For the past year now, I have been wrestling with my feelings towards a certain couple we were once close friends with during our time in Alabama. I constantly prayed for this couple because their marriage was ending. They were the first people we had met at this particular duty station, but were living in separate states because the wife was finishing up nursing school in the previous state they had been residing. One day the wife called me in a panic to let me know her husband had sent an email explaining that he was not in love with her anymore, and wanted a divorce. He canceled their phone plan so she wouldn’t be able to call him and she was unable to communicate with him. Over the course of 6 months, this man changed his mind a dozen times but finally in October, he decided to call it quits for sure. He had cheated on his wife with another woman and just wasn’t in love with his wife anymore. I was heartbroken over their marriage ending. I prayed daily and constantly for restoration; that God would work a miracle in the husband’s heart. God answered my prayers and in December, they ripped up the divorce papers and his wife moved to Alabama to work on restoring their broken marriage. I was so happy for them!
Since we knew much about their personal lives, they also knew that we had been trying for over a year, unsuccessfully, to add a baby to our family.I watched as 10 of the 13 wives from my husbands flight class got pregnant. They say there’s something in the water (and believe me, I chugged that Alabama water) I was in charge of bringing meals to the families with new babies for the whole company, and delivered meals probably twice a week with joy. I planned showers for many of the wives in the class with some trepidation, but always glad that I could share in their joy, despite some tears shed after the parties ended. In January, we had the couple that had been reunited over for dinner. The wife politely declined margaritas we were serving. And I knew she was pregnant.
I think there is a sixth kind of sense infertile wives get and we just know when someone is pregnant. There are signs, or maybe its a scent they give off, but its there and we can tell before any words are necessary. I was caught off guard, I wanted them to work on their marriage before they brought a child into their unstable marriage! I thought I knew best. It was inconceivable to me that after only one month they were expecting! I was devastated and jealous like I had never been before. I didn’t know why I was so angry with them, when I could be glad for everyone else, people I barely knew, but our friends we had prayed and prayed for? I couldn’t swallow the fact that God not only answered our prayers for their marriage to be restored, but he mistakenly gave them the baby we had been desperately praying to be given to us!
It’s taken me almost a year (and counting) to work through my feelings of jealousy and even hate towards this couple that just the year before I had been pleading with God for. I bought them baby gifts and made them meals, but inside I was so hurt. This situation really brought the ugly out in me. I realized that this unloved wife could give her undeserving husband something I desired to give my husband, the gift I desire to give him more than anything in the world; a baby. I could not give my loving, wonderful, deserving husband a baby. I was Rachel, Sarai and Hannah, and like them, the Lord closed my womb. Though we are not sister wives, (thankfully!!) I feel like through the stories of these women God has been trying to teach me a valuable, long lesson.
Rachel and Leah, who were the Mothers of the 12 Tribes of Israel were married to the same man, Jacob. “May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel” Ruth 4:11 Jacob, truly cherished his wife Rachel,and worked a total of 14 years in order to marry her, while he was tricked into marriage to Leah. Rachel who was lovely in form and beautiful (Genesis 29:17) and he loved her more than he loved Leah (Genesis 29:30) “When the Lord saw the Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren” Genesis 29:31
Then there is the story of Sarai and Hagar. Sarai was married and loved by Abraham, Hagar was an Egyptian maidservant. Sarai was loved by Abraham, but she was barren, in fact, the very first thing the Bible mentions in Genesis 11:30 after naming her as Abraham’s wife, it says “Now Sarai was barren; she had no children” “Sarai took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived” Again, Sarai was loved, Hagar was not. Hagar could bear children, while Sarai was barren.
There is also the story of Hannah and Peninnah. Elkanah “had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.” (1 Samuel 1:2) Elkanah loved Hannah more. “But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb.” (1 Samuel 1:5)
There is a pattern with these three sets of wives. One is always loved more than the other, and always, the unloved wife is the one the Lord allows to carry children before the loved wife. Leah named her first born son “Reuben” and said “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” Rachel had what Leah desired- the love of her husband, and the Lord allowed Leah to bear children, while Rachel was barren. Aren’t we just like that? We feel a deep void for the things we don’t have when we compare ourselves to others, whether it be the absence of love from a husband or the absence or loss of a child.
I often wonder if the love of their children helped ease the pain of being unloved by their husbands for Hagar, Leah and Peninnah. I imagine they would always yearn to be loved by their spouse. As for Rachel, Sarai(Sarah) and Hannah? We know the Lord remembered and was gracious to them in due time, just as I believe He will be to me and other infertile women today! “Then God remembered Rachel: he listened to her and opened her womb” Genesis 30:22 “Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age at the very time God promised him.” Then Hannah “and the Lord remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son.” 1 Samuel 1:20
In case you were wondering, our friends in the story above had a beautiful baby girl on my birthday this last year. They are also stationed in Korea with us. I know God is not done working on my heart in this situation, why else would he have us stationed in the exact same place, living 5 minutes away from each other?! I don’t feel hate or jealousy anymore, but I do choke up whenever I see their precious baby girl. Its a heart battle for sure where I have to constantly keep my emotions in check, but remembering Leah, Hagar and Peninnah helps me put this situation more into perspective. I am so thankful for those incredible stories, so relevant today!
“Under three things the earth trembles, under four it cannot bear up: a servant who becomes King, a fool who is full of food, an unloved woman who is married, and a maidservant who displaces her mistress” Proverbs 30:21-23