Anna, the Prophetess – Infertility in the Bible

 “Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity;”

Luke 2:36 (NKJV)

Introduction – Anna, the Prophetess 

The Bible doesn’t shy away from the topic of infertility. It isn’t something new that only affects the women of the 21st Century. Sarah, Hannah, Elizabeth, even Leah and Rachel faced struggles to conceive. For whatever reason, Ruth and her first husband also had no children after ten years together. But beyond struggling to conceive, all these women share another experience: they all became mothers. Sarah’s wait lasted 25 years, but eventually she too held her son in her arms.

In the New Testament, there is a very brief mention of a Prophetess named Anna. There are few Bible verses recorded about her, but you can find them in Luke 2:36. They reveal that she was:

  • a Prophetess;
  • the Daughter of Phanuel, who may have been an important figure at the time;
  • from the tribe of Asher;
  • married for 7 years before becoming a widow;
  • of old age;
  • dedicated to serving in the temple;

Notice how there is no mention of children. While we cannot know for sure, let us assume that Anna did not have children before her husband died. She never remarried and would remain single for most of her life, without a family of her own. In Biblical times, losing a husband and having no son meant severe social implications. Anna’s life certainly took a different direction from how she imagined it would be.

Did Anna not deserve to have a family?

If you desire to have children and are currently waiting on God for this to take place, it is very likely that you have come across the concept of merit or “deserving” something. Maybe the thought has crossed your mind, “If I was just good enough, God would bless me with the child I so desire.” Or, “Why did God give her so many kids? She doesn’t deserve them!”

God doesn’t work like that. Anna was a prophetess, chosen to receive messages directly from God and share them with His people. She worshiped Him day and night with fasting and prayer (Luke 2:37). Wouldn’t she have been “good enough” to receive such a gift?

Following God’s commandments does not guarantee that His blessings will come in the way that we expect them. Sometimes, blessings take different forms from what we imagine, and thus we have a hard time recognizing them. 

Though your life may be different from what you imagined or within a timeline that seems “late” to you, God has a plan for your life despite your flaws and limitations. You don’t need to be “good enough” to live out His plans or to receive the blessings that follow them. You just need to trust Him.

Children aren’t enough

What do you think Anna’s relationship with God was like? She was His messenger to His people, but I imagine that He wasn’t very forthcoming with her about her own life.

“God, why did you allow my husband to die?”

*Silence*

Even if her marriage had been arranged, and even if she didn’t love her husband the way we think of love now, widows weren’t esteemed in society, having nearly no rights. Without a son to rescue her and possibly without a father’s home to return to, Anna would have been helpless.

What I find interesting is her reaction. While she was struggling with all the sadness surrounding the death of her husband, and her uncertain outlook on life as a widow, Anna found comfort in the coming Messiah. This doesn’t mean she never felt sadness nor desired the circumstances of her life to be different, but she was able to find moments to praise God. 

Waiting is challenging. It can be tempting to think: “Just one child. One child would be enough for me! One child to love and raise.” However, Proverbs 30:15-16 reminds us that what we desire is not always going to bring us true happiness. We need to cultivate gratefulness and joy in the absence of blessings, recognizing that grief and happiness can coexist. 

Anna had purpose

Anna’s expectations for the future certainly did not include the death of her husband. Yet, in the face of life’s unexpected twists and turns, she found purpose in serving God. She dedicated her life to worship, prayer, and fasting in the temple. In her old age, she witnessed the fulfillment of the promise of the coming Messiah.

When life takes unexpected turns, we can recognize the invitation to rededicate our lives to God. Maybe this period of waiting will end, and it will serve as preparation for the upcoming growth in your family. Or maybe, like Anna, your calling is different.

Pray and ask God for peace and discernment to recognize His calling for you. Your life has worth, it has meaning. It’s ok to find happiness in a plan different from what you imagined. God has a special plan for your life that does not depend on you being good enough, but in your disposition to live it. Taste and see!

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