Christmas Hope for the Barren (Part 2)

This post first appeared on Precious Adornment in December 2010. 
Read Part 1 HERE.

“There was a priest named Zechariah…And he had a wife
from the daughters of Aaron, and her name
was Elizabeth…But they had no child”

Luke 1:5,6,7

Gifts Are Not a Given

I wonder how many times Zechariah and Elizabeth asked the question “Why?” during their bleak years of childlessness.

Why, God? Why haven’t you given us a child?

Lord, why haven’t we found favor in your eyes?

Why have you blessed them with a son when they don’t even keep your commandments?

Oh, Father, why have you given them another child when they already have
so many?

As years stretched into decades, Zechariah and Elizabeth undoubtedly faced the temptation to grow bitter and resentful as they watched God bless friends, family, and strangers with the gift they desperately desired and perhaps even felt at times they deserved. They were blameless after all. Surely if any two people deserved the blessing of children, Zechariah and Elizabeth would be those people. 

The lesson that Zechariah and Elizabeth had to learn through their suffering is the same one that childless couples must grasp today. Children are not a given; they are a gift. Just as God causes rain to fall on both the just and the unjust, so too, does He bless both the righteous and the unrighteous with the gift of children.

Why? Oftentimes the answer to that question belongs in the category of “secret things” that belong to the Lord and not to us (Deut. 29:29). When the wisdom of God’s plan remains unclear to us, we must cling to the truths He has revealed:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
~Isaiah 55:8-9

Gabriel’s message to Zechariah contained an important command—the baby was not to be given a family name, but one God had chosen for him. “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:13).

The meaning of this name would forever remind Zechariah and Elizabeth of the undeserved gift God had given them in their son: John—“Jehovah has shown grace.” Children are not given because of our goodness, but only because of God’s grace.

The Impossible Made Possible

Psalm 113:9 had probably worn a deep groove in Elizabeth’s heart: “He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!” As a young wife awaiting her first child, that verse surely provided Elizabeth with hope that her barrenness would not last forever. That little glimmer of light grew gradually dimmer with each passing year.

Somewhere along the way for Zechariah and Elizabeth, the chances of having children moved in their minds from being improbable to impossible. Elizabeth’s biological clock had stopped ticking, and the barrenness she’d hoped was only a temporary obstacle became a permanent condition.

At least that’s how the situation appeared until Gabriel arrived with the good news that God doesn’t work according to human timetables. Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayers had been heard. They would have a son, and he would bring them joy and gladness.

The hope of Psalm 113:9 would at last become a living reality. Why? Because nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37).

If you are facing the pain of childlessness this Christmas, let the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth fill your heart with hope in the goodness of God. The entire Christmas account revolves around God’s sovereignty over the womb, His love for His children, and His power over the impossible.

As you follow the Lord in righteousness, you can rest quietly in the knowledge that your prayers are not being ignored, but are being filed away in the faithfulness of God. Like Elizabeth and Zechariah, one day you will see; one day you’ll understand the wisdom behind His plans for your life. Until that time, “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” (Psalm 27:14)

Photo: Mario Alberto Magallanes Trejo

Christmas Hope for the Barren (Part 1)

This post first appeared on Precious Adornment in December 2010.

“There was a priest named Zechariah…And he had a wife
from the daughters of Aaron, and her name
was Elizabeth…But they had no child”

Luke 1:5,6,7

They say Christmas is the happiest season of all, but for many, the joy of this special day remains tainted by a lingering sadness. The celebration of Christmas in our culture emphasizes families, tradition, and togetherness. But for those still awaiting the blessing of children, holiday celebrations often draw attention to the emptiness filling the space where little ones ought to be. While others eagerly anticipate Christmas mornings accompanied by laughter, smiles, and childlike joy, those facing the pain of childlessness often struggle to look forward to the day at all.

I imagine that Zechariah and Elizabeth knew all about the pain of spending special days as a couple instead of as a family. For decades they would have observed holy days and religious ceremonies with children all around them, none of which were their own. Zechariah and Elizabeth had no doubt cried more tears and prayed more prayers together over her barrenness than anyone around them would ever have guessed. Yet year after year, their tears and prayers went seemingly unnoticed…until one day when everything changed, and the Lord transformed years of sorrow into tears of rejoicing.

In the familiar story of Zechariah and Elizabeth in Luke 1, there is fresh hope for those in the midst of childlessness—hope, not only for Christmas, but for every day of the year.

Blameless, yet Barren

The pain of childlessness is often compounded by the pain of being misunderstood by others. Although infertility is one of the most sensitive trials a couple may ever face, complete strangers often feel no qualms about turning the topic into small talk. The absence of children is often wrongly equated with a lack of desire for them and frequently sparks thoughtless comments.

So, how many years have you been married now?

