Sarah’s story can be found in Genesis 11-20. She was married to Abraham, and we know that she was beautiful (Genesis 12:11). We can see several difficult situations she faced in her story. For instance, she frequently traveled to new lands where she did not know if the people would be welcoming or aggressive toward her and her family. She also went through her child-bearing years without ever being able to conceive a child (18:11). It was not until after she was past the typical age a woman can have children that she had Isaac.
While some of us may not be able to relate to her specific circumstances, many of us will be able to relate to the fear and desire for control that she felt. In Genesis 12:10-20, Abraham and Sarah feared that Pharaoh might kill Abraham and take Sarah as his wife because Sarah was so beautiful. Abraham suggested that Sarah present herself as his sister so that Pharaoh would spare Abraham. Sarah agreed to Abraham’s request, and Pharaoh married Sarah. Instead of telling the truth and trusting God to take care of them, Abraham and Sarah lied and allowed Pharaoh to marry Sarah because they felt their sin would spare them. However, God afflicted Pharaoh’s household and allowed him to learn that Sarah was Abraham’s wife. Pharaoh sent them away without harm.
Later on, even though God protected Abraham and Sarah in Egypt, they still felt the need to present Sarah as Abraham’s sister to King Abimelech in Genesis 20. Even after seeing God provide for them in Egypt, they still decided to take matters into their own hands by withholding the truth and having Sarah marry other men.
In Genesis 16, we see another time when Sarah struggles to trust God’s promises, and she tries to take control of her circumstances. God told Abraham and Sarah that He would bless them with many descendents. Sarah remained unable to have a child, and she did not trust God’s timing. She impatiently took matters into her own hands by suggesting that Abraham should have a child with her servant Hagar. Abraham and Hagar had a child, but the birth of Hagar’s son Ishmael caused great tension between Sarah and Hagar. Her lack of faith in God’s timing caused her to make her situation more difficult, and she responded by being harsh to Hagar.
Sarah’s fear caused her to misstep again when Abraham told Sarah that God would bless them with many descendents through her. Sarah laughed at God’s timing of the great blessing He had for them (18:12). Her fear caused her to lie about lying when God questioned her laughter (18:15).
Now that we know the end of the story, it is easy to sit back and ask, “Why didn’t Sarah just trust God?” We know that He is all-powerful, and she should have known this also. However, how many times have we done this in our own lives? And how many times have we been harsh with someone because we were unable to force our plans into reality? We start to think that we have an idea of what God has planned for us, so we try to manipulate our circumstances as if He can’t fulfill His promises on His own. We think that we know the best timing, so we try to fit God’s plans into our schedule. It’s as though we think the Lord needs to see our planners to see where He can pencil in time to grant requests for us. If our plans don’t work out, we easily lash out on those close to us. While it may be easy for us to look at the end of Sarah’s story and say that she should have responded in faith, it is not so easy to have the faith we need when we don’t know what’s coming next.
We can find caution in Sarah’s story that partial faith in God leads us to make a mess of the good plans God has for our lives. When we don’t listen to Him, we can find ourselves facing new frustrations like the damaged relationship Sarah had with Hagar. Sarah felt the need to try to take control of God’s plan, and she ended up making matters worse. Isn’t it so easy to say we trust God while trying to manipulate our lives in such a way that God’s plans happen in our timing? However, His timing is always better.
I would also like to note that God knew all about Sarah’s fears and desires for control before He chose her descendants as His people. She believed God’s promise even though she did not fully trust God to carry it out. Still, God was patient with her, and He still fulfilled His promises to her.
So far in our study of women, we have seen that Eve, Noah’s wife, and Sarah each had faith in God, but Eve and Sarah believed lies that caused them to take matters into their own hands. The results were full of frustration and hardship. Each of these women also displayed great respect for their husbands by listening to them. We can find comfort in knowing that God was still faithful to each of them even when they made mistakes.
Join me next month for a look at Hagar’s story.