Journeying through infertility can be lonely. The ache in our hearts, and the pain in our bodies can be isolating, and the enemy can use our weakest moments to trick us into believing that we are alone in our struggle… That we are the only ones walking through infertility, and that others cannot understand our grief.
But scripture tells us otherwise.
Scripture tells us that we are part of a league of extraordinary women whose experiences with infertility served extraordinary purposes in furthering God’s kingdom:
Sarah and Abraham: “Despite God’s promise, years went by. Still Abram’s wife Sarai remained childless. (Genesis 16:1).” At the age of 86, Abraham had a son with Sarai’s servant (at Sarai’s insistence in Genesis 16:2), but at the age of 99, he and Sarah still had no children together. But again, “When Abram was 99 years old, the Eternal One appeared to him again, assuring him of the promise of a child yet to come. (Genesis 17:1).”
This next part is so neat: God told Abraham that “he will become the root of a huge family tree of multiple nations, and that “his descendants will be exceedingly fruitful. Nations and kins will descend from you.” (Genesis 17:4,6)
It gets even better when God tells Abraham that, “Sarah will receive My special blessing, and she will conceive a son by you. With My blessing on her, she will become the founding princess of nations to come. Kings of many peoples will be counted among her children (Genesis 17:16).”
How awesome is that?! She was already 90 years old when God made this promise to Abraham! And of course, God kept His promise to Abraham and Sarah, and Sarah gave birth to Isaac (Genesis 21:1).
“Is anything too difficult for the Eternal One to accomplish? At a time that I will determine, I will return here to you when life emerges from her womb. I am telling you, Sarah will give birth to a son.”
(“At a time that I will determine…” Even then, humans had trouble trusting God’s timing. He promised Sarah a son, but she still had to trust in HIS word and in HIS timing…. She still had to trust that He would keep His promise, at the time that He determined. Wow. That convicts me so powerfully!)
“BY FAITH Abraham’s wife Sarah became fertile long after menopause because she believed God would be faithful to His promise.”
Abimelech’s wife and female slaves: This was news to me, but after Abimelech took Sarah into his harem (when Abraham told him Sarah was his sister instead of his wife), he returned her repentantly upon learning the truth that Sarah was actually Abraham’s wife. Scripture tells us that, after Abimelech returned Sarah to Abraham, “Abraham prayed to God on Abimelech’s behalf, and God healed Abimelech. He also healed the infertility that plagued Abimelech’s wife and female slaves enabling them to again bare children, because God had temporarily sealed the wombs of all the females of Abimelech’s household (Genesis 20:17-18).”
Isaac and Rebekah: Isaac, the son of Abraham and Sarah, “prayed to the Eternal One on behalf of his wife because she wasn’t becoming pregnant (Genesis 25:21).” The Lord granted Isaac’s prayer, but only after TWENTY YEARS of infertility. Rebekah conceived and gave birth to TWINS (Jacob and Esau) after twenty years of pleading with God (25:24). Isaac prayed on behalf of his wife… I bet that means God used Rebekah’s fight with infertility as a tool to strengthen her relationship with her husband. Does that hit close to home for anyone, because it sure does for me! And once again, God’s timing is vastly different from our own.
Rebekah’s son Jacob “gave rise to a great nation; indeed nation after nation will come from him. Kings and rulers shall be numbered among his descendants (Genesis 35:11).”
Rachel: Jacob, Isaac and Rebekah’s younger son (the one mentioned above), married sisters Leah and Rachel. Leah had six sons and one daughter, while the Lord closed Rachel’s womb. Rachel complained often to her husband about her infertility, saying, “I will just die if you don’t give me children (Genesis 30:1)!” Jacob and Rachel even argued about this. The Bible tells us that Jacob became angry with Rachel, saying, “Am I God? He’s the One responsible for you not getting pregnant, not me (Genesis 30:2)!” Even back then, infertility caused stress on marriages!
Finally, Scripture tells us that “God remembered Rachel. He heard her prayer and made her fertile. She conceived and gave birth to her first son. (Genesis 30:22)” She named him Joseph. Rachel died giving birth to her second son, Benjamin. Jacob set up a pillar to mark his wife’s tomb, and the pillar still stands today (Genesis 35:18).
Jacob had twelve sons, who became the twelve tribes of Israel.
Manoah’s wife: Though Scripture does not name her, it does tell us that, “Manoah, from the tribe of Dan, was married to a wife who could bear him no children (Judges 13:2).” A Messenger of the Lord came to Manoah’s wife, and told her that though she is barren, that is about to change. He told her that she will give birth to a son. He told her never to use a razor on his head, because she will raise the boy as a Nazirite, dedicated to the True God, and he will be the one to begin delivering Israel from the Philistines. Sound familiar? Manoah’s wife, who was barren, gave birth to Samson. Samson, through his physical weakness, helped deliver the people of Israel.
