I quietly move to the back of the church to console my distraught baby. I long to pay full attention to the sermon, but I must nurture my little one. I know through the grapevine that my crying baby doesn’t only distract me, but it catches the attention of other women as well—women who long for children.
Babies surround the childless women and remind them of the pain in longing to conceive. The single women, who desire marriage and children, have similar feelings. Both women wonder if God will give them a baby of their own—giggling or crying, happy or fussy—they don’t care. They just deeply long for a child.
Sometimes, with my baby in my arms, I glance at women without kids and remember the privilege of sitting under preaching with my Bible open in my lap and pen ready in my hand. The saying, “We want what we cannot have,” isn’t exempt from the minds of godly women. It can cause jealousy and bitterness to take root in our souls as we assume that the women who have what we long for are full of joy and contentment in their circumstances (Heb. 12:15).
Fighting for Contentment No Matter What
Would my complaining cease if I could intently focus on the sermon once more? Would the single and childless women no longer complain once they have a baby, even one that steals away their focus? More than likely, we would still complain. I wasn’t always content before children and neither am I perfectly content with a child. As Christian women, we absolutely must fight for contentment in all circumstances. May we also stir one another up to contentment instead of falling into the snare of comparison and misunderstanding (Phil. 4:11–13; Heb. 10:24).
There is suffering in both circumstances—having children and longing to have children. As a mother, I suffer in not knowing how to comfort my baby, with anxiety in how to raise her, and in putting her needs above my own, to name a few. Wives who long for children suffer with anxiety as the end of each month approaches, the fear of miscarrying, and wrestling with God’s choice to not give children . . . and the list goes on. Single women wrestle with loneliness, the unknown of the future, and unfulfilled longings for a husband and family.
Rachel and Leah
In Scripture, we find a battle for children in the story of Jacob and the rivalry between his sibling wives—Rachel and Leah. Rachel is beautiful and possesses more love from their husband, Jacob. Leah, in contrast, does not have much beauty nor does she receive much love from Jacob (Gen. 29:17–18, 30). By God’s mercy, Leah conceives and bears children while Rachel suffers in barrenness (Gen. 29:31). She believes, since God blessed her with children, her husband owes love to her. However, she undoubtedly suffers through the pain of bearing four children before she feels content to praise the Lord (Gen. 29:32–35).
Although all of Jacob’s love is poured out on his beloved Rachel, she envies her sister and suffers in discontentment of not yet having children (Gen. 30:1–8). Leah has a fruitful womb. Rachel does not. Rachel has the love of her husband. Leah does not. Each woman wants what the other has.
I can’t help but wonder if Rachel often looked at Leah struggling with a child and thought if only she could have a child to struggle with, she would be content. And did Leah, in working hard to nurture her children, think if only she could have her husband’s affections, all would be right?
God eventually opens Rachel’s womb and gives her a son (Gen. 30:22). This passage, however, doesn’t promise us that we all will have children. The story of Rachel and Leah uniquely shows God’s providence in sending forth Rachel’s firstborn, Joseph, to preserve the lives of Jacob’s entire family. And Leah’s son, Judah, is in the lineage of Jesus (Gen. 45:7; Matt. 1:1–2).
Because God has not given some women a child doesn’t necessarily mean they or their husbands are in unrepentant sin. On the other hand, because God has opened the womb of women with children doesn’t mean they don’t have sin nor are more blessed in comparison. We must remember that all women are sinners (Rom. 3:23) and all Christian women are blessed in Christ (Eph. 1:3).
Although children are a blessing from the Lord and God commands us to be fruitful and multiply (Ps. 127:3; Gen. 1:28), the point is to produce more image-bearers of Him on earth. Christ gives women without children everything they need to disciple spiritual children. They become spiritual mothers. Though the pain of longing for biological children remains, God can bless spiritual mothers as they reap the fruit of discipleship. For biological mothers, God still calls them to make disciples of all nations, although they primarily disciple those from their own family.
We’re All Sisters
When we assume those other women who have what we want don’t struggle with being content in the Lord, we believe the lie that we have nothing in common with them. But the love of Christ is the common bond between mothers and non-mothers, married women and single women. His work on the cross fills the gap, providing us the grace to comfort one another with the comfort given us by God (2 Cor. 1:3–4).
Although we aren’t sisters by blood like Rachel and Leah, we are sisters in Christ. Let’s stop avoiding women in the church who seem different from us because we assume they have everything they need and won’t understand our suffering.
They might possess what we desire, but God knows what we need.