes! But I wait, knowing that my struggle with infertility is only a small part of something bigger going on in the world. And I draw hope from the stories of the barren women in scripture—not because I expect a physical child—but because they show that God is always on the move with something bigger than we in our pain can see.