Women of Hope: Sarah

I really thought I had figured out how Yahweh would fulfill His promise for Abraham and me to have a son. It seemed like such a great idea; it even appeared to work. Hagar conceived a son, but the jealousy, the regret – they have been eating me alive on the inside ever since. It doesn’t feel as though that was the plan.

Yes, I concede – it was my plan. I thought I could bring about what God had promised. But now I live with greater shame than ever before. 

Oh, how can Abraham’s God be so cruel as to make a promise and not keep it? Haven’t we done everything He’s ever asked of us? We moved – left everything and everyone behind to come to this desert of a land. And, wasn’t the plan to fill this land with descendants? Where are they? Ha – Yahweh was right about one thing. We certainly cannot count them… 

This God – He keeps speaking this idea of a son as if it could still happen, telling us again yesterday that now – now??? – I am to conceive!? Have those men not looked upon my body? I am old. Too old. And they wondered why I laughed. 

Yet, Abraham stood faith-filled, turning his head to look at me with beckoning eyes, as if to will me to believe. Do I dare hope, yet again, for a child? I want to believe that God can do the impossible. I have seen Him multiply flocks and wealth, so maybe… Maybe He will bring my womb to life at last. 

Like so many in Scripture, Sarah tends to be remembered for her moment of doubt. When this ninety-year-old woman overheard the three men of God tell Abraham that she would have a son of her own within the year, she laughed (Genesis 18:10-12).

Yet, Hebrews 11:11 tells us, “By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised” (ESV). By faith. Sarah believed God to be faithful because He had promised. Even if doubt won out in the moment, in the end Sarah chose to trust in the promise of the One who is faithful.

Trusting the Promise

As a child, did you ever sing “Father Abraham”? You know, the repetitive tune, “Father Abraham had many sons; many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them, and so are you!” If we took that literally, as most children would, we might think Abraham bore many children – when in actuality, he had two (in Sarah’s lifetime; Galatians 4:22-23):1

  1. Ishmael, the son of Sarah’s servant, Hagar, conceived by Abraham (Genesis 16:1-4).
  2. Isaac, the promised son of Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 21:2). 

In the covenant God made with Abraham, He had promised Abraham’s descendants would be too numerous to count, like sand on the shore or stars in the sky (Genesis 15:4-5), yet it would be decades before Abraham and Sarah would conceive the heir of the covenant, Isaac.

But, even Isaac only had two sons – Esau and Jacob. If we spin this out another generation, Jacob had twelve sons. THE twelve that would become the twelve tribes of Israel. Even with many fruitful generations, it would be four hundred more years before Abraham’s descendants multiplied to the point of making it to the millions (Exodus 38:26). By then, Abraham was long buried in a cave next to Sarah (Genesis 23:19). They never witnessed the full fruition of the covenant promise.

So, was Sarah wrong to trust God’s words? Did she think she’d misplaced her hope as she lay on her deathbed?

No, rather than focusing on what had not yet come to be, Sarah chose to focus on what God had given her in the moment. As soon as she held Isaac in her arms, she recognized that God had taken her doubt-filled laugh and replaced it with the real thing:

“God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.”

Genesis 21:6

Sarah’s laughter now signified her joy in a promise fulfilled. Rocking that baby boy in her lap meant more than a future she’d never see. Sarah knew she held the promise. Looking into his eyes, she trusted that God’s promise for a great multitude would come in time – just as Isaac had.

A Future Hope

Like Sarah, we each hold onto a hope for something to happen that will demonstrate that God is, indeed, Promise Keeper. Some desires are so tender that we barely whisper above a breath to call them a hope – desires for a child of our own or for the child who has lost his way to come back to the Lord; for healing of body or mind or both; for wholeness in marriage or for someone special to come into our lives… 

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Just last week, I wondered aloud at a coffee shop with two friends a question that has been coming out of the shadows of my mind – what if the thing we’re praying for won’t happen in our lifetime? What if I never get to see my sons embrace their faith and fully love this God of ours?

As I spoke the question, I felt the truth of it. And it’s been doing a work in my soul.

I’m coming to reconcile the fact that I may sow seeds that I’ll never get to see harvested. I’m looking to my Savior for a hope that is greater than my limited time on earth – for vision to see beyond this moment, this life. I’m learning to lean on the One who has offered to take my yoke and help me carry the burden that feels so heavy – so that He can help me remain faithful to the prayers (Matthew 11:29-30). And to the hope.

