As Christians experiencing the pain and heartache of infertility, my husband and I have come to see Sarah and Abraham as dear friends. We would love to chat with them over a cup of coffee; we wonder what our conversations would be like if we asked them about their experiences.
Though we can’t chat with them directly, God’s Word is filled with guidance from their story. He has graciously given us this account of a couple who certainly understands the fear, weight, anxiety, and isolation that bears down upon modern-day couples struggling with infertility.
Four Truths for the Infertile Married Couple
Though Abraham and Sarah are both recognized for their great faith in Scripture, their sin, failures, and shortcomings are also recorded for our growth. Here are four truths we learn about the Lord from the story of Abraham and Sarah that we can apply to our struggles with infertility.
1. The Lord cares.
And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Genesis 15:3-6, emphasis added)
Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. (18:11)
Abraham and Sarah were afflicted by childlessness, and the odds were stacked against them. Their old age and their doubt drove them to take matters into their own hands—and Abraham’s first child Ishmael was born through his servant, Hagar.
When blessings like children are withheld, our sinful, unbelieving hearts often conclude that our desires are insignificant to God or that he has forgotten us. As we believe these lies, we become our own god. But the Lord doesn’t want his children to act in impatience, fear, and doubt. Instead, our Father longs for his children to patiently wait for his answer with trust, reliance, and confidence in him.
2. The Lord is trustworthy.
For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15)
Sarah’s heart was full of guilt, fear, anger, and jealousy after Hagar conceived Ishmael, as her desire for a child gave birth to sin. Sarah’s sin increased and brought pain to her marriage as she blamed Abraham: “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering” (Genesis 16:5).
Abraham’s desire for a child also gave birth to sin as he failed to guard his marriage. He should’ve rebuked Sarah’s sinful suggestion and encouraged her to trust the Lord. Instead, he responded in agreement with passivity.
Sarah and Abraham both failed to protect the sanctity of their God-given union in their quest for a child. Their marriage suffered because they believed they could be the solution to their problem.
The Lord does not regard the sanctity of marriage lightly; he provides a bounty of Scripture that commands us to guard and nourish our union through love, respect, submission, and sacrifice, just as Christ has done for his people (Ephesians 5:21-29).
We see that when we try to handle our own desires, rather than trusting in the Lord, we sin and produce death—even more pain and suffering. So we watch our desires carefully and are aware of any seed of doubt, confessing it to the Lord lest it grow into greater sin that affects other areas of our walk with him or our spouse. 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 your paths straight.
3. The Lord is able.
Over 13 years after Ishmael is born (Genesis 17:25), God promises that Sarah and Abraham will have a son. But Sarah laughs in response:
The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” (18:13-14)
This is one of my favorite verses in Scripture, where the Lord says to this couple’s disbelief: “Is anything too hard for the LORD?”
Sarah’s womb was eventually blessed. She conceived Isaac (whose name translates to “he laughs”) and 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 God did a miracle in a nearly 100-year-old woman. Nothing is too hard for the Lord. He is able.
4. The Lord gives joy.
At Isaac’s birth, Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me” (21:6, NIV). As a result of the Lord’s promise and provision, Sarah and Abraham could only boast in him.
Like Sarah, we too can enter into a life of joy and laughter when we acknowledge what God can and promises to 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 (Romans 15:13).
Hope for the Childless
Even though Sarah 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 is ultimately fulfilled in Christ. God’s good plan is often far broader than we can see or perceive (see 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 through 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 walking uprightly, rather than taking matters into my own hands and giving opportunity for sin?