Isn’t it about time you get started on a family?

Planning to try for kids any time soon?

Although people rarely ask questions like these with ill intent, such conversations tear sharply into the already tender wounds of those who simply can’t conceive. Zechariah and Elizabeth were undoubtedly well-acquainted with this pain.

Because barrenness was considered to be a sign of divine disfavor in their culture, gossip and misconceptions regarding the couple’s sinfulness or inferior spirituality would have been commonplace. Even though others may have automatically assumed that Zechariah and Elizabeth stood guilty in God’s sight, the Scriptures actually record them as being righteous before Him. In fact, Luke says that they walked “blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). They were blameless, yet still Elizabeth remained barren.

Childless couples often agonize over the thought that infertility may be evidence of God’s judgment upon their lives. In the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, we find that childlessness was not a curse, but a vital component of God’s divine plan for their good and His glory.

No Unheard Prayer

After praying and asking God to answer the same request over and over again, many believers feel tempted to abandon both prayer and service to the Lord altogether. When prayers seem to go unanswered, a deficient understanding of God’s sovereignty and the purpose of prayer can easily allow a believer’s heart to become infected with sinful doubts about the character and nature of God. Zechariah and Elizabeth, however, continued faithfully trusting the Lord and believing His Word even though they’d never seen evidence that He was listening to their prayers for a child.

It wasn’t until the couple was “advanced in years” and Zechariah was fulfilling his duty as a priest in the temple that God sent Gabriel with the message they could only dream of receiving, “Your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son…” (Luke 1:13). Although they had long since given up hope that a child’s laughter would ever ring within the walls of their home, Zechariah and Elizabeth discovered that there are no expiration dates on God’s plans.

Their prayers had not been ignored; they had been heard and answered! As commentator Matthew Henry says, “Prayers of faith are filed in heaven, and are not forgotten, though the thing prayed for is not presently given.”

Zechariah had probably wondered time and again about the meaning of his name—“Jehovah has remembered.” Did God really remember him? After hearing Gabriel’s shocking message that day, Zechariah would better understand not only his own name, but also countless other aspects of his life which had never before seemed to make sense. 

God had never forgotten Zechariah and Elizabeth. He was only waiting—waiting to act on their behalf in a way which would clearly illustrate how marvelous and mighty He truly is. And Zechariah and Elizabeth would see, as we all do when we wait faithfully upon the Lord, that His plan was truly worth the wait. 

More to come…

Photo: Mario Alberto Magallanes Trejo

Christmas Hope for the Barren (Part 2)

“There was a priest named Zechariah…And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth…But they had no child”

Luke 1:5,6,7

Read Part 1 HERE.

Gifts Are Not a Given

I wonder how many times Zechariah and Elizabeth asked the question “Why?” during their bleak years of childlessness.

  • Why, God? Why haven’t you given us a child?
  • Lord, why haven’t we found favor in your eyes?
  • Why have you blessed them with a son when they don’t even keep your commandments?
  • Oh, Father, why have you given them another child when they already have so many?

As the years stretched into decades, Zechariah and Elizabeth undoubtedly faced the temptation of growing bitter or resentful as they watched God bless friends, family, and strangers with the gift they desperately desired and perhaps even felt at times they deserved. They were blameless after all. Surely if any two people deserved the blessing of children, Zechariah and Elizabeth would be those people. 

Through all of their difficulties, the lesson that Zechariah and Elizabeth had to learn is the same one that childless couples must grasp today. Children are not a given; they are a gift. Just as God causes rain to fall on both the just and the unjust, so too, does He bless both the righteous and the unrighteous with the gift of children. Why? Oftentimes the answer to that question belongs in the category of “secret things” that belong to the Lord and not to us (Deut. 29:29). When the wisdom of God’s plan remains unclear to us, we must cling to the truths He has revealed:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
~Isaiah 55:8-9

Gabriel’s message to Zechariah contained a very important instruction—the baby was not to be given a family name, but one God had chosen for him. “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:13). The meaning of this name would forever remind Zechariah and Elizabeth of the undeserved gift God had given them in their son: John—“Jehovah has shown grace.” Children are not given because of our goodness, but only because of God’s grace.

The Impossible Made Possible

Psalm 113:9 had probably worn a deep groove in Elizabeth’s heart, “He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!” As a young wife awaiting her first child, that verse would have given Elizabeth hope that her barrenness would not last forever, yet that little glimmer of light grew gradually dimmer with each passing year. Somewhere along the way for Zechariah and Elizabeth, the chances of having children moved in their minds from being improbable to impossible. Elizabeth’s biological clock had stopped ticking, and the barrenness she’d hoped was only a temporary obstacle became a permanent condition.

