At our recent pastors’ roundtable in St. Louis, an attending pastor drew our attention to the following quote from Martin Luther’s lectures on Genesis Chapters 21-25:
And it seems that God wanted to teach and attest that the begetting of children is wonderfully pleasing to Him, in order that we might realize that He upholds and defends His Word when He says: “Be fruitful.” He is not hostile to children, as we are. Many of us do not seek to have offspring. But God emphasizes His Word to such an extent that He sometimes gives offspring even to those who do not desire it, yes, even hate it. Occasionally, of course, He does not give it to some who earnestly desire it. It is His purpose to test them. And, what is more, He seems to emphasize procreation to such an extent that children are born even to adulterers and fornicators contrary to their wish. How great, therefore, the wickedness of human nature is! How many girls there are who prevent conception and kill and expel tender fetuses, although procreation is the work of God! (Luther, 304)*
I don’t know why God tests us in our barrenness, but the mystery of God’s wisdom comforts me as much as it confounds me. We can rest in the knowledge that God loves the begetting of children enough to give the gift of them abundantly, even when He does not give them to us.
* Pelikan, Jaroslav, and Walter A. Hansen, eds. Luther’s Works. Vol. 4. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1964.