Confidence in Barren Seasons: What Elizabeth Can Teach Us
Are you in a season of barrenness and unanswered prayers? Maybe you’ve spent months crafting a proposal, only for it to sit on someone’s desk with no response. Perhaps you’ve applied for a position you feel passionate about, but it’s staying just out of reach. Many of us have been diligently praying and working for justice, but see little to no change.
Whatever your current leadership story, know that you’re not alone if you’re weary of waiting. The first chapter of Luke’s gospel shows us that Elizabeth almost certainly felt the same way. She was very old and childless, which was considered disgraceful (even an excuse to divorce a wife). In fact, she waited decades to see the desire of her heart fulfilled.
Yet Elizabeth’s name means “God is my oath” or “My God is good fortune.” Luke also noted that Elizabeth and her husband were righteous, obedient, and blameless—before they received their miracle.
A Miraculous Gift
Imagine: you're preparing a supper of bread, fish, and figs for your husband of many years, contemplating how beautiful your friend’s granddaughter is. It seems cruel that you will never have children or grandchildren. God, make me content with my situation, you pray for what seems like the hundredth time.
Suddenly, in bursts Zechariah, motioning for you to sit down. He rushes around the room to find a writing tablet and instrument. Taking a seat, your brow furrows and your heart starts pounding. Has your elderly spouse become gravely ill, and that's why he's mute?
Then, he writes down what an angel told him.
You laugh like Sarah in Genesis, out of surprise and a tiny bit of hope, until you see his face. “You’re serious!” you exclaim. Your husband takes you in his arms. The two of you embrace for a long time, tears streaming down both of your faces. Your God has blessed you more than you could have ever imagined.
Later in the chapter, the angel Gabriel told the virgin Mary that she was to bear the Messiah. He also announced to the girl that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant and pronounced, “Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.” Then Mary left to visit her cousin, who was six months along.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice, the older woman’s baby leapt in her womb. Eiizabeth immediately burst into a beautiful song, confessing that Mary was blessed to be the mother of the Messiah. In yet another unexpected circumstance, Elizabeth became the first person to proclaim Jesus as the Son of God.
This woman, who had remained faithful to God even though He had seemingly denied her a deep desire, would end up mentoring Mary for three months and raising the prophet John the Baptist. He paved the way for and baptized the Savior of the world.
After a long barren season, God overwhelmed her with mercy.
In Luke 1:25, Elizabeth exclaimed, “Look what the Lord has done for me! My people were ashamed of me, but now the Lord has taken away that shame.”
As her name spells out, God was her good fortune and fulfilled His oath to provide her and Zechariah with a child.
The God Who Waits
I want to emulate Elizabeth: godly, blameless, and obedient. I long to recognize Jesus anywhere, whenever He shows up, whether He’s answering my prayers the way I expect Him to or not. Instead, I tend to run ahead of God. At times, I grow tired of waiting, praying, and obeying. My weariness quickly turns into worry and frustration.
Still, the Bible encourages me that God understands the ache of waiting. It’s full of stories of people like Elizabeth who prayed with faith, instead of giving into the temptation to despair. It also shows God waiting.
I’ve come to believe that sometimes He waits until we are desperate and drained, weary beyond words, and all out of hope. He waits so we give up on our own resources and instead surrender to His plans.
As my pastor and friend Mark Forrest says, “It may be difficult to wait on God, but it’s worse to wish you had.”
If we’re to have hearts that honor Him, let’s be like Elizabeth, not allowing unanswered prayers to separate us from God. Instead, let’s pray in confident expectation that God is working everything, even barren seasons, for His purposes. Then, He receives all the glory when He mercifully makes a way.
Dena Dyer is a professional speaker and Bible teacher, as well as the author or co-author of twelve books, including Wounded Women of the Bible: Finding Hope When Life Hurts with Tina Samples. She serves as Communications Specialist for Wheaton’s Humanitarian Disaster Institute.
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