One of the best days of my life was the day I found out my wife was pregnant. After living with infertility for 5 years, you can imagine my confusion and shock when Nikki woke me up in the dark morning hours to tell me she just took a pregnancy test … and it was positive!
Walking through infertility is a training ground for waiting and hope, two themes that come up during the Christmas season. I’m sure you remember what it was like as a kid, anticipating Christmas morning and feeling like it might never come. December means a lot of waiting! Maybe this December you’re hoping to get a certain gift— or to give one. Maybe you’re hoping to see someone—or hoping to NOT see someone!
This season can help us handle unanswered prayers for healing if we’re willing to see it. What can we do while we wait? How do we hold onto hope when life looks very different than we thought?
At the very beginning of the Christmas story in the gospel of Luke, we’re introduced to a couple who know quite a bit about waiting and hope. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth had waited a long time to have a child, but Elizabeth remained barren into old age.
This seasoned couple and their unfulfilled desire for a child mirrored what God’s chosen people had been experiencing for centuries. Hundreds of years before Zechariah and Elizabeth walked this planet, God had promised the Israelites that he would one day send the Messiah, a Savior who would rescue all mankind from the bondage and pain of this life.
But it was taking a while.
So, hundreds of years after God’s promises are made, Zechariah and Elizabeth enter the scene. In Luke 1, we find Zechariah “serving as priest before God” in the temple when an angel of the Lord appears to him, announcing that his wife Elizabeth will bear him a son. What?! After all this time. All this waiting.
Elizabeth does in fact become pregnant, but what’s even more miraculous is that her cousin, Mary— an unmarried virgin— also becomes pregnant. When Mary visits Elizabeth and says hello, the baby in Elizabeth’s belly leaps, and Elizabeth immediately perceives that the long-awaited Messiah is in Mary’s womb. Unbelievable.
Have you, like Zechariah and Elizabeth, been forced to wait on God? Waiting can feel meaningless when we’re in the middle of it, when it seems like what we’re waiting for will never happen. Discouragement comes on strong as hope fades into the background.
But waiting is most meaningful when hope is well-directed. Let this Advent, this season of anticipating the arrival of Christ, be a reminder. Direct your hope fully on Jesus, the fulfillment of God’s promises, and the only One who will never disappoint.
Barrenness (a.k.a. unanswered prayer) makes us want to withdraw, isolate and hold ourselves back, but there are some practical things we can do to respond in faith as we wait on God:
- Serve — We learn from Zechariah to continue serving the Lord, even when life looks differently than we imagined. It was while Zechariah was serving in the temple that the angel of the Lord appeared and gave him a powerful message from God.
- Speak — We were not created to live in isolation but to experience God in community with one another. As Mary spoke a greeting to her cousin Elizabeth, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and the baby leaped inside her womb (Luke 1:41). Don’t underestimate the power of your words in the lives of others, and don’t allow your season of waiting to silence you.
- Surrender — This is not the same as giving up. Giving up says that God is not at work, not good, and not able. Surrender is the opposite. Surrender recognizes that God’s way is better than our own; it’s a holding onto faith that He IS at work, that He IS good and that He IS able… even if we can’t see it quite yet.
Reflection: What am I hoping for? In what area do I need to redirect my hope on God, trusting that His way is best?
Prayer: Lord, I put my hope in you alone. As I pray for healing or blessing, help me to trust that your way is best, your timing is perfect and your intentions for me are good.