We had been married two months. I remember sitting in my car in our garage just weeping. I had just talked with yet another friend who remained unable to have children. For years she had taken many pregnancy tests, only to have them be negative.
I wept for two reasons: 1) I hated that my friend couldn’t bear children (and still has been unable to, but has adopted through foster care) and 2) I wondered if we would be a couple that struggled with infertility.
I got married in my mid-thirties and by the time we did get pregnant (a few weeks after the above crying session), the doctors had already labeled me “high risk.” But God saw fit to gift us two sweet boys who are 3 and 2. I love them dearly.
A few weeks ago I sat in my local McDonald’s where I normally sit for my quiet time and I came to the familiar story found in Genesis of an older couple that God calls: Abraham and Sarah. We find out something totally important about Sarah (then Sarai) in Genesis 11. Sarah couldn’t have children. The Bible said she was barren. Her womb story was that there wasn’t going to be any womb story. She had no child.
Yet, in Genesis 17, God promises to Abraham and Sarah that they are going to have a child and that future generations of God’s people are going to come from their child. Their boy. Wait…Sarah was barren.
God’s barren belly was no surprise to God. He knew it because He created her. He knew it when He chose her to be the wife of Abram. He knew it when He called Abram to be the father of many nations. He is so much bigger than any of our limitations. He is our author and the beautiful perfecter of our stories.
For me, I’m not in a barren season as it pertains to bearing children, but I definitely feel like I’ve been in a barren season when it comes to ministry. When I got married at the age of 34, I was in the midst of an amazing time of ministry. For years I had been pouring into college girls, traveling and speaking at women’s groups and leading studies, and writing church Sunday School curriculum. In over 4 years of marriage, I’ve only spoken at one women’s retreat. And I’ve not taught any studies. I’ve not really had any deep discipleship relationships. This for me, is a heart-wrenching season. It is a lonely, unknown season.
Here is what I know:
1. God calls the barren woman. Not only barren in children, but women who he has placed in barren seasons of life. When nothing seems to be life-giving, he calls us to be faithful.
2. God knows about our laughing hearts. Sarah laughed when she heard that she was going to have a baby. I think I might laugh mockingly at God right now if he told me he had some big ministry for me. (Yes, that is outside of my ministry to my husband and my two boys.) He knows that we are weak. And yet he confirms his plans in us, daily as we follow him.
3. He wants to show us his perfect plan. There are a few other ways that God is allowing me to have life-giving ministries – but just not in the way I’m used to. He also has brought so much pain and loneliness in my life the past four years that he has proved himself so faithful and constant. That is his perfect plan. That I would know him.
So, whether you are barren in your womb story or barren in your ministry story – know that God is the author of life and he hears your laughter, your tears, and your fears. And He is good – and all He does is good (that’s one of our son’s life verse.)