The Sarah Syndrome

God promised childless Abraham that He would provide him an heir, a son of his own, and that Abraham’s offspring would number as many as the stars in the heaven. Abraham believed the promise of the LORD, and God counted it to him as righteousness.

Sarah, on the other hand, struggled to believe the promise.

She looked at her eighty-plus-year-old husband and her own, barren womb and saw only impossibility. How could God provide an heir through their cockamamie, one-flesh union? No, if they were going to have offspring that numbered as many as the stars in the heaven, they were going to need to take matters into their own hands. They were going to need to find a solution outside of their marriage union – outside of God’s promise.

But, what to do? IVF was not an option then. There were no fertility specialists to whom she could submit her husband’s semen for analysis. Plastic hadn’t been invented, yet, let alone those syringe-y thingies that could shoot Abraham’s seed closer to the target. There were no sperm banks she could consult for finding a tall, dark, and handsome brain surgeon to father her children. Nope, surrogacy was the best answer she could devise, so Sarah gave Hagar, her Egyptian slave, to her husband for impregnating.

And, he did.

The result? Marital trouble, broken relationships, agony, chaos, suffering, grief, and Ishmael, a wild donkey of a man who would beget a whole people born into slavery.

That’s what happens when we believe in the work of our own hands rather than in the promises of God. We create more slavery – slavery to sin, slavery to self, slavery to idols, slavery to the consequences of our actions, and, in Sarah’s case, literally more slaves.

I think we all suffer from Sarah Syndrome to some degree. When we grow restless in our barrenness, when we wait on the LORD for deliverance from our affliction, that is when the symptoms begin to show. The anxiety. The coveting. The self-entitlement. The spouse-loathing. The disbelief. We start visiting doctors who advocate for practices that break commandments of the LORD. We succumb to the advice of the roaring women around us and try to be fruitful and multiply outside of the one-flesh union God designed for procreation. We start looking around for some Hagars to give us the children we want and think we deserve.

And then, like Sarah, we despair when the work of our hands comes to fruition. For, we the baptized know deep down inside that God will give us a child if it be according to His will – not from a petri dish, not from a surrogate, not from the work of our own hands, but from the mysterious, one-flesh union God designed from the beginning of time or from the gift of adoption He so perfectly demonstrates for us in His Word. If God does not give us the gift of children through these blessed means, then we can be assured that it is for the best. He is working our childlessness for our good, and we can confidently rest in God’s guarantee of that goodness as He proclaims it in Scripture. “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the the name of the Lord.”

Maybe you have already acted out on your Sarah Syndrome and feel ashamed. In Christ, sister, be at peace and take joy in this good news:

In spite of all of Sarah’s disbelief, in spite of her meddling, in spite of her laughing and lying, God still kept His promise to her and to Abraham. God visited Sarah years later, long after her menses had ceased, and she finally conceived and bore Isaac, a son and heir from whose family line would eventually come Jesus, the Savior of the world.

In keeping His promise to Sarah, God was actually keeping His promise to save you; and, in believing this promise, God counts it to you as righteousness.

Not a blessed, one-flesh union in the bunch.