My friend Sarah (yes, that’s really her name) recently shared with our book club that, after having given birth to her son, she subsequently suffered two miscarriages. At Thanksgiving that year, her brother and sister-in-law announced that they were pregnant with their third child. Though Sarah was also pregnant at the time, she hadn’t told her family yet for fear of another miscarriage. On the way home, her husband asked her, “Why are you crying? You are pregnant!” “I know,” Sarah answered, “but it’s just been so easy for them.” She wanted to feel joy for her brother and sister-in-law, but couldn’t. Her pain was too deep. She was too afraid of more loss.
God assures Abram that his “own issue” (15:4) will be his heir, but everyone assumes that Sarai doesn’t fit into this promise, including Sarai. She’s been through menopause, after all. Biologically—humanly—it would be impossible for her to conceive a child. So she attempts to participate in God’s promise by helping it along in a way that seems plausible to her: surrogacy. However, when her plan works and Hagar becomes pregnant, Sarai’s pain is too great; she cannot rejoice. When Hagar succumbs to the temptation to gloat, Sarai even turns cruel.
When my friend Sarah told the book club her story, she laughed that she’d been so distraught over God’s blessing to her brother while she was also experiencing the same blessing. One day, Sarai will laugh in response to God’s blessing, too (Gen 18:12). Sometimes it seems like all our stories have plot twists we’ve yet to read.
Can you remember a time when you were deeply insensitive to another’s pain? When have you felt betrayed by another person’s cruelty? When has God helped you turn the page on your painful experience and start a new chapter?
God, when my pain is too great for me to rejoice for others, help me to know that you see my pain and are still at work in my story. Amen.