From Suffering to Ministry

Why, God? What do I have to learn, Lord?
Is there some sin that I haven’t confessed?

Elizabeth and Zacharias had prayed for a child, but no child came. They were old now.

In those days, it was a disgrace if a woman could not have children. Elizabeth was probably looked down upon, and some may have thought that there was a hidden sin or two that she had not confessed. Imagine the smirks, the heads shaking, the gossip!

Yet, Elizabeth and Zacharias were righteous Jews, walking blamelessly before God. They were both from the tribe of Aaron, and Zacharias was a priest.

One day, the lot fell to Zacharias to burn incense in the temple, Luke 1:9. While hundreds of people knelt or bowed and prayed outside the temple, Zacharias entered the holy place to pray in the presence of God for the nation of Israel as he offered incense.

This morning, Gabriel stood by the altar of incense, “Your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will call him John” Luke 1:13.

Zacharias asked how he would know. Gabriel said that because he did not believe, he would not be able to talk until John was born.

He was taking too long, and the people were worried. “What’s taking him so long? Did God strike him dead?”

Finally, he opened the doors and walked toward the people. The people waited for the blessing.

“The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”
Numbers 6:24-26

The people would respond, “Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.”


No blessing. Zacharias couldn’t speak. He could only gesture to them.

When he returned to his home, Elizabeth became pregnant.

Disgrace for years.

Now favor.

For five months Elizabeth hid herself and thought about how God had favored her. Her baby wasn’t just a son – he was the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah! The man who would baptize the people with a baptism of repentance for their sins.

Elizabeth’s Ministry

When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, Gabriel visited Mary and told her that she was highly favored – that although she was a virgin, the Holy Spirit would come upon her, and she would become pregnant. Her son would be the Messiah and be named Jesus.

She traveled to the hill country where Elizabeth was, and immediately, John leapt in Elizabeth’s womb, and Elizabeth greeted Mary as the mother of her Lord.

Mary stayed with her for three months.

I am sure that they talked about the gossip, the shame, and the questioning that Elizabeth endured. I believe that they also discussed the gossip, the shame, and the snickering that Mary would endure because she and Joseph had not married, yet.

Years of asking God, “Why? What have I done? Show me my sin, and I’ll confess it and turn from it. Why am I experiencing this shame, God?”

Was it to prepare her for this special child, the one who would prepare the people for the Messiah?

Was it to equip her to minister to Mary and prepare her for her suffering in the midst of her great honor of bearing the Messiah?

Our suffering equips us for greater work for God and to minister to others. Click To Tweet

God uniquely prepared these two women for ministering. Suffering and trials played an important part in the preparation.

My prayer

Gracious Father, You stretch us and make us uncomfortable for reasons we do not understand at the time. Looking back, we can see how You have used those times to mold us and bless us as well as others. Thank You that You are right there with us and ensuring that we are in Your will. This Advent Season, make us more aware of how You prepared each of the individuals to meet Your dear Son. Help us to understand Your great love as you work in, with, and through us. We love you and are astounded at Your great love for us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

How is God speaking to you this Advent Season? Please share in the Comments Section.

Image by bernswaelz from Pixabay

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