Infertility and the Will of God

I received this question yesterday:

During a sermon you talked about people having it in their hearts to be parents. But then you said if that doesn’t happen God has another plan. In the Old Testament, whenever a woman was barren, it was a bad reflection on that woman. Please comment on why that isn’t the case now. It seems like in old testament it was intended for all women to be giving birth.

I know that there are many godly women who struggle with infertility and wonder about this very question.

It is important to remember that in the time of the Old Testament, the view that barrenness was a curse was generally held by all cultures and societies, and was not unique to the people of God.
In ancient cultures the measure of a woman’s worth and value was often based on how many children she could produce, since having children was essential for livelihood and security.
However, the Bible’s view is that all people have intrinsic value, being created in the image of God – and one’s value is not determined by what or how much they can produce.
The Bible, including the Old Testament, has a more nuanced view of barrenness than that it was always a bad reflection on the woman. The Bible recognizes that even godly women struggle with infertility. If you look at a list of women in the Bible who struggled with infertility, you find that almost all of them were godly women, such as Hannah at the beginning of 1 Samuel. One commonly mentioned exception to this is Michal, who we studied about last Sunday in 2 Samuel 6, but in her case, we do not know exactly what the reason for her barrenness was: Was it because after she mocked and criticized David he refused to share a bed with her any more? Was it because God didn’t allow her to have children because of her disdain for David’s heart for the Lord? Was it for some totally unrelated reason, yet it is mentioned because of it’s poetic justice in the context of that story? We can’t know for sure.
To the point that God’s intention in the Old Testament seems to be that all women would be able to give birth: infertility and miscarriages are listed in Exodus and Deuteronomy in the same category as sicknesses and afflictions which are part of the result of the Fall – and the broken world we live in. That means that infertility and miscarriages are not God’s design, and therefore we should pray for those who want to have children but struggle with infertility just as we pray for the sick.

Furthermore, God created women to be life-givers, and that is not limited only to childbearing.

On a personal note, good friends of mine, great godly people who loved the Lord and served alongside us, were not able to get pregnant for many years. Finally they came and asked us to pray for them; we had not realized they were wanting to get pregnant but couldn’t. So we prayed for them and less than a year later we welcomed their daughter into the world. It was a glorious thing.
Other friends of mine have wanted to have children, have prayed, and yet they were not able to conceive. Does God sometimes say “No” to our requests? Like we see in 2 Samuel 7 – yes, and in those cases we must trust Him, that there is a reason, even if I know it not – much like David, not knowing for years why God told him no. However, we must ask and seek and knock!

I would encourage anyone struggling with fertility issues to ask for prayer.

Sold into the Hand of Sisera

Last Sunday I preached on 1 Samuel 12, which is the speech that Samuel gives to the nation at the re-coronation of Saul.

There is a very intriguing statement in this section, which I didn’t address in the sermon, but I think is worthy of consideration.

And Samuel said to the people, “The Lord is witness, who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt. Now therefore stand still that I may plead with you before the Lord concerning all the righteous deeds of the Lord that he performed for you and for your fathers. When Jacob went into Egypt, and the Egyptians oppressed them, then your fathers cried out to the Lord and the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your fathers out of Egypt and made them dwell in this place. But they forgot the Lord their God. And he sold them into the hand of Sisera, commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab. And they fought against them. And they cried out to the Lord and said, ‘We have sinned, because we have forsaken the Lord and have served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. But now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, that we may serve you.’ And the Lord sent Jerubbaal and Barak and Jephthah and Samuel and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and you lived in safety. (1 Samuel 12:6-11, ESV)

Samuel says: Let me tell you of all the righteous deeds of the Lord that he performed for you.  Then he tells them that God “sold them into the hand of Sisera,” a Philistine general.

Notice – he didn’t ‘allow them to fall into the hand of Sisera’ – it wasn’t a passive allowance, but an active SELLING! He SOLD them into the hand of Sisera – and THIS, of all things, is given as an example of one of the righteous acts of the Lord, which he performed on behalf of the people of Israel because of his love and care for them!

This is a little bit different picture of God than what we usually get in the “moralistic therapeutic deism” which is passed for Christianity these days in many places – where God exists to be your friend, make your problems go away and make your wishes come true. When bad things happen, usually we are told that God passively allows these things to happen to you, so that you can grow through them.

But isn’t that a bit trite and simplistic?  Not to mention – that viewpoint has no capacity to deal with real evil – or even with scriptures such as the one mentioned above. The vision of God given here is of a God who is willing to sell you into the hand of Sisera if that’s what it takes to get you to turn back to Him! To God, in this story, it was obviously more important to Him that the people of Israel turn back to Him and pursue Him than that they be comfortable and problem-free.

What about you? Is it possible that the difficulties in your life have not just been passively “allowed” by God, but actively sent by God into your life for the purpose of moving you in a certain direction or getting you to a certain place, either physically or spiritually?

Could it be that God has sold you into the hand of Sisera in order to do a work in your heart, because He loves you?