At least that’s how the situation appeared until Gabriel arrived with the good news that God doesn’t work according to human timetables. Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayers had been heard, they would have a son, and he would bring them joy and gladness. Psalm 113:9 was to become Elizabeth’s living reality. Why? Because nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37).

For those who are childless this Christmas, let the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth fill your heart with hope in the goodness of God. The entire Christmas account revolves around God’s sovereignty over the womb, His love for His children, and His power over the impossible. As you follow the Lord in righteousness, you can rest quietly in the knowledge that your prayers are not being ignored, but are being filed away in the faithfulness of God. Like Elizabeth and Zechariah, one day you will see; one day you’ll understand. Until that time, “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” (Psalm 27:14)

Photo: Mario Alberto Magallanes Trejo

Christmas Hope for the Barren (Part 1)

“There was a priest named Zechariah…And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth…But they had no child”

Luke 1:5,6,7

They say Christmas is the happiest season of all, but for many, the joy of this special day remains tainted by a lingering sadness. As it is often celebrated in our culture, Christmas emphasizes families, tradition, and togetherness. For those still awaiting the blessing of children, holiday celebrations often emphasize the emptiness filling the space where little ones ought to be. While others eagerly anticipate Christmas mornings accompanied by laughter, smiles, and childlike joy, those facing the pain of childlessness often struggle to look forward to the day at all.

I imagine that Zechariah and Elizabeth knew all about the pain of spending special days as a couple instead of as a family. For decades they would have participated in holy days and religious ceremonies while surrounded with the presence of children; none of which were their own. During their marriage to one another, Zechariah and Elizabeth had no doubt cried more tears and prayed more prayers over her barrenness than anyone around them would ever have guessed. Yet year after year, their tears and prayers went seemingly unnoticed…until one day when everything changed, and the Lord turned their years of sorrow into tears of rejoicing.

In the familiar story of Zechariah and Elizabeth in Luke 1, there is fresh hope for those in the midst of childlessness–hope, not only for Christmas, but for every day of the year.

Blameless, yet Barren

The pain of childlessness is often compounded by the pain of misunderstanding and misconceptions. Although it is one of the most sensitive subjects a couple may ever face, complete strangers often feel no qualms about turning the subject of fertility into small talk. The absence of children is often wrongly assumed to indicate a lack of desire for them and frequently sparks thoughtless comments like “So, how many years have you been married now?” “Isn’t it about time you get started on a family?” “Planning to try for kids any time soon?”  These questions are rarely crafted with ill intent, yet for those unable to conceive, such conversations tear sharply into already tender wounds. 

Things were no different for Zechariah and Elizabeth. Because barrenness was considered a sign of divine disfavor in their culture, gossip and misconceptions regarding the couple’s sinfulness or inferior spirituality would have been commonplace. Yet even though other people may have automatically assumed Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s guilt before God, the Scriptures record them as being righteous before Him. In fact, they walked “blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). They were blameless, yet still Elizabeth remained barren.

Childless couples often agonize over the thought that infertility may be evidence of the judgment of God upon their life, yet in the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, we find that childlessness was not the result of a curse, but a vital component of God’s divine plan for their good and His glory.

No Unheard Prayer

After praying and asking God to answer the same request over and over again, many believers face the temptation to abandon both prayer and service to the Lord altogether. “Surely if God loved me,” or “Surely if He were real, He would have answered my prayer by now”—is the kind of thinking that infects the hearts of those with a shallow understanding both of prayer and the sovereignty of God. Zechariah and Elizabeth, in contrast, continued on believing God’s Word and serving the Lord although they had never seen evidence that He was listening to their prayers for a child.

It wasn’t until this couple was “advanced in years” and Zechariah was busy fulfilling his duty as a priest in the temple of the Lord that God sent Gabriel with the message they had long dreamed of receiving, “Your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son…” (Luke 1:13). Although this aging couple had probably long ago given up hope that the walls of their home would ever echo with the laughter of a child, they soon discovered that there are no expiration dates on God’s plans. Their prayers had not been ignored; they had been heard! As commentator Matthew Henry says, “Prayers of faith are filed in heaven, and are not forgotten, though the thing prayed for is not presently given.”

Zechariah had probably wondered time and again about the meaning of his own name—“Jehovah has remembered.” After hearing Gabriel’s shocking message that day, Zechariah would better understand not only his own name, but also countless other aspects of his life which had never before seemed to make sense. Zechariah and Elizabeth had not been forgotten, and their prayers had not been ignored. Jehovah had remembered them all along, but He was waiting, waiting to act on their behalf in a way that would clearly illustrate what a marvelous and mighty God they served. And Zechariah and Elizabeth would see, as does each of us when we wait faithfully upon the Lord, that God’s plan was truly worth the wait.

More to come…

Photo: Mario Alberto Magallanes Trejo