Wednesday, February 27, 2008

God of Infertility

As I've mentioned before, I'm reading through the Chronological Bible this year. In the early portion of Genesis, something struck me in a new way. Have you ever noticed just how many of the women in the first generations of God's chosen people had to deal with infertility?

First, God tells Abraham that he's going to be the father of a great nation, that the number of his descendants will be like the grains of sand on the beach. Then Abraham and Sarah proceed to wait. In fact, they grow old without having produced a single child.

Eventually, of course, Sarah gives birth to Isaac. When Isaac becomes an adult, one of Abraham's servants returns to their homeland to find him a wife. The servant prays for a specific sign so he'll be sure to choose the woman that God has picked out for Isaac. God sends the sign. Apparently, he also sends Isaac another infertile woman. Genesis 25:21 says, "Isaac pleaded with the Lord to give Rebekah a child because she was childless." (New Living Translation) God answered the prayer and Rebekah had twins, Jacob and Esau.

Jacob married two sisters, Leah and Rachel. Guess what? Rachel struggled with infertility. This passage is from Genesis 30: "When Rachel saw that she wasn't having any children, she became jealous of her sister. 'Give me children, or I'll die!' she exclaimed to Jacob. Jacob flew into a rage. 'Am I God?' he asked. 'He is the only one able to give you children!'" (NLT, verses 1-2) Rachel did eventually give birth to two children, one of them the great patriarch, Joseph.

God chose this line of people and set them apart. He intended them to become a nation and promised them they would be fruitful and produce many descendents. He fulfilled this promise, but not without causing the first three generations to struggle with infertility. Having those children did not come easily to Abraham's family. They had to wait. I'm sure they wondered. Sometimes they cried. They prayed.

We Americans tend to believe that things are supposed to come easily and quickly. If something is difficult, we assume it isn't God's will. If God guided us to that marriage or that job, it should go smoothly, right?

Reflecting on this first book of the Bible, I had to remind myself that isn't always so. God's plans may take a long time to come to fruition. The path may be difficult. And that's not necessarily because we're fouling things up. It may just be that God planned it that way.

God had an overall plan of building a nation from Abraham's family, but he also cared about each individual along the way--each building block of that nation. Maybe he wanted them to think about his promise constantly, to think about Him. Perhaps he wanted them to depend on him and know those children came from him and his grace.

Whatever the reason God gave them these struggles, I'm sure that each of these babies, when they finally arrived, seemed like little miracles.