My life hasn’t always gone the way I planned. I thought I would be married by the time I graduated from college. I wasn’t. I thought for sure I would have at least two children by my 10-year high school reunion. I didn’t. While I got married a few years after college, the quest to have children seemed harder than I expected. Instead of teaching a toddler how to say “mommy” and “daddy,” I was teaching a marriage and family class to high school students.

I often felt like I was in limbo. I wanted to be home, caring for my husband and children, yet I was leaving my home every day to go teach an eager bunch of high school students. I felt like less of a woman. What I wanted so desperately was to bear and nurture life, yet all I saw every month was another negative pregnancy test.

What makes a woman a woman? Is it her prowess in the kitchen or devotion to her husband? Is it her ability to manage a variety of projects without having a meltdown, or the fact that she has given birth to a multitude of children? Or is it something else, something more?

We tend to define womanhood by the tasks, not the inherent qualities. Maybe you are always a bridesmaid yet never a bride. Or maybe you have hosted your fair share of baby showers only to be reminded every month that none of those showers will ever be for you. If you are single or unable to have children it often feels like you are in a holding pattern waiting for life to begin.

But the Bible presents a very different path for womanhood.

Ultimate Mark of Womanhood

Consider Sarah. She was barren, and even when she was finally able to conceive, she was old and had only one child (Genesis 21:1-7). She spent the majority of her years childless. Yet when we hear of her in the New Testament, we learn why she was considered a godly woman (1 Peter 3:5-6). Peter praised her not because she gave birth, but because she hoped in God. And consider Eve. God created Eve in his image long before she gave birth. Her distinctiveness as a woman was rooted in the fact that she bore God’s image, not that she could birth a child (Genesis 1:27).

The ultimate mark of womanhood is hoping in God, not giving birth or loving a husband, though these are beautiful and God-glorifying privileges. They are just not where we root our identity. Whenever you’re tempted to question your value, always go back to the Bible. Do not listen to the internal voice sure to lead you astray.

There is tremendous encouragement for women who long to be wives and mothers. God declares us women, created in his image, valuable in his economy, and given a great singular purpose—to display his glory in our specific season. If we are infertile or unwillingly single, it is not the season we would choose. But it is ours, and it is a gift from God. In it we can either flourish or wither. We can either hope in God or despise his provision. He has given us everything we need to bear good fruit in this season (2 Peter 1:3-4). We don’t have to wait until we get married or have a sweet baby in our arms. Because of what Christ accomplished, we have everything we need for today. Our neighbors need grace, orphans and neglected children need care, women need mentoring, husbands need encouragement, and your church needs a faithful member.

I had to learn in those years of infertility that God was meeting my desires to nurture and bear life by giving me classes full of impressionable students. As I taught about God’s design for marriage and family I was investing in the lives of the next generation. I was not simply waiting for my life to begin. It was happening right in front of me if only I had eyes to see.

We are not on hold, dear sisters. It might feel like it some days, but God has put us exactly where he wants us in our particular season. As women who hope in God we can bear good fruit for his glory even when our heart is breaking or our dreams are dashed again. In this place our womanhood is most beautifully displayed.