Lately, I’ve been wondering about a lot of things.
But it’s really been a battle. I guess that’s what happens when you stake your claim for the pursuit of the Lord. It’s like setting off a flare at midnight, and all the darkness begins its attack.
Even and especially at Christmas time. I always determine that in spite of a loud season, I will find ways to quiet my soul; in the rush of it all, I will slow. And then before I’ve even finished my sentence, I’ve gotten riled and stressed about something dumb like the dishes not being done and how the trash is full for like the third time today. (This is more significant because living on the 3rd floor means you have to haul it down to the dumpster. Admittedly, mostly my husband takes it down for me, which is why its even dumber that I get irritated about it.)
Maybe you can relate?
I wonder about my “gifts.” Is what I’m doing even good for anyone? In this obscure corner of the web, does what I offer matter? Then I ask myself, does it only matter if I’m widely known/read/praised by others? I don’t think that’s what God promises or intends.
Then I think of others who are wondering. Wondering why they’re sick, or why their loved one is sick, why their husband or father abandoned their family, why they lost their job, why the adoption fell through, why their visa was denied, why they can’t seem to get control of their diet, why their marriage is so full of strife. We all wonder- is all this really necessary?
At my church, I’ve been positively soaking up the messages lately, because feel that question, too. We finished a series called “The Deserts We Cross” and in December began the series called “A Christmas Story.” Somehow, they’ve flowed really well.
Because many smaller stories are part of the overall Christmas Story. Like Zechariah and Elizabeth. Theirs was a story of waiting and wondering- a desert time in their lives. They’d longed for a child for years and years, and when we find them in their story, they’ve grown old.
And yet, Luke 1 says,
Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. “
They’d lived through a lot of pain, but they remained faithful, even “blameless.” I personally can’t imagine what it would be like to even be thought of as “blameless” let alone actually being that way.
And for them, the story wasn’t over yet.
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” – Luke 1: 11-17
God had heard their prayers. Not only that, but their son got to be an important part of the Best Story Ever. He got to herald the good news to a people who had also long been waiting and wondering if they’d ever get any.
Even the name “John” means “YAHWEH is gracious.” That is the story of John’s life. God was showed grace to Zechariah and Elizabeth by hearing their prayers and giving them a son, grace to John by giving him the honor of preparing the way for Jesus, and- most important of all- grace to all of us by giving Jesus, through whose amazing grace alone do we dwell with the Lord. Not only that, but he dwells with us and calls us sons and daughters.
This grace is enough for me. It’s enough for you. Whether we feel like it is or believe it is or not. I know there’s probably something you’re waiting on, or wondering about. And I’m not saying it isn’t painful. But somehow, through amazing grace, God uses our pain- nothing is wasted. He creates good out of everything for those that love him.
In his song “Forgiveness is a Miracle” on his Christmas album, Jason Gray says this:
Pain can be a road to find compassion
When we don’t understand
And bring a better end
It takes a miracle to show us”
I’m no different than the rest of mankind. I miss grace sometimes- often times. I even question the miracle proclaimed to me, like Zechariah.
Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
Maybe he was afraid? Afraid not just of Gabriel, but afraid to believe something so incredible, impossible, so good. Sometimes, when you’ve tended wounds for so long, even an angel can’t pry your eyes open to the goodness God has in store.
That’s how I feel sometimes. I’m afraid to believe something too good could happen, and yet I long for it at the same time! Maybe the opposite of hope is despair, but I think a large part of the road to despair is self-preservation.
It’s the sneak-attack of the evil one, and a lie. We think we’re keeping ourselves safe, but we’re really just turning our hearts into tombs, squelching the life out of them.
I find myself asking God to revive that “thrill of hope” within me instead.
I love this story, because Zechariah’s fear and pain doesn’t stop the goodness of God from arriving full force. It doesn’t stop the gift of John and it certainly doesn’t stop the gift of Jesus- salvation.
That encourages me! It reminds me that God is bigger than me- even bigger than my fear, my doubt, my pain, my shut up heart.
I had to include this song, because it’s been an instrumental reminder (pun not intended, but how could I not point it out? that’s a great pun right there…) for me when I feel fear more than faith, when I wonder and wait, when I’m living in a question without an answer. It’s not a Christmas song, but it fits somehow in this theme of waiting and wondering- of abiding.
I wrote this song recently, to process the pain of waiting and wondering, and how they reach for- cling to- the hope of Jesus.
If you want to read the lyrics, here they are:
My heart is starved from the whys and hows
I’ve wondered as I’ve wandered in this desert place