October 23, 2013

When Barren Seasons Come

Infertility in Hannah's day was a massive burden to carry for women. A woman's personal worth was in many ways tied directly to having children. God had deemed children to be a blessing, so no children... no blessing from God. And people in the community took note of that. People would've thought, "Oh, you don't have children? God's withholding blessing from you." Barren equaled second rate.

Now Hannah was blessed with a husband who loved her dearly, and did not see her as second rate. As true as this was though, he took a second wife, Peninnah, to continue his family line. And Peninnah could pop out babies like it was nobody business. She could easily pop out words of discouragement, criticism, condemnation towards Hannah too.

But I have to wonder about the toll all of this had took on Hannah's relationship with God. Wouldn't that be her biggest battle? After all, God had ordained Hannah to remain barren. Did she not wonder why? Did she not have to fight off the lies that can so easily flood the mind, infect and sting the heart? Does God really love me? Does God really care about me? Does He even see me? Is He not aware of what my life is like? If she was anything like me, in times of suffering, those questions would've ruminated deep in her heart.

Disgrace, shame, humiliation, and distress. These four words are often associated with barrenness in scripture, and Hannah likely experienced all of them in her ordained season of un-fruitfulness (both physically and metaphorically).

But there's a beautiful truth to behold in Hannah's story if you read it all the way through, and beyond: God uses our barrenness as the platform for something greater to be conceived and birthed by His supernatural power, for His glory and our ultimate joy. The state of barrenness is not permanent, but preparatory.

There was a time, in the middle of Hannah's suffering, where all she probably saw around her were pregnant bellies, and her lack of one... her lack of hope in ever having stretch marks, or hearing little feet run around her home, or picking up her baby in her lap and imparting the wonder and awe of God through storytelling. But that was just for a time... a platform for something greater.

Should God appear be withholding or preventing in allowing us to bear fruit now, we should incline our hearts to believe that He is not true, but rather, He is preparing us to receive exceedingly more blessings, more fruit in the future. 
What is my barrenness? It is the platform for his fruit-creating power. What is my desolation? It is the black setting for the sapphire of his everlasting love. I will go in poverty, I will go in helplessness, I will go in all my shame... I will tell him that I am still his child, and in confidence in his faithful heart, even I, the barren one, will sing and cry aloud... The experience of our barrenness is painful, but the Lord's visitations are delightful. A sense of our own poverty drives us to Christ, and that is where we need to be, for in him is our fruit found. ~Charles H. Spurgeon 

7 comments :

  1. This is a beautiful piece, Natalie. You've so beautifully captured one of the hardest places of suffering theology--trusting God with our barrenness and deferred hopes. It breaks my heart to see people only further harm themselves when they don't see that God's divine work in their life (through barrenness especially) is only making fallow ground for harvests that cannot be attained otherwise. I have been one guilty of losing sight of that, too.
    This is a keeper, for future re-reads. Love, love, loved this.
    P.S. And the Spurgeon quote, oh my goodness.

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    1. Thanks Jen! I always love seeing your comments and thoughts! =D If you love Spurgeon, you should read his devotion book, "Morning and Evening." You'd love it!

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  2. Thank you for this reminder. I've been feeling deprived and barren of a lot of things and this post reminds me of how greater things are coming. :)

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  3. This was so well written and definitely encouraging! Thanks for sharing.

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  4. "But that was just for a time... a platform for something greater." Writing that down and I know I'll be referring to it often. Your posts always come at the right time Natalie!

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  5. Oh my goodness. This is so so so so good, Natalie. We all have our days when we are waiting in our barrenness, whether it is a literal barrenness or a figurative one, or both. I know for me, singleness often feels like a period of barrenness. I see beautiful, godly couples in exciting stages, whether courting, preparing for a wedding, or preparing for a new bundle of joy ... and me? Well, if we are being honest, I feel barren at times. But (and that is one big BUT), you are so right. My barrenness is a preparatory state, and when I offer it up to our Heavenly Father as such, He truly does amazing things. Just like Hannah surrendered and offered up her dearest desire to have a child, He still calls His precious daughters to offer up our own desires, whether marriage, children, a job, etc. And in turn, He molds us and gives us new desires that are fashioned after His will. There is beauty in barrenness even though when we are in it, we tend to want to make a bee-line right out of it.

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