One of the most prominent portraits of women we see in the Bible is Sarah, wife of Abraham. I want to take a moment to look at her life from the perspective of a woman, because she was, after all, a real woman who faced many challenges just like we do today. Her story speaks to us across distance and time, asking us to believe.
We find her first preparing to move, following her husband, Abram, and her father-in-law Terah. The family would move to Canaan, an unknown land and people. Their exact destiny was unknown, but Abram had a clear command from the Lord God, and Sarai obeyed. Genesis 11:10 says, “But Sarai was unable to become pregnant and had no children.” In one short sentence we learn of Sarai’s deepest pain. In a culture where a woman’s highest value was in childbearing, Sarai’s womb was lifeless. Instantly, our hearts ache for this woman. We cannot help but grieve with her as we see her bravely following her husband away from all that seemed comfortable, familiar and safe. Her empty womb was old news to all who knew her, I wonder, did a day go by that she didn’t feel the sting of her barrenness as she watched nieces and nephews born into the family? Maybe she even welcomed a move, as scary as it was, just to get away from the constant reminder of her failure to produce an heir for her husband.
As Abram, Sarai, and Lot, their nephew, traveled in stages toward Canaan, they surely expected blessing. After all, the Lord had once again spoken promises to Abram, even promising descendants!
But obedience isn’t easy. Though God was with them and had promised to bless them, Abram and Sarai found themselves in a severe famine. Abram decided they would go down to Egypt in hopes of food and refuge until the famine had ended. At this juncture in the narrative, we learn that Sarai was very beautiful… so beautiful that kings would want her. Every time I read this I am amazed and reminded that reality is not what our culture portrays. Sarai was a rich, beautiful woman, with a husband who loved her, but she was a woman who lived with the pain of knowing the one thing she wanted most she could not have. Her beauty and wealth could not produce a child.
How often does the world tell us as women that if only we were beautiful, if only we were wealthy, we would have it all? Sarah had those things to a degree that most of us never will, yet she was dying inside. Please see and understand what we must learn from Sarai’s life… we all have a need only God can supply! Only God can bring life through a barren woman.
Though Sarai was desired by kings and palace officials, it wasn’t pretty. I cannot imagine the fear she felt when she was taken into the king’s palace. I cannot imagine how alone she felt to be bartered off by her husband in order to preserve his life. At this moment in the story I tend to feel furious at Abram…I am a woman after all, but here we see a better Husband come to rescue Sarai. Suddenly, the LORD, roars into action to protect his daughter. God miraculously afflicts Pharaoh and his household with terrible plagues because of Sarai. Let this sink in for a moment: God is a defender of his glory. God protected Sarai, his daughter. Her barrenness was the stage for his glory to be displayed. I am sure Sarai was overwhelmed with wonder at God’s rescue as she was returned to Abram.
Over and over again we see Sarai standing in the shadows watching God grow, test, and change Abram. We observe God testing Sarai, and we see her fail. Maybe she was tired of disappointing Abram month after month… “no…no pregnancy…so sorry.” Maybe she grew weary, her hope all fizzled out as she saw her youth evaporating, and with it every possible hope that she could bear a child. “Take Hagar, have a son through the slave girl.” Maybe Sarai thought it hurt too much to be disappointed one more time, but whatever her reasons, we see her come to hate Hagar, the simple slave girl who was able to become pregnant with no waiting at all. How it must have grated to see her rest her young hands on her swollen belly. To see Abram smile with anticipation as he watched the child Ishmael grow within Hagar’s womb. These are the images that flash across my mind as I read. Did God know she was dying inside? Did he care?
Once again God appears to Abram, and this time he appears as three men whom Abram instinctively seems to know are special. He and Sarai prepare a feast for them, and then they ask about Sarai. Where is she? Well, like any woman would be, she was listening to the men’s conversation from inside the tent and forming opinions on what she heard. She heard their words. How they must have struck a chord in her soul! “This time next year, Sarah will have a son.” Sarah laughed. I imagine a bitter, harsh laugh. A laugh that comes from the place where hope has long since dried up. But the Lord questions her scorn! He heard her heart, and called out her unbelief! I praise God he does not need our faith in order to fulfill his Word. He will do what he says whether we believe or not. Maybe that day Sarah dared to hope again. We do know she was afraid. Fear of God? Well, then our Sarah is in a pretty good place!
Next time we see Sarah we are amazed. We read that God gave her a son at 91 years of age! This part fills me with wonder and tears of joy. Can you see her? Can you imagine tiny wrinkly hands stroking her growing belly? Can you see her tears of joy the first time she felt the little flutters of life inside her womb? Maybe she remembered the prayers she had prayed which, at the time seemed to go nowhere, now answered and sweeter because of the waiting.
An impossible birth? Absolutely! Is there anything too hard for God? I rejoice with a woman I have yet to meet, a woman God calls faithful and obedient, an example for us to follow. Rejoice that our God has a purpose even in our pain. Rejoice that though our hope is gone, he still holds on to us and fulfills his promises. Glory in the reality that the empty places of our lives are often the stage for His glory.
What are your empty places? What are the places in your life that you believe are too far gone for Him to redeem? What are the parts of you that you feel can’t be brought to life? What’s your barren womb? Will you dare to believe, with Sarah, that in His hands He can bring life from our most lifeless places? Will you offer up those broken parts for Him to use for His glory? He can mend the broken parts and redeem what is beyond hope. We are all Sarah. We are all without hope of real spiritual life. There is nothing we can do to change that. It will take a miracle….and yet, through Sarah, the Miracle has come. And we receive Him by faith, like Sarah. And Oh, the life He gives. God used Sarah, not in spite of her barrenness, but because of it. “His power is made perfect in weakness.”
In Christ, we are all barren no more, we are instruments of God’s grace. Our empty places are now filled with the glorious presence of God! Thank God for what he has shown us through Sarah, princess, for we are all daughters of the King!
-by Sherri Lynn
*My blogs are written with the assumption that they are being read primarily by Christians. If you want to know more about what it means to be a Christian or about the gospel of Jesus Christ, click the link here:The Gospel