by Katie Schuermann
Children are a heritage from the Lord—a gift from Him—and that good gift is received, not manufactured or made. In His wisdom and time, God makes mothers of women. I take comfort in knowing God will make me a mother according to His perfect will and in His perfect time. I take comfort, that is, until I feel anew the emptiness in my arms and the heaviness in my heart. Within moments, my comfort turns to anger, and my faith turns to doubt. After all, if God gives the gift of children, then why am I barren?
Sarai, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth: Scripture is filled with examples of women whose wombs were closed and opened by God. We often turn to these accounts in our grief, trying to read into them a line of hope for our own barrenness. If God opened Hannah’s womb, might He not open mine as well? If I mourn and pray as she did, will God remember me too? We spend so much time searching in Scripture for an answer to our own physical barrenness that we miss the point and, consequently, our true comfort.
In the Old Testament, barrenness carries with it a certain taboo. Barren women are shunned in their communities and cry out to the Lord for mercy and deliverance. For Sarai and Rachel, barrenness has greater ramifications. The closing of their wombs means eternal death for all of us. As mothers in the Messianic line, their barrenness keeps Christ from coming into this world. When God opens their wombs, we find more than just the comfort of a God who gives barren women the gift of children. We find the comfort of a God who gives a barren, sinful world the gift of a Savior, Christ Jesus, our Lord!
Through the wombs of Hannah and Elizabeth, God makes straight the way of the Savior of the world. Samuel, born of Hannah, grows up to anoint David, the great king of Israel from whose line the Messiah will come. John, born of Elizabeth, grows up to baptize Christ Himself, bearing witness to the Light of the World. By opening Hannah’s and Elizabeth’s wombs, God clearly points the way to the Son of God that all might believe in Him.
After Jesus’ birth in the New Testament, barrenness does not even seem to be an issue. In fact, few barren women are even mentioned. Is it because the barren woman is not important to God? No, it is because Christ has already come. Barrenness can no longer snuff out true Life, for death has been conquered by Christ’s death and resurrection. Our lives are now made full in Christ Jesus, not in our own childbearing.
Why, then? Why am I barren? I don’t know why. When sin entered the world, it was physical as well as spiritual. Illnesses, ailments and barrenness happen, but they have nothing to do with me personally and are simply the reality of the fallen, messed-up world in which we live.
If God makes me a mother, then I can receive His good gift of a child with all joy and confidence in His love for me. If God does not make me a mother, then I can still know with all joy and confidence that God loves me completely in His perfect gift of the child Jesus whose sacrifice on the cross atoned for my sin and reconciled me to my heavenly Father. For this reason, in faith, I can confess that, in this world, barrenness is my cross, but in Christ, barrenness is my blessing.
About the Author: Katie Schuermann is a member of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Dallas, Texas, and author of He Remembers the Barren (Lutheran Legacy).