ELISABETH: A GENTLE STRENGTH*
Read: Luke 1:39-45 (Click here to read selections from the NIV)
There are people like Elisabeth in each of our lives--those unsung heroes who walk quietly and faithfully before God. They are the ones we want to run to when we struggle as well as when we soar. Knowing that they are there and will give us just what we need when we come to call, is like an old, familiar song that plays somewhere comfortably in the back of our minds.
What made Elisabeth the kind of person her teenage niece would want to stay with during her first months of pregnancy? Scripture tells us Elizabeth was six months along herself, but would that have been the only thing drawing Mary to make the journey alone to see her? What else do we know of this woman who played such a significant role in preparing for the coming of the Messiah?
First, Elizabeth was a righteous woman who walked honorably before God. She had tried to keep His commandments as carefully as possible all the days of her long life. This would have been no small feat under the best of circumstances, but in her case, it meant trusting Him even as the one thing every Hebrew woman desperately craved-- a child of her own-- eluded her year after year after year, into old age.
What I love about Elizabeth is that there is simply no trace of bitterness in her story. Though others would have looked with disdain upon her unfortunate circumstances, viewing her as deficient in some way, there's no evidence that she’d taken offense at all, nor does she seem to waste time with self-recrimination, or second guessing God about how this could have happened in light of her faithfulness before Him. This, I believe, is more than anything, what made Mary want to be in her presence during the most trying time of her life. The young girl needed someone who would do exactly what Elizabeth did-- rejoice with her and give God glory over an outrageous situation that would cause countless others to question or condemn her outright.
Those three months must have been a wondrous time for the
two women, with Elizabeth encouraging and instructing Mary in everything from a proper diet to handling those famous false contractions. I suspect they had many conversations about what it would mean to raise children that belonged wholly to God and His purposes. I can just see them pondering, praying together and preparing their hearts for the days to come. In the end, there is no doubt that Elizabeth’s gentle strength was a gift Mary would treasure her whole life as the mother of the incarnate Christ.
On these days before Christmas, let us consider what it means to trust God in every circumstance, to walk before Him with honor, even when we cannot see His hand. Above all, let us remember the spiritual strength of this amazing woman, and choose daily as she did, to refuse to be offended at how God orders the course of our lives. This is the greatest preparation we can make for the miracles that have yet to unfold and the call to God's purposes that await us in the days to come.
Many of us find ourselves struggling in these troubling times to see how God is working or what His plan is for the difficult situations we face. Pause and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you, asking Him questions such as: Lord, how do you want to encourage me with Elizabeth's life? What do You want to show me of Yourself through this? Jot the things you sense Him saying down in your journal.
What would you like other people to conclude about the God you serve from the way you approach hard times or seasons when prayer seems to go unanswered? What changes might you need to make in light of this desire?
Read the following passage prayerfully, asking God to impart its truths to your heart and life. Then re-write it in your own words, as it relates to your personal situation. Make it a psalm of praise and worship to the Lord.
Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation
A Christmas Activity
Call someone who has been there for you spiritually in the past and thank them for their faithfulness and witness in your life.
For a printable version of this devotional, click here.