Because our hope is in Him. Not our desires. Not our plans. Not our timeline. 

Just as the exiles were promised a future return to Jerusalem, I’m awakening to the reality that God’s promise to give us a hope and a future might actually be beyond my lifetime (Jeremiah 29:11).

So. I have a choice. You have a choice. Will we remain faithful to God? Will we keep our hope and trust in Him no matter what His plans are? No matter what His timing is?

Sarah models this kind of hope for us. She demonstrates what it looks like to wait for decades for a promise to come about. She shows us what it looks like to allow the blessings of today to be enough to carry our hopes into a future we may or may not attend. A woman whose laughter resounds her faith, Sarah leaves a legacy for us to follow so we too can be women of hope.

Father God, stories like Sarah’s help build our faith so that in our everyday longings we can look to You with hope and trust, believing that You will fulfill every promise – in your way and your time. We confess that we are impatient. We concede that we think we know best. Forgive us when we take things into our own hands, trying to force situations to fit our visions. We choose this day to put our full hope in You, releasing our grip on the plans we’ve been forging in our own strength. Lord Jesus, You are the truest fulfillment of the promised Son. You represent a future Sarah could never have imagined – that her womb would birth a son that would one day give way to the Son of God. We pray that this image would never leave our minds – that it would sear into our remembering that You truly have a future in mind for each of us that is full of goodness and hope. Holy Spirit, we know that the only way to sustain our prayers for the desires that dwell in our hearts is with You at the helm. Be our fuel for faith. Be our anchor of trust. Be our source of truth that constantly reminds us that God is faithful – He will bring about the promises He has given. We need only trust. And hope. In Jesus’ name, amen.
(Inspired by: 1 John 1:9; 1 Timothy 4:10; Isaiah 9:6-7; 40:31; Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 8:26; John 14:26; Genesis 46:27)

Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.

  • 1 – Abraham actually had eight sons (Genesis 25:1-6) — after Sarah died, Abraham took a new wife, Keturah; “she bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah.” “Keturah’s sons became the fathers of Arabian tribes living east of Israel” (quoted from this article). For our purposes here, it was simpler to talk about the two. To more fully understand why Galatians would only talk about Isaac and Ishmael, the quoted article above goes into more detail.
  • The book, The One Year Women in Christian History Devotional: Daily Inspirations from God’s Work in the Lives of Women,^ has an insightful devotion about Sarah on the final day of the year-long devotional (December 31st). The writers suggest we “keep laughing with Sarah all year long as [we] watch God work in flabbergasting ways.” That’s an invitation worth accepting!
  • What do you think of our new “Women of Hope” playlist? Sarah’s “songs” include “Faithful” by Sarah Reeves and “Everything Is Possible” by Philippa Hanna. I imagine both songs being sung by Sarah as she wrestles through doubt for things unseen — landing on faith and hope!
  • Rhythms we can incorporate into our daily lives to aid us in our dwelling with God, living for Him, and putting our hope in Him:
    • This summer we’re continuing the rhythm of meditation. We’re filling our minds with our anchoring passage, Hebrews 11:1. Let’s stick with the NIV again this week, making a point of contemplating what it means that “faith is confidence in what we hope for:”

      Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
  • Finally, as a community, let us not neglect sharing God’s hope with others! Share your God-stories with people around you. Share this site. Share God’s Word. Shine His light of His hope into the world!

Featured photo: Phillip Medhurst presents 039/788 James Tissot Bible c 1899 Sarah hears the promise and laughs Genesis 18:10 Jewish Museum New York . Bits and Pieces photo by Photo by Zrng N Gharib on Unsplash.

^an affiliate link with which I may earn a bit

Published by Shelley Linn Johnson

Lover of The Word. And words. Cultivator of curiosity about all things Christ. Lifelong learner who likes inviting others along for the journey. Recovering perfectionist who has only recently realized that rhythms are so much better than stress-inducing must-do's.

3 thoughts on “Women of Hope: Sarah

  1. Love this!!! ❤️❤️❤️

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  2. Shelley, Thanks for the reminder to keep trusting in God. He is faithful! Abraham and Sarah did do a lot of trusting. I can feel like I have planted seeds in others and trust in Him for them to grow at whatever speed they need to, until it comes to my own children…then like Sarah, I grow impatient and want to take over. I am laughing at myself now but boy is it hard!

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