Elizabeth was barren, a harsh reality for women desperate for a child even today. In the ancient world, barrenness was too often seen as a punishment, something visited upon women because of their sin or their parents' sin. Interestingly, the scriptures never spoke of men as barren because the biology of the time thought that the entire person was contained in a man's seed and the woman was merely a receptacle in which the baby would come to term. Women carried a man's child and gave him a child as his possession, and, God forbid, if they could not carry a baby to term, they were judged harshly.
Even in this soul jarring situation, there is no evidence that Elizabeth complained against God. We hear only that when Mary arrived to visit her, the baby in her womb leapt for joy. A terrible, dark cloud had been lifted from her heart, and though it must have been physically difficult for her as an older woman, she nurtured and nourished her son for his great role in the history of salvation.
Many women like Elizabeth, especially if they grow up in cultures that reduce their identity to their ability to bear children, suffer greatly if they cannot conceive. Though willing to try every means possible, if they cannot get pregnant and fulfill what they always thought was their destiny, they somehow remain faithful to the Gospel despite their inability to understand God's ways.
Women like this ought to be examples for all of us. When we put, or allow others to place unbearable burdens on our shoulders we forget the God of revelation who loves us, not for what we can produce, but for who we are. Elizabeth's struggles remind us that faith is often a mystery we need to enter, not a problem to solve.
Today, pray about different ways to give birth to Christ in your own life.
What does the gospel say to couples who cannot conceive a child?