Life is funny. Where we plan to be and where we end up sometimes are two very different things.
I’ve wanted a family since I was little. You know. The classic, traditional dream so many girls have. I would think ‘one day when the time is right, I’ll get married, we’ll have two kids – one boy, one girl, in that order – and we’ll live happily ever after.
Sometimes it can be a good thing that things don’t turn out the way we plan. Like how God knew better than I did what kind of man I needed. And that he would have three beautiful children already.
And sometimes things don’t turn out the way you planned in a different way. A way that feels…less. That’s what the rest of my dream feels like right now. I never thought in a million I would be one of the childless women I’d seen in movies.
‘Normal’ can be used to describe me so much I was sure it would one day describe this part of my life too. And although I know there are plenty of women in the world struggling with infertility right this minute, I don’t know any of them, which makes me feel alone.
I’ve said it many times, but I’ll say it again, the Bible has answers and lessons for anything we’re facing – infertility included.
Maybe even especially infertility, which brings me to my next point: there were a lot of women who struggled with the same thing I’m going through right now in the Bible. Even though I feel alone, I’m not.
I’ve rounded up all the women I could find in the Bible called barren or childless to see what I can see from their stories.
Who Were These Barren Women in the Bible?
Sometimes I think the people of the Bible somehow had it easier than I do, because well…they’re dead now. Don’t ask me how that equates to easier, but I’m reminded a lot that their struggles were just as real and painful to them as mine are to me.
So who were these women?
- Sarah (and Abraham) gave birth to Isaac, the child of the promise of the Messiah.
- Rebekah (and Isaac) had Jacob who was later called Israel because he fathered the twelve tribes of Israel.
- Leah (and Jacob) had Judah who was in the line of the Messiah.
- Rachel (and Jacob) had Joseph whose misfortunes were used to put him in a place of power and save the whole nation of Israel from starvation.
- An unknown woman married to Monoah gave birth to Samson. He became a great judge of Israel who rescued them all from the hand of Philistines.
- Hannah (and Elkanah) had Samuel who was a great prophet of Israel and anointed David king of the nation.
- Michal remained childless after she hated David in her heart for dancing before the Lord in praise.
- The Shunammite woman had a son who the prophet Elisha later brought back to life.
- Elizabeth (and Zechariah) gave birth to John the Baptist who fulfilled Isaiah’s prophesy to be the forerunner for the Messiah.
What I See in Their Stories
These are all the women I could find, and there are several interesting lessons I see from them.
- Their pain was real. It comes through even though some of the details aren’t specific in some of the accounts. They weren’t just faceless women who lived and died a long time ago. They understood what it was like.
- Their cries were heard by God. He knew, loved them through it, and answered them.
- They weren’t the only ones hurting. When I go back and read those accounts, it’s not just the anguish of childless women coming through to me, it’s the anguish of their husbands too. We like to think that barrenness is solely a woman’s cross to bear and that men aren’t affected by it other than wanting their women happy. That’s not true at all. It’s also not a problem exclusive to those who have no children. Look at Jacob. He had children with Leah, his first wife, but he also wanted children with the woman his heart loved.
- Sometimes they waited a long time. Abraham and Sarah waited about twenty years – after they were promised a line – for Isaac’s birth. Isaac and Rebekah waited about the same amount of time for Jacob and Esau.
- Their pain was for a purpose and a time. For all the godly women, their grief accomplished God’s purpose. It wasn’t for nothing. Each one bore a son who was used mightily for God’s glory, and even their sons’ births couldn’t be attributed to anything but God’s grace and power.
- Their waiting was used to prepare them. This kind-of goes with my last point, but I thought it important enough to stand on its own. Each godly woman had a special testimony to share with her children and were specially prepared to raise them to be the men they needed to be. After all, the children probably heard about those miracles all their lives.
- The only one punished with barrenness was Michal. Scripture is quite clear that children are a gift from God, so it’s pretty easy to think you’ve done something wrong when God hasn’t blessed you with children. Now, all the women did wrong in some way – no one’s perfect but Jesus, but those who loved God waited just so long for God to accomplish His purpose. The only real difference I see between them and Michal was she despised God.
We do have to keep in mind when looking back at the examples given in the Bible that the promises given to them were specific to them and their circumstances. Don’t hear what I’m not saying (as my preacher likes to say): I’m not saying that if we love God enough, He’ll bless us with children of our own.
I am saying that we can learn from the good and bad of those who came so long before us, and the biggest good I’ve learned from them – and my own experiences – is that God always has a better plan than I do.
Maybe that includes one day having a child of my own. Maybe I’ll be blessed enough to adopt a child. Or maybe there’s something else I can’t even see yet.
The point is I have to wait for that better plan. And sometimes ‘normal’ – or ‘happily ever after’ – is completely different from what we imagined … in the best way. The God way.
So did I miss anyone? Can you think of anyone else who struggled with infertility in the Bible? And what lessons do you learn from these women? Is infertility a struggle you’ve known? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
P.S. I’ve found a few other resources you should read if you’re wanting more on this topic.
- Infertility Resources from Chris and Megan Rea @ No Small Life
- Hope When We’re Living a Hard Story by Holley Gerth @ (In)Courage
- 16 Things Infertility Has Taught Me by Danielle Davis @ Today’s the Best Day
- The Truth About Your Infertile Friend by Danielle Davis @ Today’s the Best Day