Righteous women with unanswered prayers…I’ve met a lot of them. Women who continue to pray and believe even though the circumstances seem impossible. Elizabeth believed God was able to do the impossible…and God blessed her with a child in her old age, after years of public disgrace.
In the Word
Read Luke 1
"The Lord has done this for me," [Elizabeth] said. "In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people." Luke 1:25
Shame. Disgrace. Humiliation. Not exactly what most women dream of. For Elizabeth, not being able to have children ostracized her from society. In Palestine in the first century, infertility was viewed as the result of a tragic flaw. People assumed that the childless woman had sinned in some way that caused God to turn his back on her. What’s interesting is that Elizabeth was “righteous and blameless in the sight of God.”
Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah were particularly in the public eye because he was a priest. Often, we put leaders on a spiritual “pedestal,” and when their imperfections come out, we criticize and gossip about them. I wonder if this happened in Elizabeth and Zechariah’s day.
Have you ever felt the ache of unfulfilled longing? Of being misunderstood by the people around you? When was that?
Elizabeth must have watched countless other women experience the joy of having children. Her friends. Her neighbors. Her extended family. I’m sure she rejoiced with each one, but in her heart, she must have wondered, “Lord, what about me?” As the years went by, her age made pregnancy impossible. Still, Elizabeth continued praying and trusting God. That’s a real challenge for me.
One day, when Zechariah was chosen to perform a duty in the temple, an angel appeared to him and promised to answer their prayer for a child. In fact, it wouldn’t be just any child; it would be a boy chosen by God to prepare the way for the Messiah! The old man, though, couldn’t quite get his spiritual arms around the angel’s promise.
Doubt crept into his heart, and he asked for a sign. (After years of childlessness, I think I would have asked for a sign, too!) The angel answered his request, but probably in a very different way than Zechariah had wanted. He made him mute until the child’s birth!
The priest went home. I wonder what his first “conversation” with Elizabeth was like. He must have made signs, drawn pictures, and written out his account of the angel’s visit. That’s a fun scene! A silent man. When Elizabeth finally realized what the angel had promised, her heart burst with joy, not doubt.
How did Elizabeth respond? Go back to verse 25 and fill in the blank below. Her words are significant: “______________ has done this for me.” Yeah, you’re right. It was the Lord.
Make it Real
Can you imagine? Though she had never been able to conceive, Elizabeth believed God. Just like that. Without question. I think I would have been more prone to say, “I’ll wait to get the pregnancy test results back before I get my hopes up.” But no! Over the years of disappointment, God had grown Elizabeth’s faith. Because she believed God was both capable and trustworthy, she had no reason to doubt his promises. That’s amazing.
God doesn’t always miraculously answer our prayers in the way we ask, but he always treasures and rewards our trust in him. I wonder how many times throughout her life Elizabeth begged God for a son, with no answer.
Our family and friends may shake their heads and say, “Oh, what’s the use? God isn’t going to do anything good for you. It’s time to move on with life.” But extraordinary faith clings to God through the good times and the bad, trusting him even when we don’t see any evidence of his Spirit’s work, and even when family and friends have given up.
Elizabeth said, “The Lord has done this for me.” God really is in the midst of it all! That doesn’t mean we don’t take responsibility and work hard to have influence, but ultimately, our life is not our own. We are his. And we were bought with a price. The surrender of control brings tremendous freedom.
How do you “cope” with uncertainty and when God doesn’t seem to come through the way you think he should?
Read Hebrews 11, “the Faith chapter”. Can you identify with any of these people? How did “waiting” play a part in their lives?
What is one unknown in your life right now where you have the choice to believe God or give in to doubt?
Take a moment to read each one of these verses and think about how they apply to your life. Wherever you can do it, insert your name in the verses. Pray these passages over your heart.
• “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone. My hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation. He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” Psalm 62:5-6
• “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” 1 John 5:4
• “When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your unfailing love, LORD, supported me.” Psalm 94:18
Heart to Heart
For me, trusting God for the impossible saps my strength. Sometimes, I want an answer so much that I try to tell God exactly what to do and how to do it. And it doesn’t work. If you’re like me, you’re realizing there’s nothing you can do to fix it. Or control it…whatever “it” is for you. I don’t know about you, but for me, “silence” is often overwhelming and discouraging.
That’s why I have to go to Psalm 46, and especially verse 10: “Be still and know that I am God.” No matter what is going on in my life, even in those unanswered prayers, he is in it all.
Elizabeth chose to rejoice in God’s promises, even when she didn’t see God answering her prayers. We can wrestle our doubts believing the truth that “I the Lord do not change.” He is faithful, merciful, tender-hearted…toward you and me…right now.
When we understand disappointment and suffering as tools in God’s loving hands to grow and shape our faith, we can take joy in God’s work, not just our circumstances. Difficulties don’t mean that God has abandoned us. Far from it!
Lord, I’m frustrated and confused waiting for ________________________. I want to trust you and not give up. Help me, Lord, to sense and know your presence and your power. Grow my faith, God, and teach me what it means to really depend on you…