I like to read through the Christmas stories in the gospels after Thanksgiving. The one in Luke is my favorite, so I started with that one, and for some reason, I couldn’t get past chapter 1 verse 13.
While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. (Luke 1:11-13 NLT)
As soon as I read that, I started to giggle, especially after just reading verse 7. I even read it in a few translations:
NLT – They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.
Message – …and now they were quite old.
Amplified – …they were both far advanced in years.
KJV – …they were both now well stricken in years.
Voice – …they were both quite old…well past normal child bearing years.
“God has heard your prayers. Elizabeth will give you a son.”
Now they were OLD. QUITE old. VERY old. WELL STRICKEN in years. Well past NORMAL child bearing years.
I wonder what ran through Zechariah’s mind. “Ummm….prayers? Prayers for a baby? He’s going to answer those NOW? We prayed those like 50 years ago when we were young and strong and had the energy to have a baby. But now? We’re well stricken in years now. Don’t you think it’s a bit too late? We’ve moved on from that dream. That desire died a long time ago.”
My guess is that somewhere between “getting older” and being “well stricken in years,” they stopped praying for a baby. I would think that somewhere between being in their prime and being past the normal age for childbearing (aka – past menopause), they resigned themselves to being childless. Barren. They resigned themselves to the fact that God said no to their prayers.
That’s what it looked like, right? It looked like God said no to their prayers. It seemed like He said, “No. Nope. No way, Jose. No baby for you!”
That may be how it looked, but looks can be deceiving. Our prayers don’t have an expiration date.
God didn’t say no, did He? He just had a different timeline than they did. WAY different.
In 1991 while I was at Bible school, God began to give me a dream…a glimpse of what I would do for Him. He dropped quite a few things in my heart, actually, and teaching was one of them.
I began to pray over it. Prepare for it. I craved it like Elizabeth craved a baby.
And do you know how much of that dream began to happen immediately? Go ahead…take a guess!
Okay, I’ll tell you. None. None of it. I didn’t even really start walking in any of it until 14 years later. Fourteen years.
Even now, almost 25 years later, there are parts of it that I haven’t even touched yet except by faith. Except in prayer.
And when I think about those parts, I look at God and say, “Are you sure about that? Aren’t I getting a bit old? Don’t you think time’s running out? Are you ever going to do that? I mean…I’m not well stricken in years yet, but I’m no spring chicken either.”
Then I read about Zechariah and Elizabeth and I’m encouraged.
“Remember that desire you had all those years ago? Remember how you craved a baby and cried out in prayer for one over and over and over again? Well, God has heard those prayers and it’s time to answer them now.”
God’s timeline looked different than Zechariah and Elizabeth’s. It looks different than mine. It may look different than yours. And that’s okay.
Their answer wasn’t just about them and their desire for a baby. It was about God’s plan to prepare the way for Messiah and the timing wasn’t right when they were younger.
Neither are our dreams and desires just about us. He still has a plan, and His plan for our lives is bigger than just us.
There is a redemptive plan that we fit into that’s bigger than we are, and that has to be more important to us than just wanting what we want when we want it. We need to surrender our desires to His plan and want what He wants when He wants it.
I may not always understand His plans or His timing, and that’s okay. I don’t need to.
I may not understand. But I do trust Him. He knows what He’s doing, and His plans and timing are always better than anything I could come up with.
Because I trust Him, I can live content now, doing the part that’s right in front of me, while I keep a hopeful and prayerful eye on the future.
He who began a good work in me (and in you) is faithful to complete it. He’s the Author and the Finisher. He’s got this.
So trust Him. He has heard your prayers, and His timing is perfect.
Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. (Hebrews 10:23 NLT)