Saturday, January 21, 2012

Infertile Women of the Bible: Sarah's Story

I was riding in the car this past week and started thinking about how the Bible has stories of different women who struggled with infertility. In biblical times barrenness was a social stigma. I decided to do some reading to see how they dealt with it and maybe gain some perspective.

The first woman I think of is Sarah. Her story is found in Genesis chapters 15-18 and 21. Sarah was married to Abraham, who is the father of both the Islamic and Jewish nations. The story begins with God telling an 80-something year old Abraham that he was going to be the father of many nations. Up until this point he had had no children and was already planning on passing on his estate to one of his servants. Instead of responding with, "God, you're nuts! I'm 80-something", he believed and trusted that somehow God would make it happen.

Now, the Bible doesn't explicitly mention anything about Abraham sharing this information with Sarah, but I can imagine he may have told her what God had said based on her reaction in chapter 16. She heard that God had promised her husband would be the father of many nations, but realized that in her early 70's things just weren't happening for her anymore. She decided to take matters into her own hands. Perhaps instead of the nations coming through her womb, God meant that they would come through the womb of her maidservant Hagar.

Sarah asked her husband to sleep with Hagar, and he agreed. Hagar got pregnant and bore a child when Abraham was 86 (Sarah was 76). Now, this blows my mind. Why would Abraham do this? I can imagine some time had passed between when God had promised Abraham children and that perhaps he thought to himself, "This is a socially acceptable way to get an heir. Maybe this is how God's promise will be fulfilled," and just went along with it. But why would Sarah do this? It's bad enough to live childless with your husband, but then to have to deal with another woman having your husband's baby? Bad idea, sister! She was definitely acting out of desperation and it back-fired on her resulting in heartache and jealousy.

Fourteen years later, God spoke to Abraham again reiterating the same promise, but this time calling out Sarah as the woman who would give birth to this child. He was 100 and she was 90. This time, she overheard the conversation and contrary to Abraham's faith, she was skeptical and laughed at the idea. Nevertheless, God kept his promise and that year Sarah conceived and gave birth to her son Isaac (which means "he laughs"). She's quoted as saying this at his birth, "God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me. Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have born him a son in his old age."

There are a couple things I take away from this story:
  • Trust God. God hasn't promised me I'll be the mother of many nations, but He has placed within me the desire to have children. I can trust that if this is what God has planned for my life, he will accomplish it. If he can do it for a 90 year old, he can do it for a 28 year old. This is faith. (Can you imagine a 90 year old woman in labor? Crazy!!)
  • Wait on God's timing. It took 15-20 years for God's promise to be fulfilled to Abraham and Sarah. Why did He wait so long? I don't know, but it specifically says that God did it "at the appointed time." I've been waiting five years and am not sure how much longer I'll be waiting. But no matter what I do (tracking BBT & cervical mucus, ovulation kits) or how hard I try (having sex as much as possible), I will not get pregnant until God wants it to happen. I can rest in knowing He's working on it.


  1. I found your blog on Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope. I am so sorry for your loss. I too lost my baby, Lily Katherine, who was stillborn at fullterm on March 16, 2010. It’s good to find others who ‘get it’ in the blogging community.

    I’d love for you to follow along on my blog as well:

    -Hannah Rose

  2. Thank You so much for this.

  3. Thank you! I needed the hope. Are you still waiting?

  4. Thank you for this encouragement, I pray everyday for strength and continued faith. We desperately want a child and have been trying for 3 yrs. Praying God answers our prayers it hurts watching all our friends have babies.

  5. Thank you for this encouragement, I pray everyday for strength and continued faith. We desperately want a child and have been trying for 3 yrs. Praying God answers our prayers it hurts watching all our friends have babies.

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  8. I know this is an old post, however... First: trust, yes an important thing, absolutely. However I cannot relate to what it says (she having a child at age 90 (!)) when today - women are being almost pressured into having kids before the age of 35 (!) and warned about how their child might get all kinds of conditions if they wait to have children to after a certain age...! Now, where do God come in, in all of this? If life is such that it has not been possible to start a family within those 'golden years,' (25-35 - ish) then what should a woman do? I mean, after all life happens, and sometimes you might not be ready (there is so much that goes in to starting a family) until 'the health professionals' tells you that you should not have a child, due to your age. So, please explain - if you are over 35 (closer to 40) and would love to start a family, how do you interpret what the Bible says about having children? I am sorry If I explained this in a clumsy way, but it was the best I could do,