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.