Monday, August 26, 2013

All Eyes on the Infertile: Sarah's Laughter

As I have dealt with infertility, the stories in Scripture about barren women have become especially dear to my heart. I wonder what these heartbroken women would have thought had they known that their lives would encourage women like me thousands of years later? Oh how critical their stories and the stories of their children are to God's redemption plan! It was as if God wanted all eyes to be on them so all could see that He was doing something huge.

Sarah is the first woman we see in Scripture who is barren, and is she ever the epitome of desperation. Years before, God had called Abraham and promised him that he would be made into a great nation. Sounds like an amazing promise, but the problem was that Abraham and Sarah couldn't have children.  Out of her despair, Sarah finally gives her maidservant to her husband so she may have a child. It's crazy and a bit disturbing, but this is a desperate woman here, willing to do anything to have her baby. Of course, this fixes nothing and only results in more problems.

More time goes by, more heartbreaking days and nights, and finally God gives the sure promise that she would bear a child. Her response? Disbelief and laughter! And I get it! She's an old, worn, exhausted ninety-year-old woman! But she does indeed bear a son, Isaac. I smile every time I read her words after she has her son: "God has brought me laughter," she says. I think about the utter joy she must have had holding her baby for the first time. I mean, could she have even gotten through a single day without breaking down in grateful tears? I doubt it.

The thing is, even though God blessed Sarah and others with their babies eventually, it was never an easy path. There were real tears and real cries, genuine frustration and genuine desperation. And more often than not, it took many, many years for their hopes to become reality. As readers today, we may see it all resolved in a matter of chapters, but those of us in the land of barrenness know that those chapters can feel endless. Those women––just like many of us––had no clue that there would ever be a resolution. We may get to begin the story knowing the final picture of Sarah laughing out of joy, but she didn't have that luxury.

She couldn't see her laughter, and neither can I see mine. I wish I could. I wish I could flip forward a few chapters, to the page with the photograph I desperately desire, to the picture of me joyously laughing.

But I don't get that picture. None of us does. But God does give me countless other images to hold on to and carry with me. He gives me the picture of the shepherd who leaves the others to find the one wandering sheep; the Father who runs unashamedly to welcome His lost child; the Savior who willingly dies for a people who have rejected Him. He gives me the image of the slain Lamb, the risen and glorified King, the extravagant banquet table, and the never-ending River of Life.

And He gives me the image of Sarah's laughter. She may not have known that ending before the time came, but I do. I get to read her story, knowing that although some days were dark and desperate, light would come. Tears of sorrow and laughter of disbelief would turn to tears and laughter of joy and faith.

So today, I'm smiling at that picture of Sarah, knowing that the same God who worked mightily in her life cares for me, too.