The death of a dream is one of the hardest pills for a person to swallow. Certain dreams are dealt a fatal wound from an outside force while other lifelong ambitions are read their last rites by the aspirants themselves. Some possess lofty dreams of fame and celebrity, whereas others set their sights on nobler, but far less appreciated callings in 21st century America: marriage and family.
Those that set their sights on a goal, whether modest or grandiose, in the distant future grieve just as deeply when their heart’s desires are crushed by the harsh realities of life. Successful high school athletes grapple with the rejection of a college coach. Promising artists face the dismissal of their work from experts.
But, how does one who longs not for fame and fortune, but for a wedding and the children that they believe should come from marriage face the postponement of such a dream? What face can they pin to the bulletin board of their mind’s imagination to blame for their suffering? There’s no coach or talent agency to make the target of their angst. Most will either look inward and censure themselves or gaze outward and hold the highest power they can imagine at fault. For the cynic, they can only blame a blind and an impersonal fate. For the believer, God and God alone must bear the responsibility for their pain.
It’s no accident that the Jewish sages have given us the following proverb in the Hebrew Scriptures: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is like a tree of life.” Although a millennium separates the composi tion of Genesis 21 and Proverbs 13:12, the two texts share both the same theme and divine author.
For at least 25 years, Sarah has held out hope that God might give her a child. Over the course of a quarter of a century, the Bible records the deferment of Sarah’s hope. In her day, a wife who could not have a child was seen as a disappointment to her husband and was thought to have lost out on God’s favor. Sarah’s pain was palpable and her inability to join the ranks of motherhood for over two-and-a-half decades did indeed make her heart sick.
Genesis 21:1-7 records when Sarah’s longing was finally fulfilled like a tree of life that she’d see one day in the New Heaven and New Earth:
1 Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. 2 Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. 3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. 4 When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6 Sarah said, "God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me. 7 And she added, "Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age."
For parents, there are few moments in life that can rival the euphoria that comes with welcoming a child into your life. For me, it seemed like all was right with the world on the day that my wife gave birth to each of our four children. Whatever cares or concerns I had up to the moment before their birth were forgotten until we brought them home from the hospital. Suddenly, the door would shut and the stresses would immediately return.
The same was true for Sarah. The birth of a child did not solve all the problems in her life. In fact, Isaac’s birth intensified the unresolved issues in her marriage and family. Although Sarah now had Isaac to hold, she still had her husband’s son Ishmael and the woman, Hagar, that he had him with living in her home. Something simply had to give! Genesis 21:1-21 is the story of Two Moms, Two Sons, and One Man Caught in the Middle. This ancient story has much to say to blended families and children of broken homes. God’s Word is still the only message for the family in today’s world!
This article is an excerpt of this Sunday's sermon in my series in Genesis. All are welcome to join us for worship every Sunday at 10:30 am. Lighthouse Community Baptist Church is located at 22 Pequot Trail in Pawcatuck.