Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Barrenness is a common theme in Scripture, and it is a common theme in the lives of many women. May we remember that God is not surprised when this occurs, and during this hardship, may we find rest in the risen King of the Universe.
Barrenness and empty arms have a way of making a woman feel homeless and out of place. Whether your barrenness is due to infertility or loss of a child, your empty arms can make you feel like you don’t belong at church, or even in your circle of friends. You may be surrounded by pregnant women, newborn babies, or families with quivers full of children, and your arms ache to be a part of the club. But you’re not. Is there a place for you in God’s house? You hear the words of the Psalmist, “He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children” (Ps. 113:9), and feel even more alone.
He hasn’t yet made you the joyous mother of children; does he still have a home for you? Maybe you are waiting for God to open your womb, or you are single without any hope of bearing children? You might feel like the Psalmist in Psalm 77 who says:
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refused to be comforted. When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints (Psalm 77:2-3).
In all of your pain and sorrow you desperately want God to hear your prayer and comfort you in this dark season. Baby showers, baby dedications, and even a stroll through Target can be a stark reminder that there is a deep longing in your soul for a baby you long to hold, either in heaven or yet to be formed. And when you cry out to the Lord it seems like he isn’t there either.
I assure you, he is. Behind the dark clouds and frowning providence of this season is a God who cares about every detail of your grief. He may never remove the suffering in this life, but there is a grace for that. There is a tender-hearted Savior for that sorrow. His entire earthly ministry was to people who were outsiders, misfits, and people who did not fit within the world’s definition of worthy and perfect—women who feel out of place at baby showers or in the baby aisle at Target, women who feel homeless in a world full of children.
Barrenness in the Bible
Barrenness is a common theme in Scripture. Sometimes it’s used to highlight God’s judgment on a rebellious people (Job 15:34). Sometimes it’s used to showcase God’s glory in opening up the wombs of women who no one would have dreamed ever could conceive (Gen, 25:21, Judg. 13:3). Regardless of how barrenness is used, it carries the same heavy cloud of shame wherever it is portrayed. If the promised seed was supposed to come through the woman, the barren woman was out of the running for bearing this hoped-for child. On top of that, fruitfulness in the form of children was seen to be a sign of God’s favor (Ex. 23:26). Without the fruit of your womb, not only were you seen as a condemned sinner, but also a woman without purpose. But one of the overarching messages of barrenness in the Bible is that God is not surprised by it.
All of this is the context for Psalm 113. This psalm answers the question, “who is like our God?” by showcasing his goodness in removing the affliction of his people in two distinct categories: poverty and barrenness (vs. 7-9). Poverty, like barrenness, was seen to be a sign of God’s displeasure. Fruitfulness should characterize his people, not scrounging for food. So what does God do in this psalm? He sees (vs. 6) and then he acts. The psalmist is praising God’s sovereign, powerful, and all loving hand of blessing on those who previously were without it. God is in the business of taking the most unlikely of people—despised and rejected in the world’s estimation—and giving them abundance through his kind provision.
The Barren Are Not Homeless
This is exactly the context for the Savior’s arrival into our broken world. His forerunner came through the most unlikely of means—an old barren woman and her equally old husband (Lk. 1:7-18, 1:36). He came through a virgin who had no possible way of conceiving apart from the sovereign hand of God (Lk. 1:26-38). God takes what is impossible and makes a way when there could never be a way.
But what does this mean for you, still waiting in your barrenness? It means he sees you. It means you may never know the end of your empty womb or the reasons behind your prolonged waiting, but God does. For all of us, he is working behind the scenes of our pain and suffering in ways we never could imagine if we tried. I am sure Elizabeth understood that acutely in those early days of her pregnancy, when she probably couldn’t stomach any food, or in the latter days of her pregnancy when she felt her son kick. She likely had given up hope of ever conceiving a child, yet God knew all along the remarkable end to her story of lifelong suffering. In her old age, God gave her a home. But the Savior was coming to do more than give an earthly home to barren women like herself. He was coming to make a heavenly home, where the tears of our brokenness are finally wiped away in the light of his glorious face. All of the language about a promised home in the Old Testament has been met in Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension. He has gone to prepare a place for us that will be ours before we know it (John 14:2-3).
This Savior is not aloof to your pain. He knows it and has created a home for you in his house—in his Kingdom. While your home may not include children, know that he has prepared a place for you. You belong in his Kingdom, and he is there to comfort you in your affliction. If barrenness is your theme, dear sister, hear the Savior’s call to you today:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matt. 11:28-30).
Even if you feel homeless and alone in this world there is a place for you.
Courtney is a wife, mother, and writer. She is the author of The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight in God’s Good Design (Crossway, May 2015). She and her husband live in Little Rock, AR and are members of Midtown Baptist Church, where he serves as one of the pastors. You can follow her on Twitter @courtneyreissig.
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