I've had a lot of friends who've struggled with infertility or miscarriages, so it's a topic close to my heart. My own mother had 3 miscarriages when I was a young girl, so I know intimately the pain felt at such losses. Though it has never been my own personal experience (apart from being single and desiring children, but that's a different sort of wrestle!), it appears that this struggle and desire to be a mother is one of the most difficult and painful a woman can walk through. Scripture has much to say on this subject as well, and I've been so encouraged through the years as I encountered various narratives of women found there. However, it wasn't until yesterday that I pieced them all together. I want to take you through my thought process a bit, but first let me paint a small picture for you by mentioning all the women Scripture said were barren (I may miss some, but these are the ones I can recall off the top of my head):
Sarah was barren before Isaac (Genesis 15:2)
Rebekah was barren before Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25:21)
Rachel was barren before Joseph (Genesis 30:1)
Manoah's wife was barren before Samson (Judges 13:2)
Hannah was barren before Samuel (1Samuel 1:5)
Elizabeth was barren before John (Luke 1:7)
Read through that list of men there again- what strikes you with each of them? All were influential in the pages of Scripture in mighty ways! Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph were key instruments in the beginning of the nation of Israel. Samson was a powerful judge that brought peace from the Philistines. Samuel was an incredible leader of God's people for his entire lifetime. And John the Baptist paved the way for Jesus' ministry. God had a plan for each of their lives that powerfully affected His plan for His children. There wasn't ever a doubt in His mind that they would be born- to Him being outside of time, their mothers weren't barren at all! So, it would seem that God was after something much more than just these women having children... I mean, isn't that the "natural and normal" order of how things work: get married and have children? So, to have put a "pause" on them rushing forward into living a "normal life" seems a bit interesting.
Something that also strikes me as interesting is there are a few of the stories where it mentions that God was the One who closed her womb. Take Hannah, for instance, it says "the Lord had closed her womb" twice in back-to-back verses (repeating it emphasizes it even more!). What in the world?! Why would God be the One to cause such pain in her life?
The answer appears to be simple to me (and yet not simple at all...): God was after something so much more than giving these women a "normal life". He was after their hearts. You see, there is something about suffering that develops a depth of character that no one living a "normal life" will ever be able to find. By allowing these ladies to walk through sorrow, He laid the foundation for them to parent these young men who would one day lead His people. These men bear the marks of their mother's intimacy with the Lord that likely originated in their barrenness and crying out to God.
Please don't hear me say that if you're struggling to get pregnant, you can cry out to God and know that He'll give you a child (or if you're single, you can believe God will bring a husband), because that's not at all what these verses teach! The beauty found here is that God is intimate, sometimes in the pruning, sometimes in the pausing of desires, sometimes in the withholding, and sometimes in the giving. But the wonderful thing that can be counted on in each is that He's after your heart and the hearts of those around you, whether that one day gets to be your children, your husband, or simply deep friendships. Don't waste your suffering by missing the opportunity to meet Him in the pain and to give Him your heart and tears!