There’s something about Abraham’s and Sarah’s story that stirs my heart every time I read it. Especially the part of their lives as they walked through the disappointment of childlessness. As I read Genesis 17-18 recently, I was struck by a couple thoughts.
I wonder if Abraham had grown tired of hoping—of believing—that God would actually give him a child with his wife, Sarai. Waiting decades for a promise to be fulfilled is wearying on the soul and the hope.
And Sarai. A beautiful, powerhouse of a woman in her own right. But even beautiful, powerful women can’t make their bodies produce babies. No, that only comes via God’s opening (or not opening) the womb.
She must have seen when Abraham embraced the name change God gave him . . . going from Abram, meaning, “exalted father,” to Abraham, meaning “Father of Nations.”
What did she think when, year after year, her belly remained flat, her hair turned more gray, her body grew more frail? Did she hold to God’s promise the way Abraham did?
In Genesis 18:12, I hear the edge of bitterness in her voice. Perhaps the bitterness came from not reconciling that unfulfilled heart desire she’d clung to for years. Twenty-four, to be exact.
Was it hard for her to embrace God’s new name for her? From Sarai-“My princess” to Sarah-“Princess” with the implication that she would be a mother of nations.
Had the shiny promise of a child lost some of its sparkle after twenty-four long years?
I remember our walk through infertility. The heartache of each month proving I was still childless. Then, God spoke to my heart—not once, but twice—during a time when I was helping a friend come into motherhood again.
God said to my heart, “I will give you a child.” And then, to make sure I knew it was my Abba who’d said it, He repeated it a couple days later, “I will give you a child.”
Yet, it was another two to three years before He brought that promise into a wee-crying reality.
When God gives us a promise, we have a choice: hold onto the promise or hold onto the Giver of the promise. When we hold onto the promise, we can clutch it so hard that we base our identities on the thought of it coming true.
Then, when it remains elusive, our hearts begin to shrivel. Our identities suffer.
For me, being part of the mommy club became something I yearned for, clung to. When the promise continued to be withheld, my ticket into that club seemed to dangle just out of my reach.
Sometimes, God gives us a new identity, because of a coming promise, or because He’s made us new through Jesus Christ. Always, the identity God gives us is based on who we are in Him, rather than on the promise He’s extended.
Did Sarah have trouble embracing her new name, her new identity (mother of nations) when it didn’t come true in her timeframe?
There are times God gives us a promise and we want to believe, but we are afraid to. Our pasts tell us His promise is impossible.
When we look at God’s promises through the filter of our experiences, they always look impossible.
With Sarah, God fulfilled the promise of a son, because He is a promise-keeper. Even when she didn’t believe, He blessed her with the desire of her heart. That desire she’d probably tucked away into the closet marked Disappointment.
There are times when God fulfills His promises because He said He would, even when we struggle to believe. Sometimes God waits for us to fully believe in Him before He brings those promises to fruition in our lives.
Other times, He fulfills them simply because He is God, and He’s faithful, even when we’re not.
What about you? When have you seen God fulfill a promise in your life? What helps you hold onto the Giver of promises when the promises seem impossible?