Some tradition says Elisabeth was 88 years old when she gave birth to John the Baptist, comparable to Sarah being 90 when she gave birth to Isaac. For the record, where I am (in Canada) life expectancy for children born today is around 81. I have chosen Elisabeth (or Elizabeth, however you choose to spell her name!) as our third featured for our Barren Women of the Bible series, because she lived a lifetime of years barren, and she received a lifetime's worth of chiding for it during a man-centered, materialistic religious atmosphere much like today's!
Elisabeth's son was "unusual" and would lead a short life. Despite finally having the baby of her dreams, it seems accurate to suggest she didn't have anywhere near a normal mothering experience. Her son's "prophet" side pulled him away from the temporal, and to God, at a very young age. The things we might think about in our sorrow of not having children like raising them close by our side for eighteen years, watching them walk down the aisle, becoming a grandmother.. Elisabeth didn't get to experience despite such a miraculous pregnancy.
Perhaps after literally a lifetime of being barren and reproached for it, she was quite prepared for further challenges due to her unusual "mother vocation"! Considering how Christ said, "A prophet is without honor only in his hometown", Elisabeth likely had to deal with more of the same abuse as John grew up, being a prophet's mother.
"To take away my reproach (a). Among the Jews, a family of children was counted a signal blessing, an evidence of the favor of God, Ps 113:9; 128:3; Isa 4:1; 44:3-4; Le 26:9. To be barren, therefore, or to be destitute of children, was considered a reproach or a disgrace, 1Sa 1:6." Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible for Lu 1:25
This is what pulls me most to Elisabeth's story. She had to deal with a lifetime of abusive comments and gossip leveled her way, often "in the name of God". Yet, in the few verses we have about her, she leaves such a great impression as a Spirit-filled woman of God. She didn't let these people crush her faith! God considered her faithful! And if she had died at 88 instead of given birth at 88, God would still have considered her faithful. God has many faithful childless men and women, and many faithful men and women with lifelong illnesses, and many faithful men and women who are materially poor, and so on. There are vast numbers of faithful who don't fit into that "Health and Wealth, man's will be done" or the "family-centered" doctrines of men.
The sad truth is, if you are or end up in the ~2% permanently childless not by choice, it is very likely you will find yourself facing some sort of spiritual abuse and condemnation from some branches of Christendom (and elsewhere). And those in the midst of the journey certainly aren't immune to spiritual abuse either. It can be something as simple as someone "well-meaning" implying you don't have faith, and if you just believed it - whatever the "it" longed for is - your wish would come true. (There isn't a single blanket "if you just ___, it'll happen!" But there are many fans of magical thinking that want it to be so! Well, they are free to believe what they want.)
But the comments can be much harsher than mere insinuation. There are people that think Pastor Justin Taylor and Joni and Friends founder Joni Tada Erickson (both in wheelchairs) should just get up and walk, or else (insert insidious condemnation here).. There are people who think Nick Vujicic should just grow some limbs, or else (insert insidious condemnation here).. There are people who just can't accept situations short of health and financial abundance, and having your will be done in your life. Not even a single "thorn in the flesh" allowed! And they take it to a devilish lengths that go well beyond marginalizing those that don't meet their standards. These are the same sort of foolish persons who attacked Elisabeth; the Eliphazes, Bildads, Zophars and Elihus who raked Job over the coals.
I find a lot of strength reading the stories and wisdom of the marginalized. The Jonis! The Nicks! The Elisabeths! The Jobs! There are many of them out there, who are called to "comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith (they) are comforted of God" 2 Co 1:4. Many make a ministry of it. All the while being lambasted by some for not being "perfect". It can be hard to ignore reproachful comments from the people that "can't handle us", but we have to shake the dust off our feet. And like Job, say a prayer for them. Then keep walking with God like Elisabeth did. We can't accurately measure our own faith let alone others, but I know one thing for sure: it takes tremendous faith to continue walking with God during great trials. Your perseverance is a true mark of faith. So never, ever let someone convince you that you don't even have faith the size of a mustard seed or you would be pregnant, or whatever other attack on your walk they might level at you for being "barren". You're probably already in tree form by now, or at least well rooted, having gone through so very much with the Lord! You are not a dry tree (Isaiah 56:3-5).
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