But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
- Luke 1:7
Elizabeth had a lot going for her. She had a deep and growing faith in God. Her husband was respected and well employed. She had a roof over her head and food on her table. And yet Elizabeth faced a huge deficit. She was unable to have children, which was devastating in a culture that valued women by the fruitfulness of their wombs.
Elizabeth’s barrenness placed a real crisis in many areas of her life. Emotionally, her barrenness was a crisis because Elizabeth, like many women, longed to be a mom. Financially, her barrenness was a crisis because children were needed to provide for parents in old age. Socially, barrenness was a crisis, because in her day, a woman’s worth consisted in her ability to bear children. And spiritually, Elizabeth’s barrenness was a crisis because God had promised fruitfulness to the faithful.
All this is to say, Elizabeth’s barrenness means more than an inability to have children. It means enduring painful miscarriages. It means emotional trauma. It means seasons of failure, self-inflicted guilt and sorrow. It means unsetting questions like: What must people think of a wife who can bear no heir? What must God think of me? What have I done wrong?
Elizabeth’s barrenness invites us to name the empty spaces in our lives that feel as painful to us as the ache of a womb that refuses to carry life. Perhaps our empty space is finding a fitting life partner or the finances to meet a pressing need or health for our aging body.
And yet don’t stop at naming your empty spaces. Move on and remember God’s grace to Elizabeth.
You see, God wasn’t limited by Elizabeth’s limitations. Nor did he leave her empty and barren. Instead, he filled her with life and he took away her reproach.
Elizabeth is a huge encouragement for those who see themselves as lacking and limited because her story teaches us that God’s best work often begins with a deficit. This has been the case since the beginning of time. God took a world jam-packed with nothingness and he filled it with his good creation – a world teeming with life. He took a virgin’s womb and he filled it with a baby boy. He took a hopeless tomb and filled it with a risen Savior.
All of this is to say, don’t get overwhelmed when you come face to face with your barrenness. Even if you have nothing, God has all he needs to do something.
You see the message of Christmas isn’t that God wants us to bring our abilities. The message of Christmas is that God wants us to bring our need. He wants us to bring our limitations and our liabilities. He wants us to bring our barrenness and he will fill us with life.