Posted by: genelnicholsblog | January 18, 2015

the burden of barrenness

Study her life and you will see impatience, jealousy, whining, pouting, meanness and even a tantrum or two (It’s a good thing that none of those can ever describe us!). Continue to study the life of Sarah and you see that Scripture commends her; Peter called her name as an example of a Biblical wife and Hebrews names her in the Hall of Faith chapter.  Sarah only gave birth to one child, but that singular birth made her the matriarch of Hebrew history.

We first meet Sarah at the age of 65; her husband, Abraham, was 75. One of the first things Scripture mentions about her is that she was barren.

Now Sarai was childless because she was not able to conceive.
Genesis 11:30

Sarah was tortured by this fact. Every account of her “throwing a fit” was connected to her frustration over not being able to have a child.  There was great societal pressure over this; the belief was widely held that a woman who could not conceive was cursed by God because of sin in her life.  It was a great shame to a woman.  More about that later, but first, here is some background on Sarah and her husband.

Her birth name was Sarai which means “my princess.” God did not change her name to Sarah until she was 90 years old.  Scripture repeatedly refers to her beauty, and let me remind you that she is 65 years old the first time it is mentioned of her.  Wherever she went, her beauty was noticed.  (Refer to Mike’s post from last week for the account of the troubles that caused!)  The couple lived in the urban center of Ur which was in present-day Iraq.  It was a pagan culture and idolatry was widespread, but they worshipped the true God.  When Abraham decided to move to Canaan, Sarah never complained about the journey, and that is saying something because by the time they reached their destination, they had traveled over 1,000 miles!  The first thing they did was build an altar and praise God. God appeared to Abraham there and again told him he would be the father of a great nation … with a barren wife.

God repeated this promise to Abraham several times and undoubtedly Abraham shared it with Sarah each and every time.  I believe this had to add to her burden each day she remained childless.  Did Sarah believe God’s promise?  I would say yes, due to what we learn of Sarah through Scripture; one does not earn a place in the Hall of Faith by a pattern of unbelief.  However, I think she could not embrace the unconditional nature of the promise, and that it was so much more than a promise … it was a covenant.  Age and biological clocks were inconsequential to the fulfillment of the covenant.  If only Sarah could have put all her trust in that fact, her burden of barrenness would have been relieved.

Belief and faith can be completely different from unconditional belief and faith.  We as mere humans can always come up with the giant, “but…” that robs us of relief from our burdens.  God is omnipotent.  His promises are true.  And His love is unconditional. That was a fact for Sarah, and it is still a fact in 2015 … Their stories are our stories.


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