And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow for 84 years. She did not depart from the temple, worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:36-38
“Mom, waiting is HARD!”
I hear this nearly daily. And every time I think, “You bet your buns it is!” But waiting is an essential life lesson. We are taught from a very young age that waiting is necessary. But why? And maybe more pressing is, HOW? How do we wait in the mind-numbing silence that often comes with trials, while still believing a God who promises to have our best in mind?
The Psalmist preaches to himself over and over again to wait for the Lord, to take courage and wait. We are promised strength and blessing to those who wait, and to be upheld- never to be put to shame. But how do you get there? The end result sounds excellent, but the journey is treacherous, full of dark unknowns and whispered redirects. Waiting is painful. Waiting is straight-up hard.
The prophetess, Anna, who appears momentarily in Luke 2 gives us a beautiful glimpse of the “how”. She was married as a young virgin (most likely 14), widowed by 21, and though some versions say she lived that way until she was 84 years old, others says she lived that way for 84 years. Regardless… the math comes out the same…she was OLD (like awe-strikingly old!). Not only was she “advanced in years” she spent the large majority of those years living as a widow in the temple.
She was there day and night, worshiping, fasting, praying. Only to walk in at the exact moment that Simeon was handing the tiny baby Jesus back to his mother, declaring that because of him the depths of hearts will be revealed. Coincidence? NEVER! She had been eagerly waiting for that moment. Barren, widowed and aged, this woman had spent her lifetime pleading with God for just that very moment. So what can we glean from this tiny snippet of her story?
- Strategically place yourself in the presence of the King
Anna did not allow her newly widowed status to bury her in shame, self-pity or isolation. As a woman with no family and no children, she was put in a tough spot when she lost her husband. She drew nearer to the only one who could raise her station – the King who created her. And she remained there, knowing His promises, she waited for him to make good on them. Decades she waited. I imagine after Israel had already faced nearly 400 years of Godly silence, the last 84 that she spent discussing it with (or probably it felt like “at”) God were brutal. And yet, she did not run or push him away, but rather strategically placed herself right in his path, so when he moved (because she KNEW he would!) she wouldn’t miss it.
- Cultivate disciplines that create humility
As we wait, we have a distinct opportunity to place ourselves face-down before a mighty God, knowing full well he will one day lift our heads. Anna spent her every moment praying, worshiping, and fasting. She cultivated disciplines that bred humility. She so sought after God that she knew instantly when he showed up on the scene, because her heart was acutely tuned to his will. And the beauty of it was, her humility and zealous desire for intimacy and rescue was rewarded. She was one of the first people to look into the face of the Living God.
- Be comfortable in silence
Sometimes God is silent. Anna lived in the smack dab of a society built around a God who had not audibly spoken in 4 centuries. But there is something to be said of a relationship where silence does not build discomfort. Intimacy does not always look like vibrant conversation or interaction, but is often a dwelling in each other’s presence without concern. To sit in the throne-room, aware of His presence, but content in His silence should be the ambition of a waiting heart.
- Build a “waiting” community
Notice her first response is to turn and share the news with “all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” She had surrounded herself with others who were eagerly awaiting the same thing- to see God move on behalf of his people. Her heart burst with gratitude and she shared the mighty thing God had done with those who were waiting to hear it.
In your waiting, do not be shy about asking for prayer. Gather in people to walk alongside you and wade through the silence and the tears. Allow them to weep with you, and then when God moves, and he will (though maybe not in the way you imagined, or the time-frame you desire), you can celebrate and worship and eat cake (food is love people) together over all God has done! What a gift to offer up to those around you!
- Eagerly wait, don’t anxiously assume
It is so easy to get through the waiting period and as the initial amazement wears off, to feel that little stirring of anxiety. Thanksgiving for the new, wide open pasture is often dampened by the fear that the next attack is waiting just in the shadows.
We must be careful to eagerly wait on Jesus’ victory without anxiously anticipating the next trial. Held side by side, the comparison is laughable. Enjoy the moments of rest and peace that come after a long battle, and eagerly await all that he will do in bringing you through whatever comes next.