December 29, 2008
Joy of the Barren
by Sarah Jennings, Crosswalk.com Family Editor
Who is like the LORD our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes, with the princes of their people. He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord. ~ Psalm 113: 5 - 9
I’ve always thought New Year’s was an inherently bittersweet holiday. Yes, it’s an opportunity for a fresh start. But New Year’s Day also stands as a mile-marker on the road of life, reminding you and I that another year is behind us never to be revisited.
For those who are waiting on the Lord for an answer to a prayer, this reality can be especially painful. Perhaps last year you rang in ’08 with hopes that it would be the year a burden would be lifted or a blessing finally bestowed. But it wasn’t.
Oh sure, plenty of other blessings came your way. And you’re thankful for them. But the one prayer heaviest on your heart hasn’t born fruit.
It’s easy to lose hope in these situations. Doesn’t God see our pain? Doesn’t He want what’s best for us? When will He relieve our silent suffering?
When I find myself asking these questions, my thoughts often turn to the countless men and women of the Bible who endured a particularly difficult form of unanswered prayer: childlessness. While studies show that “choosing childlessness” is an increasingly popular lifestyle in modern cultures, this concept would be utterly foreign in Biblical times. That’s because children were truly your inheritance and your family provided your identity, security, and legacy. Adding to the loneliness of ancient infertility, a barren womb was often viewed within the community as a sign of sin in the sufferer’s life, and thus a form of divine punishment.
But Scripture reveals to us that while the barren endured many exterior and interior trials, some of the most significant men and women in salvation history were born of parents who suffered from this unique cross.
Abraham, Sarah, Rebekah, Hannah, and Rachel are just a few of God’s chosen people in the Old Testament who faced lengthy, difficult waits before their prayers were answered. But when He answered the desires of their hearts, He answered them in big ways. Their children -- among them Isaac, Jacob, Samuel, and Joseph -- played key roles in salvation history and in most cases, brought great joy to their parents.
Or what about
Whatever your desire, waiting on the Lord for its fulfillment can come with intense struggles. But these stories also point to the greater truth that the Lord will not leave us crying on the church steps or old, bitter, and empty-handed if we continue to have faith in Him. It’s even possible that God is asking you to wait so He can bring about even greater joy for you in the future than had your prayers been answered sooner.
We may not always know why we are being asked to wait, or for what purpose He will use our waiting. But just as God filled our barren world on Christmas night with His presence, He can fill whatever hole exists in your heart in ways better than you or I can imagine.
Intersecting Faith & Life: Entrust your future to God, and ask Him to show you ways you can grow in faith, hope, and love during the coming year.