SHE HEARD is the first for-purchase devotional published by Deliberate Women. Over the next eight weeks, we'll be reading reflections written by our readers of the eight Biblical women featured in SHE HEARD. Up today: ELIZABETH
When Delay Feels Like Denial
I stared at the underlined verse in astonishment. One simple sentence can pack a punch.
For nothing is impossible with God. (Luke 1:37)
Nothing. That covers pretty much everything, I thought.
I couldn’t remember when I had underlined it. The squiggly black line was faded, but was there just the same. It occurred to me that it was just one prompting of the Spirit years before. One thread in my tapestry, one line in my story. Yet, He knew…He knew that I would look back with new eyes and clearly see how He had been preparing me for what was coming.
The story of Elizabeth, I have to admit, had never quite captivated me. In my days as a young woman without children, I dismissed it as the puzzling side story to Mary’s headliner. In the days when I struggled myself to conceive, I bristled at Elizabeth’s joy in receiving an answer to prayer that I hadn’t. But having recently walked some deep valleys with the Lord, I see how the warmth in Elizabeth’s heart must have become a full blaze as she watched her God bless her more abundantly than she could have imagined.
I see how warmth toward God is kindled in the intentional ways that He works in our daily life. I have come to know Him this way – through a lone purple tulip (one of my favorites) on my path on a particularly difficult day. In a word of life spoken to me when there wasn’t much life in me left. When the intense love I feel as a mom reminds me of how deeply He loves me too. I feel a kinship to Elizabeth when I think of Him knitting the frayed edges of her heart, expanding it a bit, making room for what was to come. They say that once you come to know and love an artist, you begin to recognize their work. I bet she saw Him everywhere. I know I do.
Elizabeth’s calling was a high one – to be a vessel for the one who would usher in the Savior – and to experience the Holy Spirit itself – after years of anguish, social disdain, and I'm sure, a nagging uncertainty about His goodness. When delay disguises itself as a denial, doubt swirls and faith can waver. Yet, by grace, Elizabeth persevered and was faithful (v. 6).
Something beautiful takes place when we take our doubt to the Lord – a holy exchange - where He takes our wondering and replaces it with Truth. How tenderly He must have ministered to her. I imagine her heart throbbing at the sight of a busy mother brushing her child aside in the hustle and bustle of the day. She must have relied on His strength as she celebrated the newborns in her community, or helped those around her give birth, as was custom for women of her time. I imagine Him close to her in the marketplace, providing her an extra measure of grace to endure the judgment, spoken and unspoken, due to her barrenness. I cringe when I think of the searing pain she must have felt when she watched men work and play with their children. Yet, considering her faithfulness, I wonder what bits of truth comforted her most. How did she manage the desires that continued long after they were even reasonable?
I have personally experienced delay in my life the past two years. When the husband that I loved left, refusing to reconsider, I was left with crippling debt, the need to move, a deeply hurting little girl, pressure to start a career after being home 6 years and the very real possibility that I would never have more children. Doubt didn’t just swirl, it blew at hurricane force. The family and business I had dreamed of now seemed impossible. Survival mode set in. I began to make God small so He would fit into what I could see. Thankfully, He loved me (and still does!) enough to show me that His plans for me had not changed when my marriage fell apart –that no delay is a surprise to Him - and that my dreams are much safer in His hands than in mine.
You see, God knew. The whole time. He knew Elizabeth’s future just as surely as He knows yours or mine. He spent decades shaping her will and her thoughts, digging up the soil of her heart, weeding and planting and tending. Testing and strengthening. He needed her to know, before He fulfilled her calling, that He was enough.
Imagine the JOY that He felt as He watched her experience His Spirit – His very breath – for the first time. His gift, her son, leapt inside her in response to an unborn Christ. Do you have chills? He loves doing the impossible! He goes above and beyond! And – don’t miss this – He lets us in on it. It's not “enough” for Him to see a need and fill it. He has no need for good enough. His “enough” is bigger than we can imagine. It is lavish. It is unexpected.
I don’t know where you are on your walk, dear sister. I don’t know if you are struggling to hold it all together or struggling to let it all fall into His capable hands. I don’t know if you are aching with Him or aching for Him. I don’t know if you are in a season of delay, or one of seemingly indefinite denial. What I do know - what He reminded me today with a squiggly black line - is that nothing is impossible with God. And that in that nothing is where we find our everything.
Jenny Leigh is a work-from-home single mom who balances two jobs and a passion, loves to write, and stands in complete awe of how lavishly God loves us. She loves bright colors, good pens, great food, deep conversation and watching beauty pop up in all circumstances.