“But they had no children because Elizabeth could not conceive, and both of them were well along in years.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
The story of Jesus as Luke tells it, who carefully investigated the whole thing in order to write an accurate and orderly account (verse 3), doesn’t begin in a place of great joy or excitement. It begins in a place of disappointment and quiet desperation that had lasted for decades. Not quite what you would expect from the story of God’s arrival into the world.
If you have ever been in a place of childlessness or a struggle to conceive or of losing a baby, you can imagine what Elizabeth was feeling and had been feeling for many more years than she imagined when she entered into the journey of marriage with hopes of motherhood in her sights. The emptiness and sense of loss when you find yourself in such a position can be intense to the point of physical illness.
The pain of longing to conceive but coming up empty is such a powerful human story that it appears in the Scriptures over and over again. Abraham and Sarah were barren and waited 25 years after God’s promise of a child before their hope was finally made real (not counting the 50 years or so they waited before then). Their son Isaac and his wife Rebekah struggled to conceive before having twins.
Judah’s daughter-in-law two times over and the mother of his twin sons, Tamar, had a husband who couldn’t get her pregnant and a husband who refused to get her pregnant (both were sons of Judah by an ancient custom called levirate marriage) before in desperation she secretly seduced Judah himself and finally conceived. Samson’s parents were barren for many years before bringing him into the world. The same was true of Samuel’s mother, Hannah. Finally, there was a woman whose name we don’t even know beyond that she was a Shunammite who knew this pain.
Now, the thing about all of these stories is that their hope was eventually fulfilled. Perhaps you know that deep and abiding joy after many years of laboring in vain, but perhaps your story is still being written in disappointment. If you have lost a child, you know a pain that doesn’t go away. It merely dulls over time.
No matter what your experience of this particular journey has looked like, know this well: God has not forgotten you. He is still writing your story and will keep writing until it’s finished. And, He’s a good storyteller. It may not ultimately take the shape you wanted it to go in the beginning, but the shape it will take will be beyond your wildest dreams if you stick with Him as He keeps writing.
Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. With the God who brought a child into the world from a woman who was 99 anything is possible. But even if that’s not going to be your story, there are countless children who can be yours through other means. God gave us the command to be fruitful and multiply. Sometimes that comes physically, but it also comes spiritually and relationally. Remain faithfully following Him and committed to prayer and see what He will do in your life.