New Year, Different Story!

Judges 13:2-3, “There was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had borne no children. Then the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, ‘Behold now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and give birth to a son.’

Barren. In my opinion it is probably one of the most painful words in the Bible. Think about it. For a Jewish woman it meant that her dreams of motherhood would never be fulfilled. No infant to hold, to cherish, to nurture. The crib would never have an occupant. The bassinet would forever remain empty. No family photos. No first day of school. No precious memories. She was barren. For her husband it meant the end of his family line. No lineage. No one to receive the inheritance, the fruit of all his years of hard labor. His name would simply cease to exist. Gone. Never to be remembered. His wife was barren.

Put it in perspective if it helps. Do you have any dreams? Any godly desires that have yet to be fulfilled? Do you know what it means to pray for years without any answer? Have you experienced the frustration of believing in a God that at times seems indifferent to your deepest longings? Have you ever cried and shouted at a heaven that seems silent, a Sovereign who seems distant, and a hope that remains ignored? For Manoah and his wife the problem was a barren womb. She could not bear children. It’s probably something different for you. Declining health? Terminal illness? A prodigal child? A broken marriage? Regrets from the past? Struggles in the present? Fears about the future? No matter what you do nothing seems to change. Hope is never conceived. The womb of expectation remains empty. The thing you pray for, cry for, long for is never birthed.

I don’t want to minimize your pain today. I’m not trying to downplay your despair and disappointment. I understand. Believe me. I understand. My wife has cancer. My son has autism. I have been “sick” for almost a year now. In the stillness of the night I struggle with the empty womb of my own expectations and longings. “Father, we spent 20 years on the mission field. We have gone where You said go. We have given all that You asked for. Why this season of barrenness? When will we see the birth of all our hopes and dreams? Will we ever see them birthed? I’m tired, God. Tired of this storyline. Tired of the struggle. Tired of the same situations day after day, week after week, year after year. Lord, I’m just so tired. Tired of praying. Tired of trusting. Tired of even trying anymore.” Yeah… believe me when I say I understand. Being barren gets old quick.

That, my friend, was Manoah and his wife. All they wanted was children. That was it. Just one child. But she was barren and had borne no children. End of story, right? Or was it?

I love the start of verse 3. One small word changed everything. “Then…” When Manoah and his wife were ready to close the book on hope God introduced a new chapter. What they thought was the closing credits was actually just the intermission. They thought it was over. God declared that it was just beginning. Their present pain had told them it was impossible. Abandon hope. Surrender to despair. Give up on the dream. Quit trying. Then God turned the page and the story took off in a new direction!!! God stepped into the midst of their suffering and forever altered the course of their lives. Their condition was powerless to stand before His promise. “You shall conceive and give birth to a son.

I want to encourage all of us this morning (especially myself). “Then” is coming. It’s not the end of the story yet. Not for you. Not for me. I’ve said it for years and I still believe it to be true… Jesus always saves the best for last!!! Barren may be the word of the day but birth is the word for tomorrow. For some reason God takes great delight in gifting birth to people who were barren. Just look at His track record. Sarah. Rebekah. The wife of Manoah. Hannah. Elizabeth. The Bible is full of stories of women who had lost all hope. They were barren. But by the end of the story they were holding the proof of God’s faithfulness in their own arms. I can only speak for myself but I am believing that God is going to add my name to that list. In every season of life God remains faithful. He will not ever fail His Word. He will not fail His children. This barren season is going to give way to birth. New life is just ahead. My “then” is on the horizon. A different story is coming!!!