Contrast

(originally posted 12/4/11)

An older woman whose heart had ached for a baby for years, decades even, but whose arms remained empty and now hope seemed gone.  A teenager who had kept herself pure and hadn’t planned on a baby quite just yet.

Side by side.  Two women in a drama they didn’t audition for, but two women who became part of a story that changed the course of history.

I’ve been reading the Christmas story in Luke, asking God to show me things I hadn’t really seen before.  And this morning, I saw the contrast between Elisabeth and Mary.  But I also saw in a new way how both of them trusted God with the unplanned circumstances of their lives.

In spite of the disappointment of not having a baby, Elizabeth “was righteous before God, walking in all of the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless.” (Luke 1:6)  And Mary, after being told she was going to have a baby – God’s Son! – reacted by saying, “Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

Elizabeth didn’t know that her circumstance was about to change.  She had no idea that God was going to answer her prayers in a dramatic and unreal way. But she still walked with God.  And Mary’s circumstance changed so quickly and so dramatically that she could have reacted with panic and despair.  But she gave her heart with abandon to God.

Two women.  Two different situations.  One common response – trust.

I believe God gives us these kinds of details to get us to think about how we respond to unplanned circumstances.  Whether we find ourselves still waiting for something we’ve been asking for – for years, or in the middle of something we didn’t ask for at all, our response needs to be the same.

Because God always has a plan.  And His timing is always just right.

For with God, nothing is impossible.  Luke 1:37

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.      Hebrews 10:23

Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.  Luke 1:45

Season

“To everything there is a season.  A time for every purpose under heaven.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1

It was time for a new baby this week.  Titus John Virkler arrived on December 10th at 12:43 pm.  He’s my newest nephew – my sixth nephew!  And I can’t wait to meet him.

God had great timing on this one.  Some might think it was just coincidence that little Titus was born at the end of 2012.  But I think God had a plan.

At the beginning of 2012, God called my Dad home to be with Him.  And while it’s been a difficult year, we’ve seen God’s grace and felt His comfort.  We’re all trying to imagine what it’s like to be in heaven at Christmastime!  I know there are theologians who might say that one day is no different than another once you get there, that every day is a joyful celebration of the Savior.  I’m sure it is.  But I don’t think God minds if we picture Dad’s first Christmas season in His presence!

So here we are at the end of 2012.  And God has given us a gift with this new baby.  A new member of the family who reminds us that while God in His providence takes away, He also gives.  He has seasons for our lives, times for every purpose under heaven.

This little guy has brought our family joy after a season of sadness.

And at this time of year, what a great reminder this is of another little baby whose birth brought joy not just to His family, but to the world.  A baby named Jesus who ended a season of waiting and darkness and became “God with us”.

To everything there is a season.  A time for every purpose under heaven.

And He changes the times and seasons.  He removes kings and raises up kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.    Daniel 2:21

Nevertheless, He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.   Acts 14:17

So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”  Matthew 1:22-23

Then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.  Leviticus 26:4

Good

And then,  just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can barely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from God.  Our eyes are at fault, that is all.  God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment.  No evil can befall us; whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “God Is In The Manger – Reflections on Advent and Christmas”

But as it is written, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him”.         1 Corinthians 2:9

Oh how great is Your goodness which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You in the presence of the sons of men!  Psalm 31:10

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:28

Question

I knew someone would ask the question eventually.

Others have skirted it, asking me general questions about faith and waiting.  But this young woman had the courage to actually ask it.

“If you wrote a book about faith and believing God, why hasn’t it worked for you yet?”

So there it was.  The question.  One that I’ve asked myself on occasion, but never really had to answer completely.

I was grateful for her question.  It forced me to dig deeper, to look for my defense, to put into words just how I could still believe God and trust Him when it appears that the big thing I’m trusting Him for hasn’t happened for me…yet.

But that’s the thing about faith.  It’s the evidence of things not seen.  It’s the patient waiting when the calendar pages keep turning.  It’s hanging onto that little word “yet”.

At this time of year it’s easy to get all wrapped up in the sentiment of the baby and the manger and the singing angels and the joy to the world.  But sometimes we forget just how long Israel waited for that moment.  God hadn’t forgotten His promise.  But He had a perfect time to fulfill it.  Not too soon.  Certainly not too late.

And so I can boldly answer that young woman’s question with this: My faith cannot be dependent on what I see, or what I don’t see, or how much time has gone by.  My life and its circumstances are placed in the hands of a God who can be trusted.

Because as the story of Christmas reminds us, God always has a plan, and His timing is always just right.

The LORD is good to those who wait for Him to the soul who seeks Him.  Lamentations 3:25

And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You. Psalm 39:7

Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him. Isaiah 30:18

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. James 5:7