I often wonder what our interaction would look like if I could sit with Sarah and Abraham (recorded in Genesis) over a cup of coffee, asking them for insight based on their experience with infertility. They would certainly understand the fear, weight, anxiety, and isolation that bears down on modern-day couples.
Though Abraham and Sarah are both recognized for their great faith in Scripture, their sin, failures, and shortcomings are also recorded for our growth. I imagine these would be their words of guidance and warning:
“Don’t be Motivated by Fear and Impatience”
In Old Testament times, if a wife couldn’t bear a child, social custom and ancient legal systems encouraged wives to give their maidservants to their husbands. But this decision was life-altering for Sarah and Abraham. Even though the Lord warned Abraham that his servant’s child wouldn’t be his heir (Gen. 15:4-5), they didn’t listen. They were so afflicted by their childlessness that they took matters into their own hands; Abraham’s first child Ishmael was born through his servant Hagar.
When blessings like children are withheld, our sinful, unbelieving hearts conclude that our desires are insignificant to God and that we are forgotten by him. As we believe those lies, we become our own god.
But the Lord desires not for his children to act in impatience, fear, and doubt; our Father longs for his children to be motivated by trust, reliance, and confidence in him.
“Love Isn’t Enough”
It’s apparent that Sarah was motivated by her love for Abraham and her desire for him to have a son. Though love drove her, the sin attached to her love subsequently caused discord, jealousy, anger, resentment, tension, and pain.
Sin motivated by love is still sin. We must love the Lord our God (Deut. 6:5), seek him first (Matt. 6:33), and deny ourselves (Matt 16:24). We must put off our old self, our former way of life that was once corrupt through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of our minds, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:22-24).
“Guard Your Marriage”
Sarah and Abraham equally failed to protect the sanctity of their God-given union in their quest for a child. The husband-wife roles shifted dramatically and painfully because they believed they could be the solution to their own problems. This is why Proverbs 3:5-6 warns us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
Sarah became polluted with guilt, fear, anger, and jealousy after Hagar conceived Ishmael. Her sin increased and brought pain to the marriage as she blamed Abraham: “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering” (Gen. 16:5).
Abraham also failed to guard their marriage. He should have rebuked Sarah’s sinful suggestion and encourage her to trust the Lord; instead, he responded in agreement with passivity.
The Lord does not regard the sanctity of marriage lightly; he provides a bounty of Scripture to guide and protect us. We are to guard and nourish our union through love, respect, submission, and sacrifice, just as Christ has done for his people (Eph. 5:21-29).
“Nothing is too Hard for the Lord”
From their testimonies comes one of my favorite verses in Scripture, where the Lord says to Abraham regarding why Sarah laughed in disbelief of their promised child: “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Gen. 18:13).
Sarah’s womb was eventually blessed and she conceived Isaac (whose name translates to “he laughs”), and she became the mother to the nation of Israel. Isaac would father Jacob. Jacob would father 12 sons who would become heads of the 12 tribes of Israel. From the tribe of Judah would come David, and finally Jesus Christ, God’s promised Messiah who would redeem the world.
Our Savior was born because of the Lord’s miracle in a nearly 100-year-old woman. Nothing is too hard for the Lord. He is able.
“He Gives Joy”
At Isaac’s birth, Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me” (Gen. 21:6, NIV). As a result of the Lord’s promise and provision, Sarah and Abraham could only boast in him, which was his original intent for them.
Like Sarah, we too can enter into a life of joy and laughter when we acknowledge what God can and will do for us, even in the uncertainty. Our God of hope can fill us with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit we may abound in hope (Rom. 15:13).
Gospel Hope for the Childless
Even though Sarah’s and Abraham’s blatant rebellion and unbelief were offensive to God, he didn’t abandon them. He waited for them to return to him and acknowledge him as Lord. He established a lasting covenant, and God’s promise to provide Abraham with offspring like the stars has been fulfilled in Christ. The Lord’s good plan is often far broader than we can see or perceive (Romans 4; 11:33-36).
Christian, we serve a God who delights in lavishing grace and favor on repentant, dependent sinners. Our sin through infertility — even the brokenness of infertility itself — can only be dealt with at the cross and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As you wait for a child, search your heart and ask: Am I trusting the Lord’s care for me? Am I trusting that he is able to provide? Am I humbled? Am I walking upright? Am I giving way to sin in my impatience and fear? Do I trust that nothing is too hard for him?