What moves the heart of God and makes Him want to open a womb so that an infertile woman becomes a mother? Is it a mystery that cannot – and should not — be explored? Or does scripture suggest that we can know?
Until yesterday, I would have said there is no way to know what moves God to make an infertile woman suddenly able to conceive. But, one sentence in Exodus opened my mind to the possibility that God does intend for us to know – and to apply what we understand to our lives.
Let me explain…
In Exodus 1, a new king came to power feeling threatened by the potential for mutiny by his Hebrew slaves. His solution? Order the Hebrew midwives to kill all newborn boys. “The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live” [Exodus 1:17].
In an age when few dared defy Pharaoh — and those who did were killed — the least powerful members of Egypt’s lowest social class refused to obey. He demanded an explanation. The midwives brazenly lied to him, saying, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before midwives arrive.” Pharaoh’s response was to order all baby boys thrown into the Nile. But notice God’s response:
“…because the midwives feared God, He gave them families of their own” [Exodus 1:21].
Wait a minute…. Did you catch that?
“Because the midwives feared God, He gave them families of their own.” What does that mean? What is it about fear that pleased God – and pleased Him so much that He elected to give these women children of their own?
Despite their fear… – The midwives must have known that defying Pharaoh’s order meant certain death. Surely, they must have feared for their lives. And, they must have lived in constant fear of being discovered – which was inevitable, since the number of live baby boys was increasing. And yet….
… they feared God… – The midwives knew that their God would not condone the senseless slaughter of His people. Did they fear His wrath if they participated in Pharaoh’s plan? Possibly. But in scripture, to “fear” God more often means to reverence and respect Him. The midwives loved and honored the God who had breathed life into the wombs of Hebrew women. Their hearts were right with Him, and their lives were lived in service. It was their desire to do His will, even if it meant defying Pharaoh’s.
…and they acted fearlessly – Their respect for God’s will spurred them to act without regard for Self. Whatever doubts and nagging fears may have plagued them, they still acted in accordance with what they knew: God would not want this injustice to be perpetrated against His people. And they stood firm: We will not do it. They chose defiant action, and they trusted God with the consequences.
God’s response? “Because the midwives feared God, He gave them families of their own.”
Were the midwives infertile prior to their silent insurrection? Certainly, the text implies that they were childless in an era when family was everything. They spent their days – and nights – delivering other women’s dreams safely into their arms, knowing that the same dreams were apparently out of reach for them. Until they put their faith into action.
Then, God gave them what their courageous action had made possible for others. He rewarded their selflessness with the greatest gift a woman of that era could receive: descendants who would carry on the name and traditions of their ancestors. Children of destiny whose lives would matter to the God who’d created them.
What is the learning for us? A right heart, selfless conduct, and a willingness to put our lives completely in the hands of God wins His heart – and it delights Him to bless us in response. When we act out of faith, rather than fear, we invite Him to work in and through our circumstances to make the impossible possible.
He can, and He will.
For more inspiration and cause for hope, read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.