Hannah and Elkanah: Hannah prayed year after year after year for children. She was often consumed with thoughts of infertility, so distraught that she could not eat. The Bible tells us that Hannah was heartbroken, and she began to pray to the Eternal One, weeping uncontrollably as she did (1 Samuel 1:9-10). When Eli saw Hannah praying (she was weeping, and her lips were moving, but words were not coming out…boy does that sound familiar!) he rebuked her for being drunk. Hannah had to explain to him that she was not drunk, but that she was a woman who has been pouring out the pain in her soul before the Eternal One (1 Samuel 1:15).
Out of all of the stories I have read about infertility in the Bible, Hannah’s is the one that resonates the loudest. Her pain in something that I can feel reading the Scriptures, and it is a familiar pain, a familiar longing, and a familiar frustration. The Bible so clearly portrays the depths of her emotional, physical, and spiritual pain.
But eventually, God remembered Hannah’s petition, and she became pregnant with Samuel. After giving birth to Samuel, Hannah conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters.
Her son Samuel grew tall, and wise in the ways of the Lord. He grew in favor with God and with the people he served (2:26). Samuel eventually became the last and greatest judge of Israel.
“It was this child I prayed for, and the Eternal has indeed granted me the petition I made. So, as I vowed, I will lend him back to the Eternal. For as long as he lives, let him serve our Eternal One.”
-1 Samuel 1:27
Michal: Michal was King Saul’s daughter, and the first wife of David (1 Samuel 19). She was the princess, and became the wife of a king, yet had no children. Hers is the only story of infertility in the Bible that does not end with a miracle child. Michal remained barren until her dying day (2 Samuel 6:23).
But even her infertility had a purpose. God saw the bigger picture, because He is the one who wrote and illustrated the whole story. And because Michal had no children, no descendant of Saul ever regained the throne of Israel. Through Michal’s infertility, God wrote this part of human history.
The Shunammite Woman: The Bible does not even tell us this woman’s name. We only know that she was kind and hospitable to the prophet Elisha. She was barren, but Elisha promised her that, in exchange for her good service to him, she would conceive a son. Although the woman claimed that such would be impossible, she held her son in her arms one year after Elisha prophesied over her (2 Kings 4:16-17).
Elizabeth and Zecharias: We learn in Luke 1:6 that Elizabeth and Zecharias were good and just people in God’s sight, walking with integrity in the Lord’s ways. But they had the sadness that, due to Elizabeth’s infertility, they were childless. Additionally, they were both well past childbearing years.
There are just so many cool things about this story. A Messenger of the Lord came to Zecharias and explained to him that his wife would have a son, whom they were to call John. He would be filled with the Holy Spirit, even in Elizabeth’s womb, and he would be born with the mission to turn many of the people of Israel around to follow the path of the Lord their God (Luke 1:14-16).
Elizabeth’s son was being born to fulfill a prophesy. He was being born as the Lord’s forerunner, the one who would prepare the people and make them ready for God (Luke 1:17)!!!
“When the time was right (Here we go again with waiting on God’s timing!) Elizabeth gave birth to a son. News about the Lord’s special kindness to her had spread through her extended family and the community. Everyone shared her joy, for after all these years of infertility, she had a son!”
Because of Elizabeth’s journey through infertility, “People were certain that God’s hand was on this child, and they wondered what sort of person John would turn out to be when he became a man (Luke 1:66).”
Elizabeth was old and barren. This created the perfect situation for God to perform a miracle! Through Elizabeth’s story, people were already certain that God’s hand was in John’s life before he was even born. He had a platform while still in her womb!
After years of infertility, Elizabeth became the mother of John the Baptist.
In each of these stories, including the story of Michal, who had no children, God used infertility to show His miraculous power, and to carry out His plan for human history.
Except for Michal, God opened all the wombs of these previously barren woman. In two instances the women were clearly beyond child- bearing years, yet they bore sons of promise. I realize why God did not allow Michal to have children, but even now, my heart hurts for her. I do not understand the ways of God. I do not understand the heart of God, and I do not understand His timing. But I know He performed miracles then, and He performs them still today.
So for all of you mommas-in-waiting, I know you are painfully aware of your infertility, not just during this one week of the year, but every day of every week of each year that passes leaving your womb empty and your arms childless.
But be aware of this also: We serve a God who is not blind to our pain. We serve a God who knows our pain, who feels it with us, and who is working while we wait. He sees the big picture, because He is the one who painted it. It is lovely, it’s meaningful, and it is greater than we could ever imagine.
“Into the home of the childless bride, He sends children who are, for her, a cause of happiness beyond measure.
Praise the Eternal!”